There’s a mystery or two afoot in the Commonwealth. Let’s try and solve it.
The episode begins with Eugene waking up in bed next to the woman identified as Stephanie, who is reading his unfinished novel. Despite that, she loves it. Eugene admits that she was on his mind when he got his knives sharpened. Not a euphemism. He presents a key to his apartment and offers it to her, saying that he’d love to spend more time with her. He confesses his love to her, and she, overjoyed, goes in for a kiss.
Not a bad way to start your day. Eugene shares this good news with Princess, but he’s not sure as to his follow-up move after his planned ice cream meetup. As a woman, Princess drops some knowledge on Eugene: when a woman says that she loves you, believe her. Basically, relax.
But when the aforementioned ice cream date arrives, Eugene waits and waits until night falls, but still no sign of the woman identified as Stephanie.
He heads to the building where she lives and knocks on her apartment door, but receives no answer. The woman identified as Stephanie is there, but she’s frantically packing her things.
At the Commonwealth’s newspaper setup, Connie, Kelly, and other reporters go over the paper’s layout. Connie wants to tell Tyler Davis’ story. After all, why would he risk getting kicked out of Commonwealth for no reason? The editor says that they have a statement from his doctors that back up his PTSD claim, but Connie doesn’t trust a military doctor.
Whatever happened to Tyler, he places the blame on Governor Milton and risked confronting her in public. That’s one way to look at it. The other is that Tyler has some mental issues, and that interpretation apparently has facts behind it. Kelly hesitates to translate what Connie signs next, but she soon does: the paper should print the truth, but instead, the editor wants to paraphrase the Governor’s press release.
But that’s not true. The editor wants Connie to paraphrase it, so the editor herself doesn’t have to. We call that passing the buck, lady.
Connie and Kelly head to the hospital, but find Tyler Davis’ room is being guarded by Commonwealth soldiers. Kelly asks if Tyler has a lawyer and the charges against him, but the questions stop once the two see that Mercer is in Tyler’s room.
So Eugene goes on a search for the woman identified as Stephanie. She didn’t show up for work, though it begs the question of how she called in sick if no one’s seen or heard from her. He then enlists Rosita and her partner to search her apartment, but still no sign of her. So Eugene offers to give a statement on the record to recount her last whereabouts.
Lance and Carol go for a carriage ride. Lance feels better outside the walls than inside, and Carol fees the same for herself and her people. Lance wants Carol to stop seeing this as an us versus them scenario. He wants them to see how the Commonwealth works because they can be part of it. Lance didn’t start at the top, even though he’s not there now. Governor Milton runs the city, but Lance knows how it works.
He started at the bottom and now he’s here-I mean, he started at the bottom and proved himself to the Miltons a long time ago. If you’re in with the right people, then the sky’s the limit. There are two types of people in any organization: the mercenaries who are in it for the money, and the patriots or true believers who want to do good. In their hearts, they believe in the organization.
See, Lance has read Carol’s file. He knows how smart she is and that she can help him deal with a certain asshole. What Carol gets out of it is up to her. The two arrive at a small community of smugglers who aren’t exactly part of the Commonwealth.
However, they need Lance’s help, and he needs theirs. The poppies make opium for the hospital, and things will look bleak there if they run out of opium. Naturally. Lance makes sure that doesn’t happen.
Sometimes, this means dealing with guys like Moto, played by William Mark McCullough, the man who informs Lance that someone is holding the harvest hostage until they receive a raise. They’re willing to let the harvest rot without receiving one.
Connie and Kelly arrive at a convoy of Commonwealth soldiers and, again, spot Mercer with them. It should be noted that the Commonwealth’s paper, the Tribune, actually has press badges. Whether they’re relics or recently made, I don’t know, but I find that neat.
Princess pops by Eugene’s place with lasagna, which sounds like a bullshit reason because it is. She brought an empty dish. You asshole. Anyway, Princess sees that Eugene has designed his very own wall of weird dedicated to tracking the woman identified as Stephanie.
