Looks like mullets aren’t a sign of intelligence after all. So the group split up, then we went to Beth, and now we pick up with Abraham and company as they move onward to Washington, with a few bumps.
The episode begins on the bus with Abraham and pals. There are no songs to keep them occupied- notice that these people don’t sing- but Tara tries to get Eugene to talk. He’s too focused on the mission ahead, though. There’s still the chance that Rick’s group could catch up, but by episode’s end, you probably wouldn’t want them to, in my opinion. Glenn and Maggie ask Eugene how long it will take him to save the world. It depends on factors like density of the infected around target sites. When Eugene spits a bunch of techno-babble that no one else can translate, the subject switches to his hair: why? He likes it. Plus, the smartest man he ever knew- his old boss, T. Brooks Ellis, director of the Human Genome Project- said his hair made him look like a fun guy.
To put an end to this discussion, something rocks within the bus and it veers out of control, despite Abraham’s efforts to stop it. It passes over a truck, heads into the air and crashes on its side.
In a change of pace, the episode then flashes back to Abraham beating the ever living hell out of another man by using what looks like a can of soup. Blood pours down his fists as he lets his foot deliver the finishing blow.
Back in the present, the others awaken. The engine is on fire and everyone makes their way out of the bus while dealing with the oncoming walkers. Eugene, for some reason that I don’t get at all, is fearful. Tara, somehow, is the one to tell him to be brave. Eugene is hesitant, but he does come around and even manages to put down a walker. It’s worth noting that the group kills all of the walkers by using knives instead of guns. I like how swift and efficient they’ve become when it comes to dealing with zombies, but I’ll go more into detail on this later. Eugene wants Abraham checked to make sure he’s fine, despite Abraham’s insistence that nothing is wrong. He’s more concerned about Abraham’s bloody fist. Maggie remembers that there’s a first aid kit on the bus, and with perfect timing, the bus then goes up in flames. Nice going, Maggie. You burned the bus.
Abraham isn’t about to stop. They’ll find another vehicle on the road and the mission has not changed. No turning back. Every direction is a question. Glenn, ever the voice of reason, reminds Abraham that they are all on the same side. He just wants to know if Abraham is all right. Turns out that he’s not. He took a pretty hard shot to the sack with that crash. He is stressed and depressed, but if Glenn says they’re moving on, he’s good. Abraham will just rub some dirt on it and move on. Gross. Tara suggests finding bikes since bikes don’t burn. Shut up, Tara. Before moving on, Eugene takes one final look at the walker he helped kill, and then he spits on it.
Back in the past, Abraham searches all over the building for a woman. He finally finds the woman, Ellen, played by Andrea Moore, and two kids.
Night has fallen back in the present and the gang holes up in an abandoned bookstore. They start a fire and check around to make sure the area is clear.
At a window, Glenn and Abraham talk. Abraham thanks Glenn for even coming along with him when he could have stayed at the church with Rick and the others. Glenn gets it, Abraham says. He could have left after the crash, but he stayed. Glenn insists that he made a deal, even though Abraham says he could have broken it. Not that he could have done anything about it. Glenn asks whether Abraham will bandage up his hand, but Abraham is going to let it air out for now.
Abraham has reached a conclusion: they are at a point in life right now where everyone alive is strong. They have to be. You’re either strong or they can help you, so you help them or they can kill you. You kill them so you survive. Something tells me that Officer Dawn Lerner would disagree with parts of Abraham’s idea. It’s not always easy, though, but sometimes it can be. Glenn advises Abraham to get some rest since he has a late watch. First, Abraham needs some ass, first. And that is the mental image that will fill Glenn’s head for the next few hours.
Next thing we know, Abraham and Rosita get some alone time to fuck. Well, not really alone time since Eugene is watching them- again, mind you- from afar in the Self-Help section. That cannot be unintentional placement.
