Whose Episode Is It?
“Time for After” has probably the most important plot development in Season 8 since the premiere, so why does it feel like such a shrug? It certainly doesn’t help that the majority of the episode is devoted to reiterating a bunch of stuff we already know about Eugene, a character that’s truly emblematic of the show’s diminishing returns. The real meat of the story is Daryl and Tara’s successful operation to upend Rick’s big plan and crush the Saviors in one fell swoop, casualties be damned, but it’s given about 12 minutes of screen time and the debate of its merits might be the most cursory discussion this show’s ever featured, which is saying something.
A Shred of Humanity
But first, Eugene, who the show would like to remind you is a coward who will do whatever it takes to survive. Most of “Time for After” is dedicated to various characters wanting Eugene to do contradictory things, and Eugene being sad about it. We have Dwight, who after learning that Eugene knows he’s the mole, asks Eugene to just do nothing so that Rick’s plan can come to fruition. Then there’s Gabriel, who wants Eugene to get Dr. Carson to Maggie. There’s also Negan, who wants Eugene to find a way for everyone to escape the besieged compound. And finally there’s Tonya, who just wants Eugene to stop whining and fix her boom box already. Eugene responds to these various requests with his patented pout-face and esoteric speech patterns.
Eugene, as usual, decides on the path that will make the least number of people mad at him. He keeps Dwight’s secret but he also figures out a way to lure the walkers away from Sanctuary – a glider with Sasha’s old iPod attached that will draw the zombies with its beautiful siren song – but Dwight puts the kibosh on that by shooting the glider out of the air.
Things change when Daryl smashes his garbage truck into Sanctuary, letting the walkers inside to feast on Savior and worker alike. As Eugene observes the carnage unfold, his expression changes from fear to anger. Watching this, you could hardly be blamed for thinking that Daryl committing what is basically a war crime has radicalized Eugene into being forever Team Negan, and Eugene does tell off Gabriel and gives Negan a revised escape plan, but even after all that he still can’t bring himself to tell Negan about Dwight, so what was the point of all this exactly? Eugene starts this episode as a wishy-washy coward and he ends it as one. So glad we got to spend so much time with him.
Man Is The True Monster
The Eugene stuff could be chalked up to standard “Walking Dead” wheel-spinning if the B-plot weren’t so key to the season’s main story and conflicts (both Rick vs. the Saviors and Rick vs. his own people). Daryl and Tara let Rosita and Michonne in on their plan to smash through the Sanctuary wall, and Rosita’s against it, since she knows where rash thinking leads (it leads to Sasha being dead). Rosita wonders why they can’t just stick to the incredibly elaborate plan they’ve been following for seven episodes, and Daryl and Tara are basically all “Uh… revenge?” and that’s still good enough for Michonne. Rosita says she believes in Rick, but no one else mentions Rick at all, which is odd. Michonne shouldn’t be solely defined by her relationship to Rick, but why wouldn’t anyone bring up that she’s working to upend her boyfriend’s best-laid plans because she got bored at home? Shouldn’t she and Daryl at least acknowledge that they’re both screwing over the guy they love most?
While Rosita gives some lip service to how innocent people could die if the plan is enacted (and it certainly looks like they do once it is), she still doesn’t do anything to halt it, she just storms off. And when Michonne arbitrarily decides she’s no longer into the idea, she’s much more concerned for her and Daryl’s safety than anyone inside Sanctuary. She doesn’t try to stop Daryl, she just leaves the truck. This is certainly in line with the take-no-prisoners morality of all the previous “Walking Dead” seasons, but it seems at odds with what they’ve been trying to do this year. This should be a key turning point for Daryl, for the war, for everything, but there’s just no weight to it.
- The less said about Rick’s terrible plan for the Dumpsters, the better. Apparently, he really thought, “I’ll go alone and make them join me, and they won’t shoot me because I’m Rick Grimes,” and what’s worse, he’s totally right. This further confirms my theory that Rick knows he’s the lead on a show and not just some guy who could have been easily shot at any time by the Dumpsters, including when he had their leader pinned down in front of them.
- So when Daryl made it clear to Rick that he wanted to end the war as soon as possible, did Rick just figure he wouldn’t try anything when Rick wasn’t around? “That Daryl, such a kidder. Always going on about how he wants to exterminate the Saviors. Anyway, time to lead our new allies back to Sanctuary as I take a big sip of water.”
- Eugene refers to Ricks’ army as AHK, as in Alexandria, Hilltop, Kingdom. That’s not bad, actually. I might steal that. Although now that the Dumpsters are in it should be AHKD.
- We don’t see Eugene’s plan for the Saviors’ escape being executed, but it apparently involves a lot of bullets. Which means it was either too expensive to show or they’re just backfilling it in the next episode. It would be extremely funny if Eugene’s brilliant scheme was just “shoot the zombies with our many, many guns.”