7:02pm PT by Lesley Goldberg
'Walking Dead' Star Talks Latest Fatality and Taking a Bite Out of the Saviors
[Warning: This story contains spoilers from episode 614, "Twice as Far," of AMC's The Walking Dead.]
AMC's The Walking Dead brought two of the comic book's most memorable moments to life during Sunday's deadly hour.
The episode featured two camps — Abraham and Eugene as well as Daryl, Rosita and Denise — hitting the road in search of supplies and medicine. Thematically, the 14th installment of season six drew parallels between Eugene (Josh McDermitt) and Denise (Nurse Jackie Emmy winner Merritt Wever) — two smart individuals who had yet to prove they could defend themselves on their own.
After Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) saved Eugene from a walker he was unable to put down, the latter dismissed his military-minded friend. Separated, Eugene wound up kidnapped by Dwight (Austin Amelio) and the Saviors.
Denise, meanwhile, insisted on killing walkers in order to obtain a cooler she felt could have rare medical supplies as the trio headed back along the tracks to Alexandria. That proved a fateful mistake. Denise, who put down walkers and got the soda-filled cooler, wound up unloading on Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Rosita (Christian Serratos) with one of the show's more memorable monologues. As she explained why she picked Daryl and Rosita as companions for this road trip and how she had hoped to evolve and prove herself able, Dwight put one of Daryl's arrows through Denise's eye. It killed Alexandria's de facto doctor almost instantly, and Daryl will now carry the grief that someone he let go killed a key member of the Alexandria Safe Zone — and with the bow he jacked from Daryl in the first half of the season no less. Dwight also reveals that Denise took the arrow that he meant for Daryl. (In the comics, Abraham gets the arrow through the eye.)
Both groups wind up converging when Dwight and the Saviors revealed themselves to a stunned Daryl and Rosita — and made known that they have Eugene hostage. Dwight — who resurfaced with his face half-burned in a nod to the torture Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) puts the Saviors through if they cross him — held Eugene on his knees at gunpoint as Daryl revealed that he should have killed him when he had the chance.
Seeing only one way out, Eugene proved his worth and, in an effort to distract everyone, revealed that Abraham was hiding nearby. The distraction worked and Eugene bit an unsuspecting Dwight in the privates. It allowed Abraham, Daryl and Rosita to open fire. While Eugene frees himself in the shootout, he is grazed by a bullet as Dwight — agonizing in pain — orders his group of Saviors to retreat.
Elsewhere, Carol continues to struggle with the idea that she's going to have to kill again in exchange for her life at Alexandria and winds up leaving the community.
Here, McDermitt talks with THR about Eugene's mouthful, losing Denise and the remaining two episodes of the season.
Eugene bit Dwight — in the privates. What was it like shooting that? As a comedian, you must have had a field day on set with that.
I was definitely pushing for that to happen. It's such an iconic moment from the comics. Since season four, I'd text [showrunner] Scott Gimple pictures of that comic panel and ask him if we could please do this. He always wanted to do it but was concerned I didn't have the patience. I really wanted to do it; it's such a great moment. Here's this guy [Eugene] who is slowly gaining confidence in himself and his abilities. We started to see that in the midseason premiere. And in this moment, he just goes feral — he puts the situation into his mouth and he bites down to try and create a diversion to save people (laughing). This is a guy who is becoming a man of action — not just someone who is hoping someone else will protect him. It was certainly a fun scene to shoot. This was a tense and high-stakes situation. We laughed a lot about it when the cameras weren't rolling but the gravity of the situation was a nice balance to that. Norman Reedus and Christian Serratos and a few others pitched in and got a hot dog truck to come on set that day and we were laughing about that. Norman joked, "I wanted to make sure everyone was biting a wiener today!" We were having a great time shooting this. Austin Amelio was a great sport. He said, "Welcome to the show, now bite your dick off!"
All that comes right after Eugene watches Denise die after Dwight sends one of Daryl's arrows through her eye. How will witnessing Denise's death affect Eugene?
