Thoughtful & Abstract: Looking at The Walking Dead’s Dr. Eugene Porter

In which Kim (@kimfreakinb) and Shawn (@genx13) step back to look at one of their favorite characters.

“The smartest man I ever met happened to love my hair. My old boss, T. Brooks Ellis, the director of the Human Genome Project. He said my hair made me look like, and I quote, ‘a fun guy,’ which I am.” – Dr. Eugene Porter

Kim: I want to talk about characters, because they are truly what makes or breaks a show. How much do you like the people you’re rooting for or hate the ones you want to see die a horrendous death? The ability to give a rat’s ass about the characters in a show is what makes people want to watch a show. Looking at The Walking Dead, I have strong feelings about almost every character. Some good, some bad, but all of them make me think about their role in the show and how I like it more or less, depending on who is in each episode.

I’m starting off with one of my favorites: Dr. Eugene Porter. I’ll start by saying that before this show I had no idea who Josh McDermitt was, and I really think that worked in his favor because I didn’t have him type-cast in my mind, so I was able to look at Eugene and see exactly what was on the screen in front of me. For the record, I figured he was a big ass liar from day one. He presents as a scared little boy who doesn’t know what to do or how to survive without others. But, he’s also quite manipulative and yet has a conscience that will only allow so much turmoil on his behalf.

I do believe he is one of the smarter characters on the show. After all, he managed to convince everyone he was the key to curing the walker epidemic. He was able to use very few words to get this large group of people to take him in and take care of him. How brilliant is that? On the outside, he seems like the kind of guy who really can’t take care of himself in this world when it comes to killing walkers and devising a strategy. He didn’t feel he could be honest, for whatever reason, and say, “I need your help or I’ll die.” So, he devised the whole “scientist, human genome, get me to D.C. in one piece if you want to live” scenario and he got exactly what he needed: acceptance and people to take care of him. Eugene is what I would suspect I would be in this scenario.

We don’t hear enough from him, and that makes me sad. I’m terrified for the day when he’ll have a huge amount of dialogue because that has come to signal the death of a character. Think about T-Dog and Axel. They got some heavy dialogue and front and center opportunities and died, just like that. So, it’s with mixed feelings that I want to see him have a larger role. I also like listening to his voice, with the slow drawl. I do think in what we saw of him before he outed himself as a liar, he had a way of sounding incredibly knowledgeable and because he did it so matter-of-factly, everyone bought into it. He’s a smooth character with hair that would make any ’90s pop star jealous.

Let’s talk about his hair, because we really need to. The mullet has taken on a life of its own, and I’m pretty sure if Eugene bites the dust, Norman Reedus will keep the hair piece, just as he did Rick’s beard. Granted, it would be a little less creepy because it’s not real, but there’s definitely a place in Reedus’ trailer for the mullet should Eugene ever meet his demise. But the hair is what makes him stand out. Without it, he’s just another guy that is hanging around with the cool kids. With it though? He might turn out to be a complete badass, if he’s forced to be.

There is one scene that is, hands-down, my favorite from this character, but perhaps the props need to go to McDermitt himself. When Abraham punches him and steps back and he falls straight down, face first. You know what I loved most about that? If someone actually punched you like that, your knees aren’t likely to buckle gently while you fold up neatly on to the ground. You’re not going to fall with style and grace. You’re going to face plant because of your center of gravity. It was a beautiful free-fall, the likes of which I’ve only seen in cartoons. Several of the people I discuss this show with talked about that fall for days. It truly was one of my favorite Eugene moments, possibly one of my favorites from the entire show.

I’d like to know more about where Eugene was before he stumbled upon a grieving Abraham. Every character on this show has a story about how they got to where they are now and I really want to know his. I want to know if he had a mullet before the zombie apocalypse, or was it just grown for lack of a barber shop. I want him to learn to kick ass and find his voice. I want him to find a chick who isn’t a lesbian and have her convince him to cut his hair so we can all see that Josh McDermitt is really pretty hot. I mean it helps that he looks a bit like one of my ex-boyfriends (not with the mullet). And no, I’m not partial to Eugene just because McDermitt is a Green Bay Packer fan (and owner), though that certainly helps. But what helps the most is that Eugene Porter, for all of his lies and lost-little-boy presentation, can probably throw back a few with the best of them and have a great time, because as T. Brooks Ellis said, he looks like, and I quote, “a fun guy.” I’d also like to see what he’s got under that jacket, if you know what I mean.

Shawn: The “fun guy”. That’s what I thought when we first met up with Eugene Porter. I thought when we were introduced to him that the show was finally getting a comic relief. But this isn’t a show that really has a need for typical characters. Like you said, this show ends up living and dying (so sorry for the pun) by the characters.

My favorite Eugene moment comes early on when they are walking on the railroad tracks in “Us”. He is talking about video games, I think, to Tara. But no one is really listening to his rambling. It was exactly the type of person that you know is going to survive and that you are going to get stuck with – someone that just talks on and on about nothing as they walk all day long. It’s also when I knew they were going to eventually reveal he was a hoax.

Even after all the seasons, I’m fascinated with all of the potentials of a post-Walker world. There are ideas about the actual Walkers, the environment and the group of survivors that still can be pursued. Eugene presented us with someone that we haven’t dealt with. He’s the scared nerd that has figured out a way to survive without having to be a killer.

His first best choice was attaching himself to Abraham. It’s classic survival instinct. Find the biggest bad ass and make him your best friend. They make a cute pair and I’m fascinated to keep seeing them interact. I know we want to see Eugene get laid but on a different level, they are the steadiest couple we have on the show outside of Glenn and Maggie.

What Eugene can provide is something that is genuinely lacking in this world. He is a smooth talker when he needs to be. We haven’t seen that outside of The Governor. I think he’s the type of person to disarm people with kindness and just enough confidence to convince people as he did with our group that he has the answers.

What else do I love about Eugene? I think that whole library scene with him watching people have sex was very symbolic. It lends to his hero worship of Abraham. It shows him as an observer. He is quiet and takes it all in before saying anything. In a way that makes him the male version of Michonne. I think there is potential for his character to find a way to survive each new turn. But I fear we are walking Eugene and Abraham down a path where they are doomed to perish together.

Josh McDermitt has done a great job portraying the character. I also didn’t know much about him or his mullet before he appeared on the show. I think this is a better role for him than a straight-up sitcom. This character has much more depth and he is a standout among the huge cast because of his look and humor potential. Until he breaks out he’s content to remain in the shadows (and sometimes behind a bookcase).

Keep walking.

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Shawn Bourdo

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