The Walking Dead: 711 “Hostiles and Calamities” Review
Reviewed by John Hussey.
One of the things that was clearly missing in the first two episodes of Season Seven’s second half was Negan. It’s really strange how a character so ruthless, so diabolical, and so regardless of his cruel actions could make me love them so much. Literally, Negan made me do the biggest U-turn. Upon first seeing him in “Last Day on Earth” I was terrified, left shaking with fear because of his dominant presence onscreen, and the simple fact that I had no idea what he was about to do.
Come “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be” I was left shaking because of sheer shock. His actions within Seven Season’s opener made me despise him. I was practically counting down the days for Rick to put a bullet between his eyes, but then something happened. As Season Seven developed last year, and we got to see more of this magnificent beast, I began to learn something, I freaking loved Negan. He’s one of those clear villains that you love to hate. I suppose it goes beyond even that. I love his character so much because he’s a fascinating villain, and despite his vicious, and unpredictable, nature he delivers pure entertainment.
This is greatly down to the fact that Jeffrey Dean Morgan is a phenomenal actor. Perfect casting. He nails every line, and every action. It’s like he was born to play this psychopath. Looking back at the start of the show it’s hard to think about how far the show has come, how much it’s developed, how much our favourite characters have been tested, and just how things have changed (for better or worse). The Negan arc has been a glorious high-point for The Walking Dead and each episode within its run only goes to show how greatly it adds to the on-going zombie series.
“Hostiles and Calamities” picks up the story of Eugene Porter (played by Josh McDermitt) after he was taken by Negan at the end of “Hearts Still Beating”. Like Father Gabriel, Eugene is one of the characters (of the show) I absolutely couldn’t stand upon their first introduction. This was mostly due to his cowardly behaviour, and his dependence on others. It was extremely painful to watch and merely made my viewing of the show infuriating. Along with this was his selfishness and lack of emotion. I’d go as far as to say Eugene reminds me of a robot, especially in the way he talks which is so logical, almost without any real emotion or irrational thinking.
Over time (like Father Gabriel) I learnt to appreciate his character more and enjoyed watching him progress as he tried to find his place within the group. This finally began to fruition when Eugene found his calling making bullets for the group in their struggle to fight Negan back in Season Six. But things began to fall apart for Eugene upon seeing his best friend, Abraham Ford, beaten to death by Lucille. Ever since then his cowardly nature has exploded.
This episode sees Eugene somewhat progress as a character, but also sees him fall apart. It’s an interesting character study, particularly since Eugene isn’t a strong character and has only his intelligence to back himself up with. But in the face of Negan he completely falls flat as his fear takes over. Once again it’s a delight to see Jeffrey go to work and rip the crap out of Eugene with his wit and fearful presence. It’s almost like a cruel game as he slowly breaks Eugene’s will piece by piece. This was done in stages, starting with granting him access to one of the suites within the Sanctuary.
Negan then cleverly manipulated Eugene to tell him how to make his zombie defence system stronger, to which Negan (in a Negan like fashion) grows excited at the concept of molding them with smouldering metal. Things get even more interesting when Negan sends some of his wives over to keep Eugene company (without actually keeping him company). This becomes another of his sick games to lure Eugene into his inner-circle, but becomes more than that when his wives begin to get to know him.
It’s a rather odd (but enjoyable) process of them interacting. At first it would seem like they were bored of his presence, due to him sat there like a mindless drone playing 80’s video games whilst speaking in his usual coded language. But they soon become interested in him, particularly when they discover he can create explosives from household appliances. What is at first presumed an actual bonding experience quickly turns into a scheme to seemingly aid one of Negan’s wives to commit suicide, having grown tired of the cruel and manipulative lifestyle Negan holds over her.
This really tests Eugene in both his skills and his courage. It becomes a game of him breaking away from his logical existence and finally indulging in irrationality. Eugene then proceeds to have a moment that shows his off his courage as he utilises his new position to enable him to get the parts he needs to make his sleeping tablets. But things don’t go according to plan due to Eugene lacking a spine, cowering down from the idea after he (once again) witnesses the terrible wrath of Negan.
We then come to the secondary plot-thread of the episode in which we (once again) follow Dwight (played by Austin Amelio). I really don’t know where I stand with this character as he’s constantly shifting backwards and forwards from being a sympathetic character, to being a ruthless killer in the space of a scene. Although “The Cell” began to enlighten us on his sudden change of character from the first half of Season Six to the second half, it still leaves many questions open as to his true intentions.
Continuing on from “Hearts Still Beating” Dwight discovers the guard that Daryl beat to death and then ultimately discovers that he has escaped, along with the fact that his ex-wife, Sherry, was the one who let him out. In a cruel move, Negan has Dwight beaten in order to put him back in his place (thinking he had something to do with Daryl’s disappearance). Dwight then goes looking for Sherry, to which leads to another scene that was created to give us more insight into his character. It turns out that Dwight suffers from memory loss. Okay then.
A letter left from Sherry describes the tragedy of this problem, to which Dwight can’t actually remember any of their happy moments together. She also talks about how she used to love the man he was and that it was her fault that he became the man he is today, turning against everything he once stood for (i.e. not killing). It’s rather saddening to hear, showcased by Dwight’s silent reaction of getting angry. But then this moment is completely glossed over by Dwight being a major arsehole. I’m not even sure why this happened, whether because Dwight suffers from memory loss, or because he’s just a massive jerk.
Either-way, this led to Dwight telling lies to Negan about the local doctor. And for some reason Negan believed him, making me wonder whether Negan is simply playing Dwight in a long twisted game (like everyone else) or he’s generally naive to the things going on around him. The poor doctor is prepared for the enduring iron treatment (which acts as Negan’s punishment to those who break his rules). Suddenly things seem fine and the tense atmosphere is stopped dead by the doctor simply saying he was sorry to Negan.
What I love most about Negan (besides his foul mouth and dark sense of humour) is his unpredictability. You’re constantly waiting with dread at what he’s about to do next. In this case instead of ironing the doctor’s face, he instead throws him into the furnace and pins him inside until his upper half is nothing but ash. What makes this moment even more twisting is the Saviors (along with Eugene) are forced to watch, in a sick attempt to remind them whose in-charge, making Negan one terrible individual.
So, yeah, the doctor gets a horrible fate thanks to Dwight. I’d probably forgive his actions if it turned out he was getting close to Negan this whole time in order to try and kill him when his guards down, but I’m just not so sure what his game is. Maybe he has just become a massive freak and enjoys being a grade-A arsehole (just like Negan in that respect, only looks more of a twit doing it). I either want his character to receive some sort of reasonable development or die. I would say I don’t care which but as the episodes develop I’m more inclined to say the latter just because I don’t like him.
And “Hostiles and Calamities” concludes with Eugene breaking down. It’s a depressing sight witnessing his cowardly nature overcome him, but then again, that is his character in a nutshell. I suppose it is a shame considering he was beginning to develop. But unfortunately he wasn’t built to survive in this world without hiding behind others. Now his logistics tell him to bow down to Negan and lose his identity in a desperate attempt to remain alive. It was rather cold of him to deny Negan’s wives the chance to kill their psychotic husband (thus perhaps ending the blood-thirsty war). I guess it just goes to show how much of a hold Negan has on those around him through fear. I’m interested to see where this new allegiance will take Eugene and how it will determine his fate when Rick declares all-out war on Negan.