This week’s episode of The Walking Dead gives us an inside look at the Saviors and their home base, the Sanctuary. If you thought Negan’s mind games were over with the season premiere, you were very, very wrong. This episode fully displays the tight psychological grip that Negan has on the Saviors, and they spend the episode trying to break Daryl and getting him to join their ranks.
The episode begins with a look at Dwight making a sandwich. Sounds pretty basic, but this was a very cool scene in that it showed Dwight acquiring all the ingredients by taking them from other Saviors, displaying his high status within that community without saying a word. To contrast, Dwight makes a dog food sandwich and gives that to Daryl, who is in horrific conditions, being stripped naked in a solitary cell, blasting peppy music in an attempt to drive him crazy.
Sprinkled in between the torture of Daryl is some juicy backstory for Dwight, which is a great payoff after their brief introduction in the last season. We learn that after Dwight and Sherry ran away from Daryl, they chose to return to the Sanctuary and ask for forgiveness from Negan. Negan was going to kill Dwight, but Sherry offered to marry Negan in exchange for his life. Instead, Dwight got his face burned off with an iron as punishment, and has been rebuilding his status within the Saviors ever since.
I loved Dwight’s character in the comics, and actor Austin Amelio has been doing justice to the character. He puts on the aura of a bad guy, but clearly there is a lot of conflict underneath his hard exterior, especially when Negan emasculates him in front of Daryl. And speaking of Negan, Jeffrey Dean Morgan continues to be the star of the show. Every time Negan speaks, he goes into extended and deranged monologues. It’s clear from the acting that Negan is extremely narcissistic, and he steals every scene he is in.
Anyhow, we learn some more about the structure of the Saviors. They work on a “point” system, where they can gain points by working to eventually rise in the ranks of the community. There are obviously internal groups and factions, since people who aren’t on Negan’s good side are horribly mistreated. Dwight tries to convince Daryl to give in and accept Negan’s offer to join the Saviors, while Sherry, who is a living example of what happens when you defy Negan, also tries to convince Daryl to give in. But this is Daryl, and by the end of the episode, when Negan asks him the final question- “What is your name?” (If you remember, Negan’s followers all call themselves “Negan”), he defiantly responds “Daryl.”
So, one escape attempt and failed recruitment later, Daryl is in a worse position than before. Having refused Negan’s “mercy,” we will have to wait and see what kind of punishment Daryl will incur for his defiance. Much like last week’s episode, “The Well,” “The Cell” is mainly an introduction to the Saviors, but is much more successful and enjoyable. There is actual character progression and development in this episode- Daryl is at rock bottom, feeling tremendous guilt for Glenn’s death, and suffering horrific torture at the hands of Dwight. When he comes back, it’s hard to say if Daryl will really be the same. But the real token character in this episode is Dwight himself, whom we really get to understand and sympathize with in this chapter. I started the episode hating Dwight’s guts, and ended hoping for him to succeed in eventually getting revenge for all that Negan has put him and Sherry through.
It also helps that the Sanctuary is simply an inherently more interesting place than the Kingdom. Apparently, this episode was originally intended to be episode 2 of the season, and that makes sense, since it is the more logical follow-up to the first episode. While not much truly happened in the overall plot, this one was more enjoyable and tense, and has me really excited for what will happen next.
+Dwight and Sherry’s backstory is very tragic, and pays off their introduction in the last season
+Negan continues to steal every scene he is in
+The Saviors playing mind games with Daryl is gut-punching
+Daryl’s guilt over Glenn’s death and the stuff leading up to that scene felt very genuine
-Not much happened in this episode in terms of plot movement