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How much enjoyment you got out of watching “Hostiles and Calamities,” this week’s episode of The Walking Dead almost certainly coincides with how much you care about Negan, Dwight, and Eugene. Personally, I’m not super invested in any of the three characters, so as an overall episode, this one didn’t do that much for me. But despite not being completely won over by much of the hour, there were a few interesting moments that caught my eye.
It’s easy to overlook the work of an actor when dealing with a character who is built to be the butt of the joke, such as Eugene, but Josh McDermitt turned in a really great performance this episode. It’s not a flashy role, and Eugene will probably never be the hero (save for possibly sacrificing himself to save someone else in the end), yet McDermitt has created a multi-layered performance out of cowardly character whose major purpose is to show us how not to behave in the zombie apocalypse. Throughout the episode I was continually second guessing just what game plan Eugene was working with (if he even had a plan). And, at the close of the episode, I’m still not entirely certain if Eugene is playing Negan or if he’s been so scared that he’s officially switched to Team Negan, which boils down to a great performance from McDermitt.
Also giving a great performance this week was Austin Amelio as Dwight. Learning that Dwight has short-term memory loss was an interesting character beat (although all of the character’s actions within the episode seemed to indicate that he doesn’t suffer from it to the degree Sherry seems to think he does), although it does set the character up to lack development if he just routinely forgets the atrocities he sees Negan commit. But Amelio’s measured performance throughout the episode made it clear that Dwight will be the member of Team Negan who will eventually betray the Saviors. After all, he has now lost everything as a result of Negan. Why would he stay loyal to him in the long-run?
Since this was a Negan-centric episode, I feel like I should point out the most glaring question the episode raised: Why doesn’t someone just kill Negan? I know we had the subplot where the wives decided they wanted to kill him, and Eugene was too scared to help them follow through, but if so many people within the compound seem to hate Negan now, why doesn’t someone kill him? We know that people have the desire to do so. Dwight no longer trusts him. The wives hate him. I understand that the average person within the compound isn’t going to have the means or opportunity, but I no longer buy that people in power around Negan are so scared of him they won’t raise a finger against him. That’s just not the case.
And that was the most frustrating part of the episode. We know that, at this point, we’re all just waiting for the moment where someone will kill Negan and set-up the next Big Bad for the series. Negan remains a poorly constructed and poorly acted character who isn’t scary, just annoying. Every time he opens his mouth, I find myself rolling my eyes and sighing, rather than being afraid for his next line. He’s just an overgrown adolescent who could easily be killed if any character had the guts to do it. And that doesn’t make him a good bad guy. It’s just makes him a waste of narrative space.
— Since we didn’t see him destroy the magic murder pills, I’m going to assume they will be a case of Chekhov’s gun here (a la Walter White’s ricin). I doubt that’s the last we’ll hear of them.
— Yet another reason Negan’s people should kill him: Killing a doctor in the zombie apocalypse is a waste and puts everyone in greater danger.
— I hope Sherry made it somewhere safe. She deserves a better life.