Since the Commonwealth has abandoned the search, Eugene decided to investigate her disappearance himself. His despair got the best of him, until a chance encounter arose.
One night, a drunken Eugene encountered the same man he saw three days ago leaving the building where the woman identified as Stephanie lives. The man soon remembers that he was called in to fix a clogged sink, but doesn’t recall seeing the woman identified as Stephanie. He then left in a huff.
Of course, Eugene was skeptical of this story. After all, the man didn’t have any kind of uniform, and there were no city service carts on the street that night. So it’s strange that the one person Eugene saw has such a flimsy alibi. So Eugene did what anyone would do.
He followed the guy, who is named Roman Calhoun. Eugene can definitely confirm that Roman is not a plumber. Thus, this puts to bed the second greatest mystery at the Commonwealth right now. Anyway, Roman works at night and is based out of a building in the warehouse district.
Said building, Ruby’s Plumbing, does have a sign for plumbing, but the business never receive mail and the lights are on at odd hours when the place should be closed. The same four people go in and out of the building and tend to meet in groups of two. But on one occasion the four met together when they were joined by a fifth person who Eugene believes is the leader.
Said leader must be the mastermind of some rogue element- roll credits- within the Commonwealth government that the woman identified as Stephanie stumbled upon. One member of the group showed up with some movers at her apartment and began collecting her belongings. Said items were taken to an unknown location.
That same day, a work transfer request with the signature of the woman identified as Stephanie was found in her file at Union Station. However, the man Eugene spoke to earlier at the radio room said that the woman identified as Stephanie gave no notice whatsoever.
Such an order had to come from on high. She knew they were coming for her, and when she eluded them, the powers that be created the false work transfer to cover up her disappearance.
Now her belongings are gone taken and she’s been silenced to repair any leaks. If Eugene is right, his only hope is to expose the conspiracy before she’s found.
While fishing, Lance tries to strike a deal with Moto: the workers get a raise, but they have to earn it. They produce more, they make more. Carol, meanwhile, observes the workers and prepares to do her own investigating.
Elsewhere, two Commonwealth soldiers run for their lives from the dead. Keep in mind that these soldiers are covered head to toe in armor. They’re saved by Mercer, who then asks Connie and Kelly if they’ve seen all that they need to see. The two confirm that it’s more than enough. Time for questions: it’s been a month since Tyler Davis has been in the hospital under armed guard. What are the charges?
Wait, it’s been a month between the last episode and this one?
Whatever. Mercer sees this isn’t one of the questions that the paper sent the two to ask. Next question is whether Davis’ hospitalization has anything to do with the woman he took hostage, Max, is Mercer’s sister. Mercer maintains that his sister has nothing to do with this, but Connie and Kelly bring up that Tyler was recommended for early promotion by Mercer. It feels like the military is manipulated by politicians.
So perhaps Mercer should be interested in knowing who he’s actually risking his life to protect. In kind, Mercer warns Connie and Kelly about digging for answers that will never see the light of day. Considering that Mercer is currently covered in blood, I’d back off.
Princess admires what Eugene is doing for the woman identified as Stephanie, but he just wants to repay what he owes. He made a promise that if he lived through this, he’d pursue his dream of becoming a science fiction author. He relayed this story over the radio to the woman identified as Stephanie. She told him he can’t wait until he’s lived through this, because right now is all they’ve got.
She gave him the courage to do what he always wanted to do. When someone can do that, words like “love” seem insufficient. As Roman Calhoun emerges from his home and heads off. Eugene plans to break into Roman’s apartment, but Princess doesn’t want to jeopardize what little she’s made at the Commonwealth. But with a 10-mile run, Eugene knows that Roman will be gone for 90 minutes at best.
Eugene knows in his gut feeling that Roman is key to this.
Back at the opium setup, Carol informs Lance that Moto is robbing the workers. She spoke to one of the lieutenants, who told her that Moto pockets the money for raises and beats the workers into keeping quiet. He went too far one night, which is why the workers are on strike. Lance promises that the workers will get their money back. As for Moto? Well, no more fishing dates between him and Lance, that’s for sure.
