The Walking Dead always challenges our views on what it means to be strong, the price of that strength and whether or not it’s better to be strong alone or with others. In the fifth episode of season 5, we learn how cowards and brave men help themselves and make the choice to help others.
Before we get to the mullet-sized lie of the season, we need to understand why Abraham clung to Eugene without any evidence other than words. We get some insight into the sergeant’s past through a series of short flashbacks intercut throughout the episode.
On the bus to D.C., discussion turns to Eugene’s work at the Genome Project. Eugene is smart. We can’t debate that. He knows a lot and he also knows how to confuse people with what he knows. He talks fast and then he shuts everyone down with “it’s classified” when he decides he’s done answering questions.
What isn’t classified is his mullet. He says he keeps it because his boss at the Human Genome Project said that Eugene’s hair made him “look like a fun guy,” which Eugene swears he is. Before they can finish talking mullets, the bus crashes, zombies approach and then the opening credits! By the way, I think this opening sequence is the best yet.
After the credits we flashback to Abraham’s past where he’s beating someone to death with a can. Abraham looks down at his bloodied hand and then we’re quickly snapped back to the present time. Everyone is alive, but the bus is on fire. They have to get out, but of course, zombies. Eugene is frozen in fear. Tara coaxes him off the bus when she says,
“You’re screwed either way. You’ve got to make the choice that might help somebody.”
This show is beautiful when it doles out flawless life lessons. In the end, life will screw us all. The only thing we’ve got is what we leave behind. Do you want your legacy to be good or bad?
Our heroes make it through the zombies, but Eugene is shaken and Abe is about to unhinge. He wants so desperately to get to D.C.. Everyone wants the cure, but he seems more invested than anyone. Abe channels his stress into a military style pep talk to get the group to keep moving forward. After the apocalypse, this guy needs to get a job as a motivational speaker.
We flashback again to him calling for a woman named Ellen. This scene is shorter than the first and we’re back to the present day where our group takes shelter in an abandoned bookstore.
Glenn and Abe have a moment where the sergeant lets his guard down and for once subtly reveals how much this world weighs on him. He mentions that everyone is a fighter now, because that’s the only option. In theory, everyone wants to be a fighter. Strength is a good thing, but that’s not the kind of strength Abe’s referring to. This is a violent strength. Traumatic strength. This is the kind of fight that no one should have to face. Beating someone to death with canned food isn’t cool. It isn’t brave. It’s terrible and Abraham never wants to have to do that again.
After his talk with Glenn, Abe drowns his stress and depression in Rosita. Eugene, who’s hiding out in the Self-Help section, watches the two of them have sex. The weird thing is, they know and it’s not the first time. Everyone appears to be okay with this voyeurism, except for Tara. She discovers Eugene spying, but the conversation quickly turns confessional.
Eugene blurts out that he put crushed class in the fuel line. He’s afraid of what will happen if he doesn’t cure the disease. He won’t have any value and no one will protect him. Tara takes this to mean that the pressure of being the savior of the zombie apocalypse is too much for Eugene to handle. She gets it and tells him that’s not how it works. They’re friends. She vows not to tell anyone else what he did. It makes sense to have Tara be the one to forgive him. She’s been forgiven for a lot of damage herself.
She still should’ve told everyone else about Eugene. He may be self-loathing, but that doesn’t make the consequences of his actions any less dangerous.
Maggie and Glenn have their own moment, but they don’t get a sex scene. Instead, it’s Maggie’s turn to savor the hope that Eugene will cure the zombie virus.
“It’s not about what was. It’s all about what’s going to be.”
After all of the horror, it must be glorious to have a little bit of hope.
We cut back to Abraham, Ellen and his children. It’s obvious that the men he killed were terrorizing his family, but when he turned that terror back onto them, his family became afraid of him. In the next flashback, we see that his wife took their children and fled.
He turned himself into a monster to save the people that he loved and then they left him.
Back in the present, the group tries to get a fire truck running, but zombies, with their perfect timing, attack. Eugene, who is not as useless as he thinks, turns on the hose and shoots all of the zombies in the head. Again, Eugene is smart and he thinks fast. Most people may know that the force of water from a fire hose is strong enough to dispatch zombies, but it’s one of those things that you file in your brain as useless information. Eugene doesn’t have any useless information. He uses everything.
Not too long after being on the road again, the truck breaks down and the group notices a strong stench wafting their way. They decide that the only sensible thing to do is to investigate it. Why not, right? The smell is a massive amount of rotting flesh, aka walkers. I’m not sure why this wasn’t their first thought. Zombies have to smell pretty bad. They’re dead people.
The others want to turn around, but Abraham doesn’t. He believes that the zombies won’t sense them and even if they do, they can fight their way out. Abe doesn’t convince anyone, not even Rosita. Undeterred, he grabs Eugene and walks down the road. Everyone chases after them to pry Eugene from Abraham’s grasp. A brawl is about to break out and it could get deadly.
Frightened by the in-fighting and the gun Abe accidentally points in his face, Eugene reveals the secret to solving the zombie virus: There isn’t one and he isn’t a scientist. He made it all up.
Eugene was wrong to lie, but it was also his way of staying alive. Everyone has strengths. Whether or not we’re in the middle of the apocalypse or just trying to pay the bills, we need to play up our strengths. That’s what Eugene did.
“I just know things. I know I’m smarter than most people.”
He doesn’t have a lot of confidence that people will protect someone like him. He’s not a physical fighter and that’s the kind of person people want on their team. Everyone should want smart people in their group, but Eugene knows that people only think about immediate survival, not the long-term importance of having someone like him around.
So he lied. He lied to keep himself alive. It was wrong and it cost people’s lives – but it also may have saved Abraham’s.
Abraham loses it and punches Eugene so hard in the face that he falls to the ground. Rosita jumps between them and puts her hand on her gun. He doesn’t fight her. He walks off and breaks down into tears, staring at his bloodied hand.
We flash back to his past once more, where he finds his wife and children dead. His heart and spirit break. Moments later, flashback-Abraham puts a gun in his mouth. As he is ready to pull the trigger, he sees Eugene crying for help as he runs from walkers. Abe saves him, but immediately walks away. Eugene tries to get him to stop. He doesn’t want to be alone. He’ll die if he’s alone. They both will. So Eugene stops Abraham with these six words:
“I have a very important mission.”
If it wasn’t for those words, Abraham would have put that gun back in his mouth and Eugene would certainly have perished. Eugene’s lie helped himself, but it was also a choice that helped Abraham to live. Likewise, the sergeant could have left Eugene, but he chose the path that had hope.
Now Abraham needs to decide if Eugene’s reveal will break him as much as the death of his family. Will he give up or will he choose the path that might help himself and someone else?
What do you think about Eugene’s lie? Do you understand why he did it? Do you think he should stay with the group? Do you think he’ll survive Abraham’s beating?
Here’s a look at what happens next week, as we check in on Carol, Daryl and Beth.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9pm on AMC.