The most recent episode of “The Walking Dead.” “Hostiles and Calamity,” featured the return of someone who is a little of both, Negan, along with his best friend, the barbed bat named Lucille. The story begins with Eugene, the nebbish, dishonest, and utterly cowardly genius, arriving at the Saviors’ compound for what he thinks is a grisly death at the end of the bat. His sin had been helping to find a way for the Alexandria community to fabricate bullets.

Instead of being tortured to death, Eugene finds himself being set up in a nice, well-stocked apartment and being provided with the best food available at the Saviors’ compound.

He is even allowed to keep company with three members of Negan’s harem. Eugene is not allowed to have sex with them, but dinner, wine, and pleasant conversation certainly are better than having one’s face burned off with a hot iron or, as happens to one unfortunate doctor, being hurtled head first into a furnace.

In return, Eugene has to give Negan his absolute loyalty. He is eager to do this because having Negan as a friend is the way for Eugene not to be afraid anymore, a feeling that has afflicted the former scientist (who once worked at weaponizing diseases, which maybe was the source of the zombie apocalypse) since civilization went sideways.

Eugene even proves his worth by providing a way of hardening the zombie sentries at the fence by pouring hot metal over them.

The sequence during which two members of the harem ask Eugene to concoct a poison so that a third wife can get away from Negan into the sweet bliss of death sounds pretty much like a test. Eugene deducts, correctly, that the poison is for Negan and not one of his despairing wives.

He refused to give the wives the poison, the theory being that if the assassination attempt fails it will get back to Eugene, which means a painful, twitching death. Besides, the former scientist has a sweet deal in having Negan as a patron. He just has to be careful about setting him off. A sensible man would still be afraid.

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