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Spoilers below for The Walking Dead's current TV storyline, as well as the comic book series.
For its latest episode, The Walking Dead seemingly launched a fan favorite protagonist down a dark and villainous path, with Eugene's time inside the Sanctuary more closely resembling a righteous internship than a hostage situation. Negan appeals to his new prisoner's intellect, working wonders for Eugene's self-confidence, enough so that the mullet-wearing survivor eventually adopted a new Negan-centric moniker. But is Eugene actually villainous now, or is it a temporary lapse of judgment, or even another scenario? Let's compare Josh McDermitt's character to his counterpart from Robert Kirkman's source material for a closer look at what could happen.
Who Eugene Was: Comic vs. TV
Minus a handful of specific scenarios - such as those final conversations with Abraham - AMC's Walking Dead series has been almost surprisingly faithful to the Eugene Porter of the page. From the falsification of his importance early on to his mostly distinct connection with Rosita, Eugene has largely been a straightforward port of the comic character, and Josh McDermitt has added another layer of enjoyment that possibly kept the character as safe as he has been. (Had Eugene been played by a lesser actor, it would have been easy for the creative team to use him as a surprise sacrifice.) Now that the TV series is approaching the All-Out War arc, however, a fork in the road has formed, and some major differences have obviously already developed.
Who Eugene Is: Comic vs. TV
On TV, Abraham's death took a huge toll on Eugene, knocking him back down to past levels of courage and determination, which is arguably the inciting factor for the character's new differences. In the comic books, Eugene uses Abraham's death as a motivational launchpad and becomes an ammunition-crafting whiz, only temporarily showing regrets about having masterminded the bullet-making operation. When he's eventually taken hostage by Negan, his time in the Sanctuary is the exact opposite of what we saw on TV; he not only insults Negan and refuses to work with the Saviors, but he also promotes Rick's vision for a peaceful world from the word "go." Meanwhile, TV Eugene is cowering before anything bad or good can happen, and it takes him no time at all to seemingly forget everything that made his time with Rick & Co. worthwhile. (Seemingly being the key word there.)
Who Eugene Will Be: Comics vs. TV
The future is a mystery right now, since we're not definitively of the belief that Eugene has antagonistic thoughts filling his impressive brain. That concept is positively ludicrous when it comes to the comics' Eugene, who is stamped whole-heartedly with loyalty to Rick and the surviving communities. There's no way he could have watched Dr. Carson's murder and not made some kind of scene. To be clear, the source material's Eugene goes through some more harsh hardships that could easily send him into less-heroic waters, but he has continued holding onto the greater good. And his technical know-how provides another extremely interesting plotline involving a short-wave radio, which would likely get excised or given to another character if Eugene became a permanent member of Negan's troupe.
TV Eugene does have a slight chance to make it out of this situation with his integrity and his life intact, and the show offered up this sliver of hope in the form of two "suicide pills" that Eugene created under the assumption that they were for a depressed Amber. He later realized it was a revenge-fueled ruse and that their true destination was actually Negan's bloodstream, so he held onto the pills for safe-keeping. This plot strand allows for the brainy Eugene to be the attempted assassin, and he would definitely understand that getting closer to Negan through trust would provide the best opportunity to slip him the pill. If that's not how things play out, though, then Eugene might actually be a bad guy, and one who has already helped the Sanctuary out with his idea to cement walkers to the outer fences.
With everything else that's going on in this show, I didn't expect Eugene's motivations to be put into question quite so massively. With more video games for him to play in the future, The Walking Dead airs Sunday nights on AMC at 9:00 p.m. ET. Check out other big differences between The Walking Dead's TV show and comic series, and then head to our midseason premiere schedule to see what's yet to hit the small screen in early 2017.