Then Tara pops in from out of nowhere and calls out Eugene. He doesn’t deny watching them. It’s not Abraham and Rosita’s thing, neither is it Eugene’s, but he enjoys the female form and considers the sex a victimless crime that provides both comfort and distraction. Agreed. Tara is there to thank him for saving her life. Eugene insists he was screwed either way, so he chose to help someone. Tara tries to boost his confidence, but Eugene has a confession to make: the bus crashed because of him.
Thanks to some light bulbs he found in the church, he put crushed glass in the fuel line. The bus should have failed before it got to the road, but Abraham never meant for the crash to happen. The glass wasn’t supposed to wear out the fuel line next to the spark plugs. When Tara asks why, he eventually admits that he cannot survive on his own. If he can’t cure the disease, he has no value. If he couldn’t fix things, there’d be no reason for everyone to keep him around. Tara insists that, as friends, they have each other’s backs. He can’t do something like that again, and he won’t. For some reason that I don’t understand, Tara promises to keep quiet about Eugene almost dooming them all. No matter how much Eugene may screw up, Tara reminds him that he’s stuck with them, the same way they’re stuck with him. No, Tara, we’re stuck with you. We’re still stuck with you. Then the two pound it out. Whatever happened to handshakes or high-fives?
Elsewhere, Maggie feels guilty about leaving the others. Glenn chooses to see this as a mini-vacation on bookstore floors. Not the most glamorous of locations, but it feels good having this. It’s not about what was; it’s about what’s going to be.
In another visit to the past, Abraham tries to assure Ellen and the kids that everything is fine now, but they’re horrified at the sight of him covered in blood.
In the present, Rosita tells Abraham that his wound isn’t infected. No medical expertise, but something she picked up from Roger and Pam. She wants to stay for the day, but Abraham, no surprise, wants to keep going. Rosita insists. They got lucky yesterday. Everyone is banged up and maybe the reason that they keep stopping is because they never start at 100 percent. Makes sense, actually. To Abraham, every second not spent traveling means that someone else is dying. Rosita is a bit taken aback that Abraham would imply she doesn’t understand that, given everything the two have been through.
It turns out that the store hadn’t been touched during the attacks. Maggie suggests using it as a base, maybe also spending the day to do one last sweep for supplies. But no, Abraham’s pressing everyone north. And lucky for them, they have a new vehicle.
Across from the library are a fire station and a fire truck. After a few attempts, Abraham gets the truck running, but it soon stops. He checks the intake, believing it’s clogged with human remains, though turns out he’s just checking the radiator. The intake is on the roof.
Then, a wheel rolls by. Walkers emerge from the fire station. The group fights valiantly, but there are too many walkers to handle. Suddenly, the walkers are blasted to pieces when Eugene turns on the water cannon.
When it’s all over, Abraham remarks that he has never seen anything like that, and he’s been to eight county fairs and one goat rodeo. Clearly, Abraham didn’t do a lot of traveling before all of this. Glenn suggests stocking up at the nearby Goodwill, but Abraham is ready to get moving. He then notices the message left on the ground and laughs. The shit is screwed up.
In the past, Abraham awakens to find his wife and kids missing. They’ve left him a note telling him to not look for them. So Abraham does just the opposite and starts searching.
Well, apparently the screwed up shit also applied to the fire truck, because it’s now stuck on the road. While Abraham tries to fix the issue, Maggie talks with Eugene, who is reading H.G. Wells. See, why didn’t they all bring books to read? Maggie knows why Eugene has the haircut: he’s not the person people think he is and he wants them to know. Without the mullet, he’d be like everyone else, but he’s not. A lot of people in his position would probably give up, but he didn’t. He acknowledges that there were people who helped him and that it wasn’t just him.
Then, a foul odor hits, but they press onward. The group finally finds the source of the odor and what will prevent them from moving forward: a massive herd of walkers. Everyone wants to head back except for Abraham, who isn’t about to turn around or start looking for detours. Also, the water tank is empty.
Abraham does turn around, but he drags Eugene with him. A fight breaks out until Eugene gets everyone’s attention by making one very important announcement: he’s not a scientist. He lied. He doesn’t know how to stop the outbreak. He just knows things. He’s a very good liar and needed to get to D.C. When asked why, it’s because Eugene believes D.C. does indeed hold the strongest locale for survival. He wanted to live. If he could cheat people into taking him, he’d be doing them a solid favor, considering the perilous state of Houston.
