If you thought you knew the Commonwealth, you ain’t seen nothing yet† The Walking Dead continues to show us two very different sides of the Commonwealth: the fairytale society and the pit people can fall into if they break the rules.
In “Rogue Element”, Eugene (Josh McDermitt) goes into detective mode to investigate the mysterious disappearance of Stephanie. Elsewhere, Lance Hornsby (Josh Hamilton) enlists Carol (Melissa McBride) to help him resolve a labor dispute at a drug farm. And Connie (Lauren Ridloff) tries to uncover the true story behind Tyler Davis (Cameron Roberts).
As always, here’s your SPOILER warning.
Detective Eugene Porter
This is an episode of Eugene. It starts with him living his dream life with Stephanie. It’s clear that he’s completely fallen for her, and vice versa. This is probably the happiest we’ve seen him in the entire series. But this creature is natural The Walking Deadit’s all too good to be true.
Eugene returns home one day to find that Stephanie is nowhere to be found. Was she taken away? Did she run away from the community altogether? As Eugene is left in the dark, viewers briefly see Stephanie pack her bags and leave, but we don’t know why.
This prompts Eugene to play detective. Even the score had a unique noir twist, a neat little touch. First, he summons the guards, including Rosita (Christian Serratos), to investigate. But when they can’t find any clues, he takes matters into his own hands.
He does his research in the most Eugenic way you can imagine; he explains every little detail and has a sign on the wall where he lists all the suspects. As always, McDermitt plays it to perfection, laughing a lot at Eugene’s plight.
After working alone for a while, he meets Princess, who expresses her condolences on the loss of Stephanie. Eugene tells her she’s been trying to find the person responsible and names a plumber named Roman Calhoun (Michael Tourek) as the most likely culprit. He convinces Princess to help him break into Calhoun’s room to see if he can find any evidence. She does it, but reluctantly, because she has a lot to lose.
At night, Princess and Eugene break into Calhoun’s room to search for clues linking him to Stephanie’s disappearance. I really liked the dynamic between these two; I laughed out loud a few times.
They find nothing concrete except a suitcase of weapons under Calhoun’s bed. The whole mission turns out to be useless. As if it couldn’t get any worse, they are later caught and sent to jail.
It’s Lance – the ever-present Commonwealth puppeteer – who greets them in their cell. Interestingly, he lets them go with a warning, but forces Eugene to sign a document that guarantees he acted out of paranoia after Stephanie. Lance assures Eugene that Calhoun has no connection to her disappearance. Incidentally, says that having a suitcase of weapons is a privilege given to trusted residents of the community.
As you may have guessed, locking up Eugene doesn’t diminish his role. And so he tries to follow Calhoun one more time at night. This time he enters Calhoun’s workspace and crawls around…until he is caught. With Lance there to greet him, Eugene realizes he’s been totally screwed. I think this is the biggest turn of the season so far.
Eugene realizes that the “Stephanie” he loved was a Commonwealth agent sent to gather all possible information about Alexandria. Of course it worked. Lance now has all the information he needs. We also learn that Stephanie’s real name is Shira.
I have to say Josh McDermitt’s acting was fantastic when Eugene confronted Lance. He is furious with Lance, who just stoically stands there waiting to hear something. It’s rare for Eugene to outwit, so it’s interesting to see what happens when he tastes his own medicine.
All is not lost for Eugene, however, as he later meets a new lady who reveals herself as the “real” Stephanie. I can’t wait to see how this turns out.
Carol goes on a trip with Lance
Elsewhere, Carol takes a ride outside the Commonwealth walls with Lance. He seems to like her after she helped him in the previous episode. But he knows what Carol’s endgame is: getting him to move Ezekiel higher up the cancer treatment list.
Lance is the type of guy who knows all about what goes on in the Commonwealth. He is like the ever-present Eye of Sauron that watches over the city; almost nothing escapes him. He has one sentence that almost sums up his position: “Governor Milton runs the city. But I know how it goes.”
After reading Carol’s file, Lance thinks she’s the perfect person to accompany a dispute with a neighboring farm. Run by a man named Moto, the farm is used to grow poppies which are used to make opium for the hospital. When they arrive, Moto demands a raise for himself and his people; otherwise they let the poppies rot. It’s smart of Lance to bring Carol, because he knows she needs the hospital just as much as she does, for Ezekiel’s sake.
During their time on the farm, Carol does some research herself. She discovers that Moto is pocketing the group’s pay raise and beating them to keep quiet. When Lance finds out, he handles it pretty well. Lance still promises to give the workers their raise and takes Moto into custody. There is no bloodshed, which for a show like this is always a win.
Connie is investigating a case
Now that they are Commonwealth The throwdowntvs, we see all of our characters in their new roles. Connie and Kelly are journalists who work for the Commonwealth Tribune. We see them trying to succeed Trooper Tyler who was imprisoned in the previous episode.
Separating fact from fiction proves difficult for them. Mercer (Michael James Shaw) goes out of his way to tell them to stop looking for answers that “will never see the light of day”.
Of all the stories in this episode, Kelly and Connie’s were the least exciting for me, although I imagine it will have a big impact on the story. Tyler is imprisoned because he is clearly a key figure in the rebellion against the Commonwealth. And as much as Connie searches for information, she continues to run into dead ends. How long will it take for them to learn more about Tyler’s rebellion?
I was slightly disappointed with Kelly’s (Angel Theory) part. She gets a lot of screen time, but most of it in an occasional role as Connie’s translator. I would have liked her to have added a little more to the plot.
“Rogue Element” doesn’t have all the bells and whistles we’re used to from a typical Walking Dead episode. There is a distinct lack of walkers, although the few we see are particularly gruesome.
I thought it was funny how Lance shows up everywhere. And in both storylines of this episode, he comes out on top. It will no doubt cost a lot for our group to outsmart him.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget you’re watching The Walking Dead considering how advanced the Commonwealth is. I mean, the characters are actually concerned about money. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s just completely different from anything we’ve seen before on the show. A welcome change, but one that we will have to get used to, because the Commonwealth is here to stay.
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