If there’s one thing that we learned from the newest episode of The Walking Dead, it is that everything has a price. “The Cell” has a cold opening that shows the stark contrast between The Saviors positioning in this world and not only Daryl’s, but all of Team Family’s, positioning in this new world. While Dwight enjoys a sandwich complete with mustard, lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles, Daryl is forced to eat a sandwich topped with dog food, all the while being locked in a small closet with music blaring constantly. He is at the bottom of the bottom, but The Saviors are trying to make him go even lower, and Dwight is tasked with breaking Daryl. Daryl isn’t simply a hostage, he is a recruit, and as Dwight informs him, he can either be like the walkers around the fence or like him.
The episode, while heavily focused on Daryl, is also equally focused on Dwight, whose time is split between watching over Daryl and going on a short run to return Negan’s stolen “property” (and by property, I very much mean a living breathing human being, because everything belongs to Negan). It makes it much harder for fans to condemn him for all of the wrongs that he has done (like, I don’t know, stealing Daryl’s vest, motorcycle, and crossbow – these are crimes that in the TWD fandom are punishable by death).
He had first crossed paths with Daryl in season six, along with Sherry and her sister Tina, and we learn in “The Cell” how he ended up back at the Sanctuary and why he was running in the first place. The Sanctuary runs on a point system, and when Tina fell short of her points and Negan offered to marry her, the trio stole the medicine that she needed and ran. After Tina’s death, and with the knowledge that the Saviors were looking for them, Dwight and Sherry voluntarily returned to Negan, allowing them the chance to live. They didn’t survive unscathed, though – Dwight met the iron and Sherry married Negan in order to ensure that Dwight wasn’t killed.
Unlike Dwight, Daryl doesn’t give in quite so easily, and he remains steadfast. When the door to his cell is left unlocked, he takes the opportunity to run, but it is a test. He is quickly surrounded by Saviors and even when Negan threatens to kill him, including swinging Lucille and stopping just short of hitting him, Daryl doesn’t flinch. His punishment for his escape is a beating, and his torment continues when Dwight gives him a Polaroid photo of Glenn’s body. At the end of the episode, he is taken to Negan and asked who he is. Instead of replying with “Negan” as the Saviors would, Daryl answers with his name.
Like last week’s episode, “The Cell” has its roots in character and place exploration, and The Kingdom and The Sanctuary are polar opposites. They are both strong and well-fortified, but the leadership and the way in which each community’s citizens are treated couldn’t be more different. King Ezekiel embraces a life-style of equality among his people, Negan embraces a life-style of give and take, a system in which he takes everything and a system that Team Family is now being subjected to.
- The dog food sandwiches were a nice call back to the season 3 premiere, “Seed,” when Carl found dog food and was prepared to eat it.
- If I hear “Easy Street: one more time, I am going to rip out my hair.
- Is Negan a king, too? Should we start calling him King Negan? I mean, everyone bows when he walks by.
- So, like, when is Dwight going to stop wearing Daryl’s vest, using his crossbow, and riding his motorcycle? Is Dwight trying to be some cheap rip-off Daryl 2.0, because I don’t like it.
- I feel like Sherry may be Beth 2,0 for Daryl. I feel like she has the potential to be the one thing that will give him hope and show him that there are still good people in this world.
- We have only ever seen Daryl cry on a few rare occasions (when he discovered his brother Merle as a walker, at the moonshine cabin with Beth, when he saw Beth die, and during the Lucille victim scene). He doesn’t cry often, but he cried in “The Cell.”
- Daryl not flinching when Negan almost hits him with Lucille is actually really sad because it shows that he doesn’t value his life…he doesn’t value anything. He has nothing to live for and he doesn’t care if he dies. Yes, it can be seen as strength, but he is a broken man.
- On a similar note, I think it’s important to remember that Daryl isn’t a stranger to this kind of violence. He lived in an abusive household with an abusive father. He is a survivor of physical abuse. In season 5 he was making steps to overcome his past and finally heal (he grabbed a book about survivors oh childhood abuse), but all of that progress is quickly coming to a halt, and he has hit a new rock bottom
- Daryl is stuck in a closet just like Enid. I wonder how long until they both get out…
- I am formally starting a petition for Daryl to stop suffering. He has been in a constant state of depression ever since season 5, and it’s honestly not that fun to watch. Give the man a break.