Early in Sunday’s episode, “Claimed,” Michonne, Rick and Carl find themselves in what seems like the perfect safe house. They do bizarrely mundane things like eat cereal at a dining table. Rick reads a book. Carl talks about how gross soy milk is. Then Michonne asks, “This place, is it home or just a stop along the way?” The answer is obvious even before intruders break in and ruin everything. As long as there are walkers, there’s no home.
The Walking Dead has so far been a long series of stops along the way. But along the way to what? From the CDC to the prison, and throughout an endless stream of walker skirmishes and supply runs, day-to-day survival has so far been the only end goal for Rick and his group. They wax poetic about leadership and whether life in this world is worth living, but none ever wonder aloud about, you know, actually ending the zombie plague. Hopelessness is part of The Walking Dead’s bleak world, but three and a half seasons in, shouldn’t some larger goal have entered the picture by now?
Enter Sergeant Abraham Ford, Rosita Espinosa and Dr. Eugene Porter—three enormously anticipated characters from Robert Kirkman’s Walking Dead comic books, who dropped into the TV series last week like a ton of bricks. Abraham claims that Eugene, who says he’s a scientist, knows what caused the undead outbreak. Abraham and Rosita are escorting Eugene to Washington D.C., where some bigwigs have been communicating with them via satellite phone. Phrases like “fix the whole damn world” and “save humanity” are thrown around. Then Glenn asks what, exactly, Eugene knows. Eugene replies, “It’s classified.”
Um, sure dude. Abraham, an Army veteran and former sports coach, and Rosita, his girlfriend, certainly seem to believe Eugene. But there’s little that we actually know about him.
Spoiler alert, if you haven’t read the Walking Dead comic books: In the show's source material, Eugene is a big fat liar. He tells Abraham that he and nine other scientists had been hired by the U.S. government to find a way to turn the human genome into a weapon and that he was somehow privy to knowledge of what caused the zombie outbreak. He used an old radio (which the TV version of Eugene also carries) without any batteries in it to fake communicating with heads of state in Washington. Why would he make all that up? For protection. Telling this lie and convincing everyone to move toward D.C. ensured safety in numbers and protection from Abraham.
Michael Cudlitz, the Southland alum who plays Abraham, has said that showrunner Scott Gimple is pushing this season to “really pay homage to the comic and not get so far off track or so diluted that if you’re a fan of one, you wouldn’t recognize the other.” If, in the TV series, it turned out that Eugene actually was a top-secret scientist working on a weapon of mass destruction for the U.S. government, that would probably be considered pretty “far off track” from the comics. Then again, The Walking Dead has a track record of keeping alive characters that got killed off in the comics, re-imagining allegiances and romances, and making other sharp departures from its source material. Who’s to say this version of Eugene isn’t telling the truth?
Which brings us to Eugene’s mullet. Do we trust mullets? In the comics, Eugene says it distracts from his intelligence because apparently people still hate nerds after the apocalypse. The guy is also a smirker. When he goes machine-gun berserk on a handful of walkers coming out of a corn field, he accidentally shoots a leak in their truck’s gas tank. As Glenn turns back down the road to search for Maggie and, one by one, the others follow him, “Dr.” Eugene tells Abraham that they should follow Glenn for now until they find another vehicle. Then he walks away, smirking.
Is this because he doesn’t actually want to get to Washington? Because no one is actually waiting there for him and then everyone will know he’s a liar? It doesn't seem like we'll find out anytime soon. Glenn, Abraham and the others are now heading in the opposite direction toward Maggie and, yes, lots more stops along the road.