Warning: Storyline and character spoilers ahead for the "Self-Help" episode of The Walking Dead.
The truth is out there. OK, wrong series, but it's now a fact: Dr. Eugene Porter is not a scientist, a cure for the zombie apocalypse is not available in Washington, and he has no secret knowledge that is going to help save the world. And now that Eugene has made his big confession — one that TWD comics readers probably saw coming — what's next?
The Walking Dead stars Josh McDermitt and Alanna Masterson — who plays Tara, perhaps Eugene's only friend at this point — discuss with Yahoo TV.
Josh, were you excited when you found out about this huge reveal for Eugene?
Josh McDermitt: This was actually an episode I was really nervous about, because from the moment I got the job, I knew it was coming at some point. I did know the fifth episode would be the big episode for Eugene, and I was thinking about it the whole time until we shot it. It's a giant reveal that some people maybe knew, they had some suspicions. It's just an amazing episode… literally, every time I read it the script — and I wasn't only looking at it from Eugene's perspective, I was looking at as a fan — I cried just about every time I'd read it.
The episode does not end well for Eugene on any level. His eyes are open, but not moving after he hits the ground. Is he OK?
JM: I think we're going to have to find out, aren't we? I would certainly hope he is. Hopefully, he hasn't suffered any brain damage from the fight with Abraham, because that's his only asset in this world: his intelligence, you know? That's the thing I really want people to take away from this, that Eugene isn't a dumb guy. Just because you lie about something doesn't mean you're stupid. In fact, it's quite the opposite. He was able to survive this long because he was able to B.S. his way through the apocalypse.
Do you think there's a chance people will lose sympathy for Eugene?
JM: I think people are probably going to be upset with Eugene, but I would also hope they have some sympathy and understanding that, here's a guy who is scared and doesn't know how else to live. The other thing I've thought about lately is, everyone likes to think about what they would be like in the apocalypse. They go, "Oh, I'd be Daryl, I'd be Michonne." Let's be honest: Half of us would be Eugene, just scared, running for our lives, and not knowing what to do. I hope people would relate to that. I don't think we need to let him off the hook so easily, but we should forgive and move on, because it's a scary world now.
Why did he spit on the walker he tried to kill after the bus crash?
JM: That was my favorite part. I think it was because it's like his first kill. Even though it wasn't his kill, it just represents so much for him: stepping up and taking action. He is definitely not a man of action. It's this feral, gritty, dirty moment where he just wants to walk over and mark his territory, in a sense. It's probably the most physical action he's ever had to do in his life, and it's just kind of marking the territory, spiking the football, dropping the microphone at the end of the set.
Eugene and Tara have been bonding since they met, but they are close enough now that he makes the confession about the bus to her before his larger confession. What's special between them?
JM: Eugene and Tara have a special friendship because, in a sense, they both feel like outsiders. Her entrance into the group was with The Governor's camp. Eugene feels like a social outsider because that's just who he is. He kind of feels like she's someone he can actually talk to, you know? She asked him on the bus if everything is alright. He says, "I keep thinking about that preacher and what he did." He's not talking about the atrocity of locking the parishioners outside of the church. He's talking about [Gabriel's] admission of what he did.
The closer they get to D.C., [his lie] is just weighing on him more and more and more. When he starts telling her all this stuff at the bookstore, he's dipping his toe in the water, he's taking the temperature. The fact that the preacher made his admission and was still allowed to stick around, that they didn't kill him or banish him, Eugene's kind of thinking, "OK, if it gets to the point where I do have to admit everything, hopefully I can still be a part of the group." He admits it to her because she's a friend.
Alanna Masterson: I think when she learns he sabotaged the bus… she wants him to know that it's OK, you can move forward from your mistakes if you just don't do them again. Even though they're very different, I think she understands where he's coming from. She wants to give him a chance. Obviously, that doesn't go as planned. She finds out he isn't a scientist, and he has no idea what he's talking about, and that changes the stakes of their friendship greatly.
Because she has this friendship with Eugene, will that make it harder or easier for her to forgive him?
AM: Oooh, let’s see, how can I answer this? I don't want to give anything away. I think Tara knows that if people start pulling their weight, that they're going to be valuable no matter what, and I think she eventually does communicate that idea to him. She wants him to know that he can make up for what he's done by just pulling his own weight.
How gross was that fire engine? It was cool, in terms of the story, but it looked like it was covered in raw meat.
AM: The fire engine was pretty gnarly, but it was so fun. That was really the first isolated episode for the six of us since last season. That day was the first day [of filming] it got hot, and it was so, so, so hot. We were all so excited to get sprayed with the hose. We were like, "Oh my god, this is going to be the best thing ever. We're going to be soaking wet with freezing cold hose water!" Four hours later, 37 takes later, when your clothes are stuck to you, it's, "Maybe this wasn't the best idea to be wearing jeans and a flannel shirt and boots." Walking around, everything's squishing. But the truck was really gory and gross and bloody and amazing. The whole episode was so fun; the flipping of the bus was so crazy. It's such an exciting job to go to in the morning.
Josh, what was your favorite Eugene line of the episode? He had so many great ones.
JM: I bet tomorrow if someone asks me this question, I'll have a different answer, but I think my favorite line was probably at the end of his admission to everyone, he just doubles down, and it's like, "Well, as long we're sharing truths, I also lied about my hair, about T. Brooks Ellis liking my hair. I don't know T. Brooks Ellis." That's such a dumb thing to say in that moment. He's just rambling, and this just pops into his head. It's just so weird, and I loved it so much.
Alanna, there are rumors that Tara may get a new love interest this season. Comment?
AM: Dun-dun-dun! Um, hopefully. Yeah, you'll have to see. [Laughs.] It must be so fun interviewing people from my show. We can literally tell you nothing.
In general, what can you say about what we will see leading up to the midseason finale?
JM: The intensity continues. These last couple of episodes have not necessarily been the throat-slitting intensity that we had in the first episode, but now that everything's kind of been flipped on its head… we got to peek into what's going on in Beth's world, and now we see what's going on in this group. Everyone's going to have to pick up the pieces now that Eugene [confessed]. They need to figure out what the mission is now, and they figure it out right away and get after it. I can't wait for people to see the rest of the season.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.