The Walking Dead: 7.03 The Cell
The third episode of this season of The Walking Dead felt somewhat repetitive, but maybe that was the intention. This week we caught up with Daryl and the psychological torture he’s had to endure as consequence for punching Negan in the season premiere. Kept in a cell, Daryl is woken up every day by a ridiculously upbeat song (Easy Street, by The Collapsible Hearts Club), and fed a dog food sandwich by Dwight.
Up until now, Dwight has seemed to be a pretty deplorable character. Stealing Daryl’s things when we first met him last season didn’t paint him in the best of lights, and now his status as one of Negan’s top henchmen seems to only cement his place as a character viewers have little sympathy for. However throughout the progression of the episode, we see a little more depth to Dwight and even a few parallels to Daryl that go beyond the same need to wash his hair.
When one of the men in Negan’s camp runs away, Dwight volunteers to go after him. When he catches up with said runner, a conversation between the two tells us that the man used to be Dwight’s friend. He insists that there’s nothing for him back with the Saviours and insists that Dwight just shoot him rather than force him to return. Despite saying he has to go back, and threatening his former friend with the torture or death of everyone he knows if he doesn’t return, Dwight shows mercy in the end and shoots the man. This scene both adds a little more complexity to Dwight as a character and emphasises the question that the episode focuses on: is simply being alive always worth the cost?
Dwight and his estranged spouse Sherry would apparently answer yes. In a scene where they meet in private and briefly discuss their current situations, they both agree that their scenario is better than being dead. While talking to Daryl near the end of the episode, Negan reveals what he did to them. Once the couple returned to their camp after running away, he married Sherry at her suggestion (to save Dwight’s life) and instead of killing Dwight, burned his face with an iron. Though there is some satisfaction to learning at last how Dwight got those scars, it feels like all of this information could have been fed to the audience in a better way than via Negan’s monologuing. The over-explanation of the current situation takes away from what an emotive reveal it could have been under different circumstances.
We’ve not seen much of Sherry so far, and it still remains to be seen how much of a prominent character she’ll become. All things considered, she seems kind and definitely capable of compassion despite being stuck in Negan’s gang. She’s the closest Daryl has to a friend in their camp and more scenes involving the two in the future could make for some interesting plot development. Her presence alone in this episode begs many questions. Is she Negan’s only wife? How much, if any, influence does she have over him? Why is she the only woman we see in the whole episode - are they all kept somewhere else? Is their only role in the camp to either be “wives” or pimped out by Negan?
Speaking of, Negan is supposedly anti-rape. He preaches the importance of consent, yet still offers women as rewards to the men who’ve pleased him. As we should all know, a yes that arises only from coercion or fear isn’t consent at all, so it seems at least some women of the Saviours may not be living the life of luxury.
A main theme explored in this episode is guilt, namely Daryl’s over his responsibility for Glenn’s death. Stewing alone in his cell with only his thoughts for company, he clearly dwells on the incident and eventually breaks down and cries. Dwight also feels guilt over the death of Tina, Sherry’s sister, when they were on the run. In a bout of honesty, he tells Daryl he understands his resistance. Daryl in return says he understands why Dwight submits - it’s in the interests of the people he loves, and in this sense he and Daryl are very similar. They’d both go to great lengths for the people they care for, but while no friend of Daryl’s is endangered by his behaviour, and other friends of his have already been killed by Negan, Daryl cannot and will not kneel.
Though the heavy concepts and a high amount of screen time being given to Daryl are surely merits in many people’s eyes, the episode was not without fault. Multiple times, scenes that were clearly supposed to be suspenseful had no real impact. Dwight was clearly going to survive his close call with a walker, Daryl’s escape attempt was never going to be successful, and of course he wouldn’t cave and become Negan’s henchman. It’s good that we know Daryl well enough as a character to know that he’d never answer “Negan,” when asked who he was in that moment, but the fact that his defiance came as no surprise whatsoever made the episode seem a little bland. Hopefully next week’s return to Rick’s plotline will bring excitement with a little less predictability.