It's back to the pit of the drama and the dark for The Walking Dead season 7's third episode. Titled The Cell, most of the episode happens in the heart of The Saviors' sanctuary (if you can call it that), with the spotlight trained on Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus).
Oddly enough, the gritty and dark world is momentarily and audibly lost during the first few minutes of the episode. Think of it this way, when you have a very upbeat background music and what appears to be an everyday scene in The Saviors’ headquarters, it’s hard to picture a very bad life.
But underneath that upbeat song, the mashups of Dwight making himself a nice sandwich, there’s the chaos, the fear, and the domination. The few seconds that Negan walks out and everyone else stops and kneels to pay homage almost defeats Ezekiel’s theatrics for the entire last episode.
For those who may have already been hating on Dwight even before the opening credits have rolled, you may not have seen nothing yet. That is until you see Daryl trapped in a dark, dank cell, naked, and forced to eat a sandwich made of dog food.
What struck me about the episode is how Ezekiel’s words from last episode—how we should embrace the contradiction—seems to resound very well this time. Apart from that very musical first few minutes, we see snapshots of Daryl’s everyday life with The Saviors. And here, he’s forced to listen to this very upbeat and very annoying song (“We’re on easy street, and I feel so sweet…”)—so much so that three rounds of it have caused our own ears to bleed.
All the while, he’s treated worse than an animal in the hopes that he can be broken to become another Negan.
But before you start mutilating Dwight in your heads, the rest of the episode might just make you feel just a teensy bit conflicted.
If you remember the first time we all saw Dwight, he still had his whole face ahead of him and his wife by his side. Now, we get a glimpse of just how exactly his feelings may be beneath the surface.
It’s not that hard to imagine Dwight undergoing the same thing that Daryl had to go through. How he may have been forced to go through the process of being degraded, or perhaps even worse, especially with him having to put up with Negan having Dwight’s wife for himself.
That conversation between Negan and Dwight is very telling. It's in the way that Negan seems to be baiting him, just to see how far his loyalties with him are compared to how deep his hatred runs. When Negan talks about the story of what happened when they came back and what Dwight’s wife had to do so her husband wouldn’t die, we learn the one moment where Dwight gives his own identity and free will to Negan.
And it’s also why Dwight seems to be so fixated on breaking Daryl—because he thinks they’re on the same boat.
“You can be like them, or me.”
With that, Dwight refers to the walkers that they seem to be farming in one section of their sanctuary. Funnily enough, he’s probably closer to being a Negan walker than Daryl will ever be. Because that one moment when Negan asked Daryl who he is, his response almost made me give a standing ovation.
At the very least, broken Daryl is still far from broken Rick. I guess a badass at heart will remain one through thick or thin.
As for Dwight, as much as he would want to be Daryl, I think he’s still far along. His devotion to Negan is still very much attached to his wife, and perhaps to an extent, a fear for his own life.
Still, if Negan’s baiting and Daryl’s stubbornness continues, there’s still a flicker of hope that maybe Dwight will let all hell break loose and do a daring Daryl move on Negan one of these days.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays on AMC.