After communicating over the radio for so long, it appears that Eugene and Stephanie are making a serious go of their Commonwealth relationship, even potentially moving in together. But when Stephanie suddenly vanishes, Eugene is sure there’s something nefarious going on. His friends are concerned that it’s possible Stephanie has just panicked about the relationship and left. But as Eugene asks for the help in finding out the truth, none of the answers point to a satisfactory result. So Eugene determines to go it alone…
Elsewhere Lance Hornsby enlists Carol’s help in his cultivating of the drugs trade for hospital needs.
But it becomes apparent that everyone in the Commonwealth has secrets and agendas…
You really have to feel sorry for Eugene Porter. He may not get all the screen -time and adulation of people like Negan, Daryl and Carol but he is one of the show’s best characters – one of those awkward individuals who constantly get underestimated because he can’t quite get out of their own way… quietly brilliant in some ways and utterly hopeless in others. His language sounds like an university scholar but his voluminous verbosity is never utilised to demean or condescend to others… it’s simply the way his brain is wired and how it’s connected to his mouth. He’s not quite an innocent soul – he’s seen too much and had to do so much to not be affected – and fans will remember he spent a season in Negan’s camp only for it to be revealed that his apparent betrayal was a long-planned, long-term subterfuge that likely fooled viewers as much as some of his friends who weren’t all in on it. But he’s a good guy.
Josh McDermitt’s performance has allowed him to take the character that first appeared in the comics and craft his own, unique version and in the process become a fan favourite. But he’s also someone for whom success never really lasts. He’s lost close friends. The women he’s pined for haven’t felt the same for him and there’s ever the sense that when things go well something will screw it up. So when he declares his love for Stephanie, she reciprocates and then vanishes, there’s that sense of sympathy and dread. Has something nefarious happened to her or has she simply skipped out on Eugene? Eugene thinks it’s the former, some of his friends quietly think it might be the latter and the audience, however much we want things to work out, know that things won’t end well. It seems that, one way or another, Eugene is going to get crushed again.
To its credit, the episode plays out without revealing its complete hand for as long as possible. For the most part we suspect Stephanie may simply have bolted and at worst she was stringing him along all along. Sadly, it’s the latter as it turns out that the woman we’ve known as Stephanie was willingly working for the Powers that Be and when Eugene got too close and no new information could be gleamed, the ‘mission’ was over. If the screw hasn’t been turned quite enough, there’s one more revelation to come: we find out that ‘Stephanie’ is not even the person to whom Eugene was talking with over the radio for so long. It was actually Max, Pamela Milton’s assistant, who seemed to genuinely care for Eugene and says that she hates that their original on-air talks were then used as an instrument of deceit by the faux-Stephanie and TPTB to draw them in. Can Eugene trust her… can WE trust her? It may be too big an ask for Eugene who’s pretty much broken after the episode’s revelations.
Elsewhere Connie makes some Lois-Lane-level investigations and gets both a warning and advice from Mercer that she may not want to push too hard on her attempts to uncover truths that aren’t palatable to the rulers of the Commonwealth. (Mercer himself is frustrated when Tyler, the man who took Max (his siter, we find out!) hostage last week, vanishes from the hospital – snatched away by someone who seems to have more authority than the well-placed Mercer himself). There’s some slow-burn but interesting developments regarding Lance Hornsby (Josh Hamilton). Quickly becoming a character to watch (and definitely not turn you back on), Hamilton expertly switches between car-salesman smiles and savage pragmatism. One minute he’s the guy you think isn’t exactly trust-worthy but might be just a social climber needing validation, the next he’s absolutely the most dangerous man in the room with few human feelings except a primal ambition. Carol is a good people-reader (easily working out where and how Hornsby’s deal with a local drug-supplier is going off the rails) and is using Hornsby as much as he is using her – perhaps each recognising someone who adapts to needs and environments – but she probably has no idea how he’s actually treating Eugene and how easily he can hurt people on a whim. He could well be one of the catalysts for what’s to come…
- Production Design / VFX9