A breath of freshness for The Walking Dead, but is it too little too late?
First off, I feel like this episode would’ve been better suited as the midseason premiere. It had all of the necessary ingredients for a sick TWD episode: humor, darkness, and more brilliant Negan. It also gave us some more insight into the politics of the Saviors and more specifically, we learn more about Dwight through some pretty intimate screentime.
We also get an interesting dynamic between Eugene and Negan — both characters reside on polar opposites of the power spectrum. It’s spectacularly acted and a total blast to watch. Also in this dynamic are Negan’s wives: Tanya, Frankie, and Amber; their subplot and newfound relationship with Eugene is one of the series’ most satisfying slow burns. It’s gets quite dark, but it’s handled with an air of levity. It’s masterful.
This episode features one of the most gnarly and visceral human kills in series’ history. I’d say it’s hard to watch, but it’s impossible to look away. Visually, the episode is one of the most stunning in ages. There’s excellent lighting and framing all around. It’s in stark contrast to the questionable CGI from last week.
The episode tries to hit the audience with the stunning revelation that Eugene has totally betrayed Rick. Eugene is playing the long con. I definitely don’t believe any viewer should take his sudden shift of alliance as anything permanent. He’s a master of playing the long con, as he showed Rick’s group regarding his ability to “solve” the walker apocalypse. It’s a skill that’ll serve him well until he’s able to escape Negan’s compound.
“Hostiles and Calamities” is the rare occasion (nowadays) where The Walking Dead knocks it out of the park. The only complaint I have is that this episode didn’t come sooner. The last couple of weeks have left me feeling more burned out than excited for a show I still hold in high regards. It feels more consistent with the first part of season 7. While it’s still — arguably — a setup episode for what’s to come, the show would do well to play to its strengths. The powers that be shouldn’t use this crucial time to experiment with bottle episodes or new perspectives. There’s a clear objective in mind for our protagonists: get rid of Negan and his saviors. Too many subplots and that basic, primal goal gets lost. For now, “Hostiles and Calamities” was a nice attempt at course correction.