Lance instructs two guards to take Moto into custody, which they do. This isn’t worth addressing, but as Moto is hauled off, he calls Lance a mother puss-bucket. It would’ve been better if he just called him an asshole or something, rather than AMC try to come up with some workaround on the word “motherfucker.” That or just let him say the damn word. Sheesh.
Eugene searches for anything that can help him unravel this mystery. Unfortunately, it begins to rain, so there’s the possibility that Roman returns from his run early, which he does. Luckily, Eugene finds a set of keys and unlocks a case that includes some blades and a high capacity rifle. Strange tools for a plumber, to be sure.
Roman returns to his apartment. Eugene and Princess attempt to make what should be a clean getaway, but they’re intercepted by a woman and two Commonwealth guards, the former of whom recognizes the two.
Over at the hospital, Mercer heads to Tyler’s room, only to find it empty. He asks an employee what happened, as Tyler can’t be moved without Mercer’s authorization. Well, seems that’s not the case. Mercer takes his anger out on a wall because he can.
While stewing in a cell, Eugene apologizes to Princess for getting her involved and plans to make known that she had no part in planning this. But then Lance enters, having arrived back in town, and confirms that Roman Calhoun is apparently who he says he is. A little lazy on the paperwork, but he does have a contract with the city. He also was indeed sent to fix a sink in a work area.
As for the weapons? They’re legal for him because he’s a full Commonwealth citizen. A lot of people have go bags, even people who have been there for years. Lance spoke with Roman and explained Eugene’s plight. Roman agreed to not press charges, but Eugene must leave him alone and sign a statement saying he was emotionally distraught and in a paranoid state following his girlfriend’s disappearance.
Who hasn’t been there?
If Eugene can’t admit he was wrong about Calhoun and move on, Lance might not be able to help him next time. A reluctant Eugene signs the statement.
Later, Eugene still believes there’s a mystery afoot, but Princess boils it down to the woman identified as Stephanie breaking up with Eugene. This contrasts with Princess saying to believe it when a woman says she love you, but now Princess has new wisdom: when a woman quits her job and moves away without telling you, maybe you should believe that.
Perhaps Princess should stop giving wisdom. She talks about the day her father walked on the family. Princess thought it was because she smoked, but who knows? You can think you know someone, but then find out that you never even met them. Yet it happens all the time. But Eugene is privy to one piece of data that Princess isn’t: he knows how it felt.
As Princess leaves, Eugene returns to his wall of weird to continue putting together this puzzle.
That evening, Kelly and Connie receive a note at their home. The note contains a long list of names, the last of whom is Tyler Davis.
Eugene tails a member of the group he’d been observing, but he’s soon spotted by two others. He sprays one in the face, but the other puts him on his ass. The other, as it turns out, is the woman identified as Stephanie. Lance arrives with Roman and informs everyone that he’ll handle it.
Eugene tells Lance that he figured he corroborated Roman’s alibi. However, Occam’s razor has led Eugene to one conclusion: there was never any Stephanie.
Well, no shit.
He believes Lance used this woman to con Eugene into telling everything about his community and people. Well, it worked. After all, she did lead him to the train yard where he was captured by Commonwealth soldiers. Eugene rages at how long he’s been strung along. The woman even read his book (in-progress)! Lance remains silent as Eugene threatens to tell everyone who and what Lance really is.
But, Lance finally asks, who is that? The villain, or the best goddamn thing that happened to Eugene? Lance admits that he did lie to Eugene, just as Eugene and his friends lied to get inside the Commonwealth’s walls. But no one’s keeping score. Lance did what was necessary to get Eugene to the Commonwealth. It’s not Lance’s fault that Eugene and his people are too stupid to see when a good thing fell in their laps.
