The lucky number episode of The Walking Dead saw everyone putting on their tinfoil hats and connecting pictures with red yarn to find out what the government is hiding and why, though they wound up with far more questions than answers.
The episode opened with a sweet domestic moment with Eugene (Josh McDermitt, The Loudest Voice) and Stephanie (Chelle Ramos, Outer Banks) professing their love for each other after she read his draft for his novel and he offered her a key to his apartment. Unfortunately, the sunshine literally turned to rain when Stephanie never showed up to their ice cream date.
Thus began Eugene’s frantic search for Stephanie, which seemed to take a substantial amount of time. It wasn’t fully clear when she disappeared, but the main portion of the episode took place just after the masquerade ball and the arrest of Trooper Davis (Cameron Scott Roberts, Chicago Fire), as he was the focus of Connie (Lauren Ridloff, Eternals) and Kelly’s (Angel Theory, Kinderfänger) investigation.
Like other real-life and fictional journalists, Connie doesn’t feel comfortable writing propaganda and suppressing the truth in order to appease her editor and those in charge. Unfortunately, this ruffles numerous feathers, which doesn’t bode well considering how comfortable the Commonwealth seems to be with making people disappear.
Or so the episode wants us to believe; although it’s not an entirely untrue statement.
By the time of the episode, Eugene’s started to spiral, still on his search for Stephanie but definitely not doing well, causing Princess (Paola Lázaro, Lethal Weapon) to check up on him, only to discover the conspiracy consuming him.
Of course, Princess being the good friend she is, agrees to help Eugene on his stakeout on Roman Calhoun (Michael Tourek, Ozark), the man whom Eugene is sure isn’t a plumber and is actually part of an organization connected to the government and Stephanie’s disappearance in some way.
Unfortunately, Eugene tricked Princess to some degree and they wound up getting caught. Conveniently, Lance (Josh Hamilton, 13 Reasons Why) returned from his field trip with Carol (Melissa McBride, The Reconstruction of William Zero) to bail them out, though Eugene had to promise not to bother Roman again, and also sign a statement that he’s under extreme mental anguish due to the disappearance of his girlfriend.
It should be noted that, while the Commonwealth does have the population of a small town, considering the intense military-level policing and clear boundaries, it’s hard to imagine that someone would go missing within the confines of the town; either they died or they ran away.
Or they were kidnapped by the government.
It’s not entirely out of the question, and the episode makes that clear, though not necessarily in Eugene’s storyline.
Rather, it’s revealed in Connie and Kelly’s storyline, as they continue to delve deeper into Trooper Davis’ story and run into Mercer (Michael James Shaw, Avengers: Endgame), who just so happens to be the brother of Max (Margot Bingham, New Amsterdam), Pamela Milton’s (Laila Robins, The Boys) assistant that Davis took hostage.
While Mercer clearly wants Connie to drop her investigation, reminding her that there’s no way anyone else would let her get to the truth, let alone himself, things start to shift at the end of the episode when he goes to check on Davis, only to find that he was moved without his permission, now lost to him as well.
It’s not explicitly stated who made the delivery, but it’s safe to assume that Mercer was the one to slip the list of names to the sisters; a list of names of people that, presumably, have been made to disappear by the government.
Also, it’s clear that those in charge can get away with a number of things, what with Lance and Carol’s aforementioned field trip. While Lance makes a point that, in this situation, resorting to natural painkillers and medicine like poppy-derived opium is necessary for their hospitals, the system is far from ideal.
Apparently, these people are kept secret from the rest of the Commonwealth and possibly Milton herself, which means they don’t have the same benefits and security the others do.
Rather, they’re expected to work and can’t easily negotiate pay or better conditions as Lance is the only person they can go to and he’s too busy worrying about himself.
While he’s not entirely heartless, making sure the people get their raises when he finds out that the person in charge was pocketing all the wages and physically abusing everyone into compliance and silence, the way he referred to the people to Carol at the start of their trip made it clear he thought less of them due to their status as working class; he’s probably the kind of guy who loathes the concept of unions.
It was somewhat unclear what the situation at the poppy fields were, however, as Carol shared a head nod with one of the people. It could’ve been the straightforward answer that they confided in her the truth and they’re grateful for her help, or they could have had a mutually beneficial deal that involved getting Moto (William Mark McCullough, Sweet Magnolias) out of the picture.
Those aren’t the only questions this episode left the audience with.
Despite being arrested and requests from both Lance and Princess to stop his search and let it go, Eugene goes back to the building in search of answers, though they were far from the ones he had earlier.
In a surprisingly successful twist, Eugene channels his inner Charlie from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, when he declares that the answer was right in front of him the entire time:
“There was never any Stephanie.”
Like Pepe Silvia, Stephanie does not exist. Rather, her name is Shira and she was a willing participant in an elaborate attempt to force Eugene to tell the truth about the location of Alexandria, and the reason she “disappeared” was because Eugene was growing too attached; unfortunately for them, he was far too in love to let her go.
It was this exchange between Lance and Eugene that really exemplified why the Commonwealth is so terrifying.
To an extent, everything Lance says is understandable. The previously starving people of Alexandria were given support and a new place to live with the request that they contribute positively to the Commonwealth in return; on paper, it sounds just like what the people in Alexandria were already doing, pitching in with their various skills to make life better for everyone.
But it’s hard to side with Lance when he says all of this with a smile and dead eyes to a weeping Eugene, unapologetically explaining how he tricked him into signing a statement that will gaslight everyone into believing Eugene is just mentally unwell, and bringing up that Eugene should continue the novel that Stephanie inspired him to continue working on, knowing full well that it’s a slap in the face to bring it up.
After this episode it’s clear things will only get more tense from here. With Mercer potentially siding with Connie, Carol and Lance’s budding partnership, and the reveal that it may have been Max who was talking to Eugene on the radio, it’s only a matter of time before the other shoe drops; though it’s unclear what will happen when it does.