While Abraham remains silent and takes this all in, Rosita reminds Eugene that people died trying to get him where he is now. He lost his nerve as they got closer. At this point, he realized there were no good options. Oh, and he doesn’t know T. Brooks Ellis.
So what does Abraham do? He gets in three solid punches to Eugene’s face to the point where Eugene collapses face first onto the pavement. Before Abraham can do any more damage, Rosita blocks his path with her gun at the ready. Abraham’s left hand is bleeding yet again. He walks off and drops to his knees while the others inspect Eugene’s bloodied face.
We flash back once more as Abraham finds the devoured remains of his family. He rips off his dog tag, pulls out his gun and sticks it in his mouth.
But before he can pull the trigger, he hears a man begging for help. This man, Eugene, is doing a pitiful job of keeping away from walkers that can barely keep up with him. Abraham knifes the three walkers and walks off. Eugene yells for him to stop. He can’t leave because Eugene has a very important mission.
For as long as we’ve known Abraham, Eugene and Rosita on the television series, the main point we’ve grasped is that they need to get to Washington because Eugene knows how to stop the zombie outbreak. We didn’t learn how these three found each other, how Abraham and Rosita came to trust Eugene, who else they may have encountered, or even their origins. We get some of that with “Self-Help,” but I think this episode served its purpose of adding some depth to the three of them- Rosita to a lesser extent- and Eugene’s reveal has major consequences, considering all it’s taken to get them to this point.
Similar to “Slabtown,” there’s a fair amount of time devoted to discussing the role individuals play, based on their strengths and weaknesses. Unlike Officer Dawn, who feels that the weak have no purpose, Abraham tells Glenn that anyone who has made it this far is strong and has something to prove. Hence, everyone needs to be there for each other. They may not have to get along, but their survival depends on helping each other. No matter how small or insignificant one may feel- as is the case with Eugene- by surviving this long, they have proved their worth. When pushed to a breaking point, however, we show who we truly are. And that person may end up being someone that we don’t like.
This episode cemented how dedicated Abraham is to completing the mission by any means, so long as he’s always moving forward. I didn’t expect the show to dig into Abraham’s origin story, but it was a welcome addition and we saw the man’s violent tendencies even when he just wanted to protect the people he loved. When the people he loved chose to leave him, he had nothing left to live for and prepared to take the quickest way out. His life had no purpose.
But then Eugene stumbled into his life with a claim of having an important mission. Whether Abraham ever truly believed Eugene, at that point, it looked like Abraham just wanted to have something to give him passion again. He’d just lost his family and had been told to not look for them. But a cowardly man who he just met, and later turned out to be a fraud, gave him a purpose to live: to save other lives when he couldn’t even save his family.
While I’ve been fine with Michael Cudlitz’s performance as Abraham so far, this episode really gave him a chance to shine. He shows some real rage both when he tries to convince everyone to keep moving forward and when he lets loose on Eugene’s face. That and the close-ups of his wedding ring show this is a man who lost everything, but his one shot at hope has now been shattered. He puts Eugene’s safety above everything else, yet it’s all for naught now. Had Rosita not stepped in, I’m certain that Abraham would have killed Eugene.
By the way, I think this group benefits greatly by having Maggie and Glenn with them. Tara is still new, but Maggie and especially Glenn are a bit more level headed and can be more rational when things are tense.
I’ll get to Eugene in a second, but I wanted to talk about how things have changed since the series began. Dealing with walkers has been tricky for humans. You don’t want to get bitten or scratched, but if you’re going to use guns, you have two big dangers: limited ammunition and attracting other walkers by the sound of gunshots. Now the people have used knives before, but sometimes, particularly at the prison, they knifed walkers from behind a fence where they couldn’t be harmed. Now, the folks have no problem getting right in a walker’s face and stabbing them, ignoring their guns altogether if they aren’t necessary. I like the steady progression and boldness the group is taking. They conserve ammunition for when it’s most necessary and they can still reuse their knives for later. I know, it’s a fairly minor point, but I wanted to address it.
