Spoiler Alert: This recap contains spoilers for Season 7 Episode 3 of The Walking Dead.
Melissa Moore ’20 / Emertainment Monthly TV Staff Writer
Viewers will recall that last week’s episode, “The Well” offered somewhat of a lighthearted respite from the force that is Negan and his Saviors. That reprieve, as expected, did not last long, as this week’s episode “The Cell” focuses on Daryl (Norman Reedus) in the Saviors’ camp. Daryl undergoes various humiliations and beatings as Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) works to instill in him the idea that Negan rules over everyone and everything.
Featured as often as Daryl, if not more, is Dwight (Austin Amelio), who has become Negan’s right-hand-man. The episode begins by following Dwight around the Saviors’ base as he gathers ingredients for a sandwich. The scene is accompanied by the upbeat music of “A Town Called Malice” by The Jam. The camp appears pretty normal and surprisingly advanced and civilized – except for the clear power that Dwight holds over the more common members and the fear they exhibit around him, along with a flash of a man being beaten – until the music cuts out and Dwight looks out over a fenced-in area. This area is filled with walkers impaled on posts and two men in jumpsuits seem to be making sure that any stray walkers remain locked in place.
Dwight then makes another sandwich – one filled with dog food. Viewers then watch as several of Daryl’s days loop: his awakening and acceptance of the dog food sandwiches each day is accompanied with the uptempo and cheery song, “Easy Street” by the Collapsable Hearts. The loop eventually pauses and audiences follow Daryl and Dwight to the infirmary, where the Doctor has just been meeting with a women. It is Sherry (Christine Evangelista) – viewers may recall from Season 6 that Sherry was Dwight’s wife – and she has just found out that she is not pregnant, to the relief of Dwight, although he says, “there’s always next time.” More on that later.
Daryl and Dwight discuss Daryl’s resistance, and he is told repeatedly to give in. When Daryl says he will never kneel, Dwight replies: “I said that too.” Dwight then talks with Negan who expresses his pleasure with Dwight’s hard and loyal work, and offers him, “a blast from the past with you know who,” which is another of several hints that Sherry has become Negan’s property and, as we later learn, “wife”. He declines and embarks to take care of some “grunt work”.
Meanwhile, Daryl has been returned to his cell by another member of Negan’s group, who has not closed the cell door completely. Daryl sneaks out and is caught by Sherry who warns Daryl to go back now and to give in to Negan, as no matter how bad his situation seems now, Negan will always do worse. She does not, however, stop Daryl when he continues to try and escape. A group of Saviors, along with Negan, shortly catch him however, and each member goes around saying, “I am Negan” until Negan explains to Daryl that he is everywhere and truly has ultimate control. Negan explains that he has three options: 1. He gets on a spike and works for Negan as a dead man; 2. He goes back to his cell and wishes he were a dead man; and 3. He works for Negan and lives like a king. Daryl does not concede, however, and is subsequently beaten.
Simultaneously, Dwight, while riding Daryl’s motorcycle, comes across a pile of debilitated walkers in the road. One falls from the bridge above, and Dwight falls to the ground, where he is attacked by walkers. The episode continues to go back-and-forth between Daryl and Dwight, but when it returns to Dwight, we see him – injured – encounter and tackle a man that he clearly knows. This man turns out to be a deserting Savior, who is trying to escape Negan’s grasp. The man questions why, if there is only one Negan, everyone has bowed to his rule, to which Dwight replies, “now we’re winning.” Dwight tells the man to keep watching and then shoots him in the back.
Sherry then has two secret conversations. First, with Daryl, she apologizes for leaving him and stealing his things back in Season 6. Then, with Dwight, she says she did the right thing and that, yes, Negan is treating her well.
Dwight then returns to Daryl, who refuses to eat, and throws a picture in his cell: it is presumably, Glenn after Negan killed him – as viewers can recall, no defining features remained after Negan had finished his work. This finally pushes Daryl over the edge and he begins to cry.
The following morning, Negan discusses Dwight with Daryl, in the presence of Dwight. He explains how Dwight used to work for points to get medicine for Tina – viewers will remember her as Sherry’s sister who was with Sherry and Dwight in Season 6 until she was bitten by walkers – until Negan requested Tina marry him, which is when the three ran away. Negan explains that Dwight and Sherry had gotten away, but that Dwight, “manned up” and came back asking for forgiveness. Negan liked that, but Lucille demanded punishment. Sherry ended up promising to marry Negan in exchange for Dwight’s life and now Negan and Dwight are, “totally cool”. Negan says that Daryl can be like Dwight and asks, “who are you?” to which Daryl replies, “Daryl”.
Again Daryl is thrown back in his cell, where he says to Dwight that he understands why Dwight bent the knee: he did it for someone else. He also says that is the reason why he cannot give in.
The episode ends with Dwight looking out over the pit of walkers, where the man he shot earlier is now up against the fence, just another one of the walkers.
In addition to the surface-level significance of this episode, the mirroring of Dwight and Daryl is also explored, and the episode suggests that Dwight wants to be like Daryl. He not only uses Daryl’s motorcyle and crossbow, but he also wears his vest. It’s also clear that Negan wants Daryl to be what Dwight has been for him, but perhaps at a higher level, which could pose a threat to Dwight. Then again, even though he did it to survive, Dwight surely feels guilt as he must watch his ex-wife live completely under the control of Negan.
This episode, while not as riveting as the season premiere, benefited from focusing on a favorite such as Daryl who so many fans are so concerned about. It also gave viewers a deeper view of Negan and the god-like persona he has created for himself. Negan is such a strong character that no matter how little he is featured in the episode, each time he is, he controls and revitalizes the scene, bringing viewers back onto their toes.
Overall Episode Grade: B+