“The Lucky Ones” forces Maggie and Eugene to reconsider some things, as the future of the Commonwealth looms large — whether certain people would like it to or not.
This recap of The Walking Dead season 11, episode 12, “The Lucky Ones”, contains spoilers.
Poor Eugene. As someone who has – for years, at this point – generally considered the man an arch caricature with little actual utility beyond plot-mandated flashes of technical genius, even I had to feel sorry for the verbose dope when Lance Hornsby revealed that the love story which brought him to the Commonwealth in the first place was all a big ruse. After gumshoeing his way to abject disappointment, he’s still stinging as of “The Lucky Ones”. But at least there’s a glimmer of hope for him by the end; the chance that everything he felt and experienced might have been genuine after all. Maggie, on the other hand… well, that’s another story.
The Walking Dead season 11, episode 12 recap
The irony is that Maggie, struggling to keep Hilltop standing amid constant zombie attacks, dwindling resources, and collapsing infrastructure, has the most long-term power of anyone in the episode. Her decision about whether to pitch in with the Commonwealth will determine whether Oceanside will follow suit, and since Pamela Milton is an all-or-nothing type of woman unless all three communities are brought within the Commonwealth’s remit, then Alexandria, which has already pledged loyalty of a kind, will be left out in the cold. So, without realizing it, Maggie holds the fates of all Alexandria, Oceanside, and Hilltop in her hands, not to mention Lance Hornsby, whose plans for expansion and self-promotion are utterly reliant on her playing ball.
But anyway, Eugene. To be honest, it’s easy to see his catfishing situation as a bit of a cop-out considering that Max reveals that it was mostly genuine until her brother, Mercer, discovered her activities and the Commonwealth’s bureaucracy took over. It might have been more interesting to have Eugene deal with the ramifications of Stephanie being a fiction without Max cushioning the fall. Then again, though, what would the show do with Eugene then? One assumes that Max’s relationship with Mercer and closeness to Milton will make this a much more narratively fruitful development in the long term. Perhaps, after so many seasons, I’m just kind of psychopathically keen on the idea of Eugene having to suffer. I’m not a very nice man, after all.
The way it happened, according to Max, is that she found the components of a radio, rebuilt it, and then rendezvoused over the airwaves with Eugene, falling for his unabashed nerd bona fides and the sense of normalcy – not to mention freedom – he provided. She was drawn to him at least in part because he was from outside of the only world she knew. Her calls being intercepted, and an elaborate sting operation being built on top of them, only exposed how insulated and potentially dangerous her world really is, so it seems we’re continuing with the idea of burgeoning anti-Commonwealth sentiment as a prelude to an eventual insurrection. When that inevitably happens, Max will undoubtedly play a major role in it.
It’s nice that Rosita gets to offer some support and words of wisdom for Eugene in this situation, but the cynical TV critic side of me does wonder if that scene only existed so that she could mention the possibility of him eventually returning to a rebuilt Alexandria, raising the stakes for the other half of the episode. I feel more or less the same about the subplot involving Carol fast-tracking Ezekiel’s cancer surgery by strongarming Hornsby. I think, given all this, that there’s a good chance Ezekiel pulls through, and thus a good chance he develops some loyalty to the Commonwealth that’ll make him having to choose a side down the line more difficult. Still, it’s nice to see Carol finessing a plan that’s quite good and positive, for once. Usually, she’s trying to have someone killed.
But the real meat of “The Lucky Ones” is in Maggie’s dilemma. Against her better judgment, Pam decides to tour the three communities in order to gauge their worthiness, and as mentioned above, it turns out Maggie holds the key to the future of all three without necessarily realizing it. Alexandria is already looking good – Aaron greets Pamela in his Sunday best, she knew the community’s original founder, Deanna Monroe, and Daryl’s stories of fighting and rebuilding give Pam a good sense of the place’s community spirit. It’s worth having resources invested in it, in other words. But Oceanside is a tougher sell. Rachel – remember her? – is happy to be on board, but only if Maggie agrees. And Maggie isn’t so sure.
Continuing a persistent theme ever since Maggie’s return, it’s hard to know whether viewers are going to agree with her or not. Of course, we know that at some unspecified point in the near future, Daryl and some of the Commonwealth’s armed forces are going to show up at Hilltop’s gates with what looks like a stern ultimatum, but Maggie doesn’t know that yet. All she has to go on is what she sees – acts of altruism and order that immediately sway several of Maggie’s people, including some of those closest to her – and what she feels. It’s the last part that causes problems. While she can’t put a finger on it, she can’t help but believe that there will be some hidden debt to be repaid to the Commonwealth for their support – and she isn’t willing to foot the bill. She’s still unwilling to put her trust in anyone. And that leaves Hilltop, Oceanside, and potentially Alexandria alone.
It also causes a major problem for Hornsby. Since this expansion deal was integral to his plans, and Pamela is starting to see through his act, he’s rapidly running out of options for his own ascent to power. He lets off some steam at the end of “The Lucky Ones” by taking a revolver to several walkers, and he’s a surprisingly good shot. “We’re going to remake the world,” he tells a confused Aaron, right as he puts down the last zombie with a shot right between the eyes. How he plans on doing that should be a cause of some concern.