FoCC Review: TWD Episode 1119 – Variant

by Transmute Jun

Warning: this review contains multiple spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 11, Episode 19.

It’s not much of a secret that Eugene is one of my favorite characters. If the zombie apocalypse happened today, I would be most like Eugene: scared, unable to defend myself, at the mercy of others. I’d likely be the person who went down screaming, allowing others to get away. Eugene managed to avoid that fate by getting Abraham and Rosita to protect him. Yet for a long time, Eugene was still scared and helpless, completely reliant on others.

After reaching Alexandria, Eugene came to be appreciated for his knowledge and intelligence. Eventually, he gained some walker-killing skills, but at heart, he was still scared of the world. This episode was the final step in the metamorphosis of Eugene Porter. Eugene was finally able to openly walk into the lion’s den, sacrificing himself completely to protect someone else. He threw away his self-pity to become the kind of person he had always admired, and had wanted to be.

Eugene was respected, liked, and even loved by the other members of his group. Rosita, while not having any romantic interest, clearly has strong ties to him, while Princess is incredibly grateful to Eugene for saving her from her isolation. Yet it was Max who caused Eugene to change into this new version of himself. He explained it as, “I go where she is, or I just end up who I was.” It’s as good a character arc as I could want from someone who has lasted for 8 seasons on The Walking Dead. Many viewers might have thought as Daryl did, that given the chance, Eugene wasn’t going anywhere. Yet once he learned Max’s fate, Eugene had to step in and save her.

On the other side of this mess is Mercer. Mercer is a good person, who wants to change the corrupt Commonwealth into what it was promised to be. Yet when faced with the choice of protecting his sister or doing the right thing, Mercer found his price. He encouraged Max to sign a false statement, and turned his back on Rosita (to whom he was professing loyalty only 2 episodes ago). But Max repudiated his efforts, and Mercer now sees that Eugene is willing to sacrifice everything to protect Max. It’s clear that Mercer’s loyalties are shifting, yet how much remains unclear.

Governor Milton is only out for revenge. She doesn’t seem to have any long-term plans in mind. In that way, she is a terrible leader for the Commonwealth. She is not thinking about the people, but only her own desires. Still, I’m not certain what game she was playing with Lance. Was she trying to kill Lance by leaving him with the re-animated Sebastian? Surely, she didn’t think that Roman’s corpse would entertain Sebastian for very long. But by leaving Lance with a machete, she was inviting Lance to kill Sebastian. I’m not sure why Lance wouldn’t do just that. One thing I do know is that Lance will not just wait to be killed. He will do whatever it takes to stay alive and get out of that cell.

The other part of this episode dealt with Aaron’s group returning to Alexandria. It felt contrived that they had to leave the road. There weren’t that many walkers, and the group could have handled them (as they proved at the end of the episode, at the old Renaissance Faire site). It was only a plot device to get them to the Faire location. I was surprised (and pleased) by Jerry’s idea to make it Kingdom 2.0. It’s nice to see the group making plans to expand and grow, rather than just keep clinging to the remnants of what they had before.

I also appreciated Aaron’s advice to Lydia to appreciate what she had with Elijah, given that it could be taken away at any moment. Everyone lives with regrets, but in the apocalypse where life expectancy is short, it is especially important to seize the day, and make the most of what one has.

Of course, the centerpiece of this part of the episode was the ‘capable’ walker. A zombie that could climb walls, turn the doorknob and (most importantly) pick up a rock to use as a tool/weapon. This speaks of far more intelligence than is to be expected from a creature whose brain is literally rotting. There has to be something more to this, but I’m not sure where the show is going with it, given that there are only 5 episodes remaining in the entire series. Perhaps this is something that will be carried to one of the spinoff shows?

Was it just me, or is that Renaissance Faire in remarkably good shape for having been abandoned for 13+ years? I also noted an apparent Easter egg: the skinless face of the ‘smart’ walker strongly resembled Red Skull (from the MCU). Ross Marquand (who plays Aaron) also voices Red Skull. Coincidence?

This episode continued laying the groundwork for the Commonwealth’s demise, and I am looking forward to seeing that evolve over the remainder of the series. I’m not sure where the Alexandria storyline is going, but we shall see what plays out next week.

For those who play the AMC Walking Dead mobile games, this week’s Walking Dead: No Man’s Land season mission has Aaron and Jerry fighting ‘smart’ walkers on the rooftop.

Do you watch The Walking Dead? Join the conversation on the FoCC forums!

Transmute Jun

Transmute Jun has an addiction to pop culture conventions, and attends as many as she can each year. When she's not traveling, she likes to stay at home reading a good book, playing a video game, or binge-watching a TV show. She can be bribed with pizza, Coke Zero and Belgian milk chocolate.

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