Lance tried to rip off the band-aid when he saw it was getting serious, including doing and saying everything to make Eugene stop looking for her. But Eugene kept digging, so here we are. At least now Eugene can stop.
Lance tells Eugene that his people were about to starve, but thanks to the Commonwealth, everything is being fixed. All they’ve been asked in return is to be productive members of society for as long as they choose to stay.
So Eugene can tell who he wants. The statement says that Eugene suffered from paranoia due to nervous strain. Lance sees that this has taken a toll on Eugene. He apologizes that Eugene’s heart was broken, but in the perfect balance of things, this all worked out in everyone’s favor. As all things should.
As for the woman identified as Stephanie? Her real name is Shira, and she hates Iron Maiden. But she did genuinely enjoy Eugene’s book, so he should stick with it.
Okay, good. I can finally stop with “the woman identified as Stephanie” nonsense.
Later, Eugene burns the missing fliers of Shira, as well as his novel, when a woman approaches him from behind. Eugene remains silent, but when the woman uses their radio call signs, “Blue Weevil” and “Tater Bug,” only now does Eugene turn around.
He asks who the woman is, we see that it’s Governor Milton’s assistant, Max.
The Walking Dead delves more into the Commonwealth not by addressing the “Resist the Commonwealth” situation from last week, but focusing on mysteries that answer some questions, but raise others.
Eugene was and still is our window into the Commonwealth. Through his conversations with the woman we can now just call Shira, he saw this community as an opportunity to help his friends at home. Despite the odds and how the unlikelihood that this would pay off, Eugene persevered. Even when the Commonwealth seemed too good to be true, he remained optimistic about the future.
He’s proactive throughout this entire episode, which is great. He doesn’t just sit on his hands and wait for Shira to reappear. He’s putting together the pieces of a larger puzzle that ultimately shatters his outlook on the Commonwealth. He was right in the end, but to learn that the woman he bonded with all this time wasn’t the real Stephanie just broke his world.
Great job on Josh McDermitt’s part as he showed true emotion in his performance when Eugene’s vision of Stephanie and the Commonwealth cracked before his eyes. But he gave it a great effort. He didn’t need to enlist Princess, but she did offer advice when needed and convinced him to believe that Shira’s love for him was real. Though she has more to lose because she’s come to love the Commonwealth.
However, she then tells him to accept that maybe his theory wasn’t all he thought it was- that Shira merely broke up with him. Perhaps it’s better to accept and live with that version of the “truth” instead of continuing to dig, damn the consequences. But that would mean giving up when you’re so certain that you’re right. How often do we continue picking at something, even when the odds are stacked against us?
As Lance told Eugene, there’s a balance to be maintained. A few white lies here and there help maintain a certain illusion. That Stephanie is who she says she is. That there’s nothing to be gained from Connie and Kelly asking questions about Tyler Davis. That Moto is telling the truth when he said that his workers are on strike. You can accept one version for the sake of convenience, or keep digging.
Even Mercer had gone along with the version of the truth presented to him, but with Tyler Davis being moved without his approval, there are things that are above even his call. If you needed something to make him question the way things are done at the Commonwealth, here it is.
This equally applies to Connie and Kelly, given they’re in the journalism profession and know better than to just give up on a hunch. It’s just as easy to brush off Tyler Davis’ outburst and blame it on PTSD as it was for Lance to write off Eugene’s theories as him being emotionally distraught.
Especially when you’re in a position of power, like Lance, it’s not hard to use what little power you have to make an impression on people under you, as he does with Moto. True, as Lance says, he doesn’t run the Commonwealth, but he has enough experience and gets on well enough with the right people to give him some semblance of authority.
Again, I do enjoy the working relationship between him and Carol. Hopefully this pays off for her, given that she’s now helped him twice.
“Rogue Element” was pretty good and shows us that there’s much more to the Commonwealth than the main characters were led to believe. Even though Eugene’s world has been rocked, this new revelation just raises further questions for him, no doubt. Hopefully we see how the Commonwealth’s mysteries continue to unravel next time. See you then.