There’s been a staggered build up to Eugene’s significance to The Walking Dead universe over the past couple of episodes but it all comes crashing down in this week’s episode — “Self Help”. It’s a shame that the recent new characters barely carry any weight into future episodes. Let’s go back and name a few: Bob? Dead. Gareth and cannibals? Dead. Eugene, Abraham, and Rosita? Pretty damn insignificant. In fact, “Self-Help” was to be the first episode centered solely on the trio’s main effort to get to Washington DC. What resulted was an ambiguous mess of motives and blood.
Right at the onset, we know something is weird. Rosita (Christian Serratos) flirting with Abraham (Michael Cudlitz). Albeit, there was some flirting that was had between the two in their introduction when Abraham comments on Rosita’s breasts with “they’re damn near hypnotic.” Their relationship in tonight’s episode seemed a bit contrived, however, like the writers were trying to force some last minute characterization down our throats.
Throughout the episode are scattered flashbacks of Abraham at an unknown location; he appears to be beating a man senseless and killing him (and probably countless others) before staggering towards a woman and two children, his family perhaps. The trio look at him with petrified glances, while Abraham tries to control a gaping wound on his hand and his relationship with the three. By morning, however, they have bolted. Forced character development again, perhaps?
On the very short bus ride, we learn that Eugene (Josh McDermitt) wants to keep his mullet for the sake of liking it for himself, that Abraham has invited Rosita to shave his hair all the way down, and that Abraham is not really that great of a driver – he crashes the bus and it ends over lopsided, with a horde of walkers headed their way.
The fight that ensues leaves them victorious but bus-less. They keep venturing forward however, with DC in mind. They find an abandoned library which has been relatively untouched, and they make camp here. During their stay, Rosita and Abraham consummate their love while Eugene lets in Tara (Alanna Masterson) on a little secret (right after Tara catches him staring at Rosita and Abraham): he actually set up the bus to crash. Why? He believes that if they arrive to DC and he proves himself to not be of any scientific value, the others will just not see him of any value at all (as he’s not really the best of fighters) and will leave him to die. Tara tries to convince him otherwise (“that’s not how it works”). Everyone is in this together. Eugene, though still slightly unsettled, agrees to this and to not spill the beans of this to anyone else.
In the morning, there’s a slight conflict in what they should do: stay or go? While Rosita nurses Abraham’s gaping wound (from the flashback), he pushes for them all to leave the library as a base camp and find a bus to get to DC. They happen across a fire truck, but aren’t able to claim it without a bit of a struggle with walkers. They only win due to Eugene’s valiant efforts, as he poises himself atop the fire truck and hoses all the walkers with water (which is surprisingly really effective). Maybe Eugene is of some value after all!
They aren’t able to go that much farther with the fire truck, however. They endeavor to travel by foot (or as Tara suggests, bikes) but come across something far more alarming: a huge plantation area filled entirely with walkers. Everyone but Abraham urges the group to go back south and find perhaps a different vehicle, while Abraham remains gung-ho on moving forward. Rosita manages to convince Abraham to go back, but by this time Abraham is pissed. He grabs hold of Eugene and just as everyone pounces on him to let go and a bloody fight is imminent, Eugene shouts out that he lied. He isn’t actually a scientist. He just knows [stuff &] things.
Everyone is in disbelief with this turn of events (except Tara, really). After a couple of seconds, Abraham goes ape-shit on Eugene, reminiscent of Abraham from the flashback, before collapsing on the dirt and leaving us with a cliffhanger.
So back to my tangent. This episode, apart from the overall ending, wasn’t entirely meaningful. The only really logical thing that happened during the entire episode was when Tara suggested they find bikes. The throwbacks to Abraham’s past were somewhat insightful; the wound that he opened during his fight had reopened in present time, and while Rosita attempted to heal the wound by sewing it up, it ultimately stayed open as he lost his mind at Eugene’s reveal. His misfortune comes full circle, and all that he’s left with is his temper. And perhaps Abraham knew all the while that Eugene had been lying, and was just using Eugene’s “mission” as way to distract himself from the pain that his wife and kids had left him. The knowledge that all that he’s been working towards has been a complete lie would be pretty debilitating for someone in denial for so long.
What’s shocking (or maybe not so shocking) is that Eugene, in an attempt to stay alive, tricked everyone into thinking that he was actually a scientist, when in fact he was just trying to survive on Abraham’s coattails. While his betrayal does shake the group dynamics quite a bit, it didn’t appear to be so shocking to the viewers, as it’s been quite a few episodes and no real progress towards DC anyway. It’ll be interesting to see how this group picks up the pieces.