This week, The Walking Dead takes a break from the Beth-Carol-Daryl crisis to check in on Glenn, Maggie, Abraham, and the rest of the Washington DC-bound group. As multiple setbacks delay their progress on the road, Abraham begins to get caught up in his desire to complete his mission, which leads to a major revelation from Eugene.
“Self Help” is Abraham’s show more than anyone’s. The entire episode revolves around his utter obsession with getting Eugene to Washington, and the crumbling of his mental faculties when he’s faced with trouble along the way. Every setback he faces chips away at his composure, blinding him from reasonable solutions presented by Glenn, Maggie, Rosita, and Tara. Eugene is Abraham’s top priority because, as we learn over the course of the episode, Eugene is literally the only reason Abraham is still alive.
Abraham’s militant insistence that they stick to the mission has always made him seem erratic and senseless. He’s ignored the logical options in favor of keeping on ever since Glenn and Tara first met him, and it’s always seemed odd to both the audience and the other members of the group. What, exactly, is the hurry? Curing the plague is an important undertaking, but not at the expense of basic safety. As Rosita smartly points out, what’s the use of pushing on if people aren’t at 100%? But Abraham’s behavior makes a lot more sense now that we know that his mad dog tendencies have already destroyed his life. Having scared his family away with his extreme brutality, resulting in their deaths, Abraham is discouraged from suicide at the last moment by Eugene’s arrival and revelation of his “cure”. The word “mission” seems to trigger a response in former solider Abraham, who takes on Eugene in order to give his life purpose. Without it, he’s a broken man.
Aside from Abraham, “Self Help” focuses a lot on Eugene, something that eventually leads to his big revelation. Eugene has been sketchy from the start, what with his vague mentions of the “cure”. It’s unlikely that someone as truly idiotic as Eugene could have survived up to his meeting with Abraham, which put his lovable creep nature into question. The revelation that Eugene doesn’t actually have a cure isn’t exactly surprising, but after an episode of the others building him up, it feels earned. The exposure of the lie wouldn’t have had as much of an impact had the others not expressed their solidarity with and belief in Eugene. It wouldn’t have meant as much without knowing that it’s the only thing keeping Abraham from putting a gun in his mouth.
Eugene’s lies may not seem like much when compared to the residents of Terminus or the Governor, but his betrayal stings nonetheless, especially when highlighted by his socially awkward worsening of the situation. Previously, Eugene had seemed a bit creepy, but otherwise harmless (which was Abe’s justification for letting Eugene watch him and Rosita have sex. I wonder how he feels about that now?). Now, his manipulative nature makes him seem like more than a fraud. It makes him seem like a total liability. Whether he stays with the group or is cast out remains to be seen, but he’ll definitely be one to watch from now on.
Abraham and Eugene’s relationship is an interesting one to examine, because they’ve unknowingly been using each other this whole time. Abraham needed Eugene to give his life meaning, a notion he clinged to to the point of irrationality. Eugene needed Abraham to protect him, and he was evidently willing to risk his and everyone else’s lives to that end. Now that the truth is out, they’re both back at Square One. How will they deal with that?
Of the other players, Rosita tries the hardest to maintain focus and balance within the group, a position that allows for some insight into her character. She’s clearly happy with Abraham, but she proves her gumption by standing up to him when no one else will. Her defining moment comes when she flashes her pistol at Abraham during his violent processing of Eugene’s reveal, showing that she’ll do what’s necessary to keep the peace, boyfriend or not. Rosita is still the least developed of the Washington trio, but hopefully she’ll be more front and center next time.
Glenn, Maggie, and Tara have comparatively little to do, though Glenn does receive some insight into Abraham’s brutality during a nighttime conversation. Tara is the first one to suspect that there’s something wrong with Eugene when he admits to her that he sabotaged their bus, but she never puts the clues together. Any kind of harmful secret storyline between them is rendered moot by Eugene’s confession. Maggie is the least featured character, with her only significant moments being when she expresses her guilt at leaving the others behind (her refusal to acknowledge Beth continues to unnecessarily paint her as cold), and when she tells Eugene the story of Samson.
Now that the big Washington D.C mission is a no-go, the season’s overall story is a bit of a question mark. Both the D.C storyline and Beth’s hospital storyline are in need of conclusion, but where does The Walking Dead go from there? I’m willing to bet that we won’t know until the mid-season finale or beyond.
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