It was really interesting to see the parallels between Denise and Eugene. They both had this need and desire to get outside the walls of Alexandria and prove something to themselves. It easily could have been Eugene who got killed this episode. For it to be Denise, that was just as shocking. It's a nice reminder that nobody is safe in this world. She was saying that she needed to do this for herself and it was interesting because Eugene wasn't saying that sort of thing. He said, "I did this because this is who I am now," but it was really a commentary on the both of them.
What was shooting Denise's death scene like?
It's interesting because she gets killed in the middle of this great speech. Sometimes we get bit or our face chewed up or shot and death on this show is quick. But I don't know that there's really been a death like this where a character is going through a monologue and it's so touching and heartfelt — and you're learning so much about this character who is driving home these amazing points — and then all the sudden their life is taken in an instant. That's a very huge and iconic death. She's the Emmy-winning Merritt Wever and we were loving watching her [this season] and it was sad knowing she would die this season.
Eugene has come a long way and is now firmly in "Stage Two." Where does he go from here?
I think he has room to grow in this new role for him. He was tested in this episode with his new bravery and confidence and he'll continue to test that. I don't know that he's ever going to be a Michonne or Daryl, who just fly in the face of danger and never think twice about it. But the exciting thing is he's not going to cower from it anymore. It's fun to explore and play. Moving forward, that confidence will continue to be tested. He's in Stage Two but let's see what Stage Three has — we haven't even touched on that yet.
What prompted Eugene to get over his fear?
He wanted to contribute in a way that that was not just using his intelligence. That's always been his biggest asset. Back in season five when the bus flipped over and Tara was saying, "I know you're scared but you have to get out here and help us kill these walkers." The fact that he wants to step up and contribute in ways beyond his intelligence has been a long time coming. In the midseason premiere, when all the walkers were in Alexandria, it got to that point where he realized this was the moment where he had to step up; he couldn't just be like the Alexandrians who didn't know how to fight. He said, "No one gets to clock out today." That was a huge moment for him. … He's becoming more of a man within this community who is not just an intelligent person but who is able to do guard duty and send someone out on a run. He wants to be a contributing member to society as opposed to someone who just sits back and is a brain the whole time.
Abraham and Eugene's relationship has really evolved since they first came on. Now that Eugene has proven himself to be capable, will they continue to work together?
Cudlitz and I talk a lot that Abraham is a sergeant and they carry out orders. Eugene, in a way, was like the general when he was carrying his lie around. He'd give Abraham the orders and Abraham would go off and do his thing. Now Eugene doesn't want to just be the general giving orders; he wants to fight side-by-side with Abraham. In that break-up scene they have where he says, "You've outlived your usefulness," I didn't take that as you can go home now. It's more like Abraham's usefulness in the past was protecting me but now I'm going to be fighting with you. That's why it came as a shock when Abraham left and Eugene asked where he was going. You have to see where this guy is coming from and I don't think Abraham did in this moment.
Now that Eugene has proven himself a bit, will Abraham and Eugene continue to work together? There's the ammunition manufacturing equipment that needs to be brought back to Alexandria…
We're going to see how that all shakes out. We haven't really explored or seen how and where Eugene was captured by the Saviors; we don't know if the Saviors know about the machine shop or not. These are questions that might be answered coming up. It's exciting to see them back together. I'd love to see these guys be a two-man wrecking crew.
Eugene has spent some time with the Saviors. What's his takeaway from Dwight?
He doesn't know they're the Saviors. We're going to see how the rest of that shakes out and how that's going to affect Eugene: Will he continue to be a brave person or will he let Dwight and the scariness of that situation make him retreat?
How would you describe the two remaining episodes of season six?
Everyone is so focused on the finale but the final two are full-throttle for sure. When I read these next two episodes — I typically go through a script in about an hour but I read them both in about 20 minutes because I couldn't turn the page fast enough. It just left a feeling in my stomach after reading these. We're in new territory with the show now and we're telling things in a different way that the show hasn't done before. It stays with you.
What did you think of the episode? Sound off in the comments, below. The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC. For more Walking Dead coverage, go to THR.com/WalkingDead.