Eugene. I am mixed on this. So the secret is out, but this episode sort of telegraphed that he had something to hide. Between Tara and Maggie’s talks, the audience could tell that Eugene was not the person we’d made him out to be. It wasn’t blatant, but there were obvious clues that there were holes in Eugene’s story.
My problem with this is the execution. So Eugene says that he revealed himself because the group got closer and he saw no good, foreseeable option. But this cannot be the first time Eugene has been in this sort of impossible looking scenario. Given the amount of people he rattles off that died trying to get him where he is now, we can infer that he’s been in hairy situations before. So why now?
Oh, and the cowardice? Where does this come from? Okay, I can accept Eugene not being able to combat walkers on first sight, but at this point, he ought to be able to deal with them. Hell, we saw him fire a gun during “Claimed.” Sure, his aim was terrible, but we know Eugene has it in him to combat walkers. Again, given how far he’s come since Houston, I refuse to believe that he’s would suddenly get cold feet.
If Eugene’s reveal had to happen, I wish it didn’t happen this way. If it happened due to pressure, it could have come out during any disagreement. Hell, it could have happened back at the church. Remember how Eugene carried a radio with him when he’d first been introduced? You don’t see it that much anymore, do you?
To go back to the comic, Eugene’s reveal comes about because he’d unintentionally been exposed. In The Walking Dead #67, Rick wants to use Eugene’s radio to try and get in contact with people in Washington, even though Eugene tells him to conserve the battery.
When Rick gets a hold of it, Eugene flips out. A struggle causes the radio to drop, revealing there are no batteries inside. Eugene tries to save face, but he eventually admits that there were never any batteries inside. There, he’s also not a scientist, but a high school science teacher. He acknowledged that he couldn’t get by on his looks, but he’s a good liar. Abraham, of course, is livid, considering the amount of people who died trying to get Eugene to Washington. He blames himself for it.
We sort of get that here, but the remorse comes more from Rosita and Abraham just shows rage. Again, if the show wanted to expose Eugene, then fine, but I wish it had been better handled.
That’s not to say this was a bad episode- not at all. It had a good amount of quiet moments. Glenn and Abraham’s talk about survival was probably my favorite moment of the episode. And we got a fair bit of humor with the talk of Eugene’s hair, Abraham admitting that he needed some ass before he went to bed, and the very idea that Eugene has watched Abraham and Rosita have sex before. And I just found it funny that he watched them from the Self-Help section of all places. Oh, and Tara sneaking a quick peek and sighing before walking away? Pretty funny.
Speaking of Tara, by the way- I don’t buy that she would agree to keep Eugene’s secret about him sabotaging the bus, considering his sabotage almost got everyone killed! At least go to Abraham with it. That move with the broken glass derailed their best ride and put them in danger. That’s not something you just sit on.
However, if they hadn’t lost the bus, they probably would have ridden right past the fire truck and we wouldn’t have gotten the cool sequence of Eugene blasting walkers with the water cannon. Like the walkers going through flames, we haven’t seen walkers dealt with this way before, so it was a nice change of pace.
Aside from Eugene’s reveal being handled a bit clumsily, I’d say we had a missed opportunity at learning more about Rosita. We know she has a strong relationship with Abraham, what with how she plays with his hair and the fact that they have sex, but we don’t dig into her past the way we do with Abraham and Eugene. Sure, that would probably take away from the group moving forward, but for the most part, she reacts to things happening around her. Then again, I don’t mind because it’s Rosita and she’s hot.
So “Self-Help” was another strong installment. We dug into Abraham’s past and learned what drives him to always move forward, but now he and everyone else knows they’ve been moving forward based on a lie. So where do they go now? Like “Slabtown,” we’re watching events unfold at different times, so we’re left on another cliffhanger as we follow Carol and Daryl next week.