Walking Dead: Help yourself

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As much as I like how much more we find out about the characters when they split off into small groups, I was a bit worried about this week’s The Walking Dead. While Beth’s solo adventure was something I was actually looking forward to after all that time spent wondering what happened to her, I was less than enthused about the prospect of an entire episode of Eugene and Abraham barking out their pseudo-scientific or excessively militaristic lines. And while “Self Help” had plenty of that, it also had one major redeeming moment.

While the obvious one would be Eugene coming clean, I’ll admit it was far more satisfying to have his companions finally question why a world-saving scientist was running around in the apocalypse with a mullet. Although Maggie seemed to be stretching the point by comparing his mullet rebellion to Samson—and Eugene’s choice of literature at the time made it pretty clear this comparison wasn’t entirely his jam. Either way, and as off-topic as it seemed to be, it was a nice suggestion that the group, at least on some level, had their own suspicions about Eugene even as the playful tone of it only reinforced what Tara later told him.

Her comments were definitely having an effect on him this week, laying out Walking Dead‘s usual “screwed either way” premise, but also forcing Eugene to confront the series’ other main dilemma–how far do you go to guarantee your own survival and who do you sacrifice along the way? While neither’s a particularly original angle for the series, unlike Shane, The Governor, or most recently, Gareth, Eugene opted out of his plan. It’s a new move that’s bound to have consequences, but it’s also a redemption story the series hasn’t bothered with much (other convert Tara barely counts, since in Rick’s own words she didn’t really want to be at the prison’s gates in the first place).

Tara was also the one who finally got Eugene to do some of his own fighting, begging the question why no one else felt the need to make sure their only chance at a cure could survive on his own. But I think it was her comment about how he was stuck with them, and part of the human race, that was on his mind when it came down to deciding whether to try and drive through a field swarming with walkers. The list of names he rattled off when Rosita called him out on the number of people who died over his lie were pretty damning, and I’ve got to admit it turned out to be a lot longer than expected.

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Now he’s going to have to live with the group’s reaction to finding out he was, until Tara’s comment, totally willing to let them join that list if it meant keeping him alive. The episode set Abraham up as an almost excessively violent and driven leader—especially when they left out the context of why he was killing those men in front of Ellen—but a part of me feels his attack on Eugene wasn’t completely uncalled for. If, as seemed to be the case in the flashback, Abraham was the first person Eugene lied to then he’s witnessed the entire fallout from Eugene’s selfishness, and that long list of names is full of meaning for him. And considering at least some of Abraham’s issues have to do with staying put, and how that always leads to more killing, it’s entirely possible Abraham’s had to do things he didn’t want just to save Eugene’s now-worthless skin. In the face of that, and how selfless the rest of our survivors have managed to be, a couple of blows to Eugene’s head feels totally justified.

But while Rosita started to grow on me after finally being given some lines, and I’m warming to Abraham now that his obsessive need to keep moving has been brought to a halt, old staples Glenn and Maggie didn’t work their usual magic on me. Part of it was watching Glenn constantly defer to Abraham when it was becoming obvious that their DC mission would go infinitely better if they took a day or two to prepare properly. But a bigger part of it was how Glenn and Maggie repeatedly talked about how difficult it was to leave the rest of the group behind. Not because I don’t entirely get why they decided to go, which was a slightly random development two weeks ago, but because it finally seemed like an opportunity for Maggie to mention her sister, where she might be and what (obviously terrible things) she might be going through. Once again Maggie seemed worried about everyone except her remaining family, and at this point it’s making Eugene seem like a comparatively decent person.

Dead On:

  • “Maybe I’ll let you shave me down all over.” Abraham’s apocalypse flirting is…something.
  • “He said my hair made me look, and I quote, ‘like a fine guy.’” I do love that after coming clean about the non-existent cure, Eugene also thought it was important to admit T. Brooks Ellis didn’t compliment his hair.
  • Abraham: “I really need some ass first.” Glenn: “I didn’t need to know that, but cool.” On that note, Eugene’s Peeping Tom routine is skeevy and better be done.
  • What, pray, is a goat rodeo?
  • “How are you supposed to know the answer when it’s only in his head?” That is a great question, Maggie.
  • “This idiot doesn’t have the cure.” Josh McDermitts’ Talking Dead thoughts on his character were priceless.

What did you think of Abraham’s backstory? Are you surprised Eugene didn’t really have a cure? How excited are you to watch Daryl and Carol storm the hospital next week? Sound off in the comments below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AXiGbrRWrSs

The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.