When the world comes to an end, whether it’s through nuclear war or someone activating sticky keys on purpose, we all have misbeliefs that we will stand tall in the aftermath. A gunslinger who takes no prisoners, perhaps the saviour the remnants of humanity needs. Maybe you’ll even wear a cape.
In reality, most of us will be like Eugene from The Walking Dead: a coward who only cares about himself. And pickles.
In the latest episode of The Walking Dead, Eugene gladly went to the dark side and joined forces with Negan: the perpetrator for all the misery inflicted on the group who sheltered and forgave him. The show teased a similar betrayal with Gabriel the week before, but there was always a doubt. When it came to Eugene, though, most viewers must have known that a Eugene would take the easy way out.
Ever since joining the ragtag group led by Rick, Eugene has shown few signs of being a team player. He’s there for comic relief; the unbelievably robotic and clueless survivor who might not have had contact with a female he wasn’t related to until after the apocalypse. At the first sign of trouble, Eugene’s first instinct is to bolt, even if the show has been trying to build him up as a redeemed character (ever so slightly) lately.
So when Negan decided that Eugene would be coming back to Sanctuary with him following an almost deadly dispute at Alexandria, it was inevitable that Eugene would quickly give in. The scene when he arrives at his room in his new home summed him up perfectly as a character, asking if he can have some lobster when they’re probably all extinct. As funny as the back and forth was, it showed how ill-suited he was to the end of the world – his lasting this long is nothing short of a miracle. His cluelessness is further evidenced by his appreciation of Easy Street, a song which Daryl might not be buying on vinyl once this whole thing blows over.
There’s a glimmer of hope, however. Eugene seems appalled by the behaviour of Negan, though he stops short of allowing the leader of the Saviors to be poisoned. The reasoning if he isn’t fully on Team Negan? He’s playing the long game. The murder of Abraham, Eugene’s closest friend, isn’t something that he’s going to quickly forget. Eugene is notorious for playing “roles” and, as metaphorically hinted at by his enjoyment of Yar’s Revenge in the most recent episode, he’s going to take his time and chip away at the boss until there’s nothing left.
That being said, I am not holding out hope. Eugene is deeply flawed, which makes him the most human human on the show, so it makes sense for him to prioritise survival over revenge.
Despite the betrayal and the blind following of a sadist, I can’t help but relate to Eugene. He’s what most of us would be once everything had turned to shit: scared, vulnerable, and totally oblivious (or so it seems). As much as we idolise our post-apocalyptic selves, when it comes down to it we will all be doing everything we can to survive, even if it’s doing what we know may not be the right thing.
That, my friends, is why Eugenes while inherit the earth.