The Walking Dead – The Cell
By: Jennifer Vintzileos
While I do appreciate a good Carol (Melissa McBride) and Morgan (Lennie James) episode, I am most excited over getting to see what has become of Daryl (Norman Reedus) now that the Saviors have him as a prisoner. Will Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) break our favorite hunter? Has the guilt of Glenn’s (Steven Yeun) death gotten to Daryl?
At the beginning of the episode, we are taken through a day in the life of Dwight (Austin Amelio), set to the music of “Town Called Malice” by The Jam. As one of Negan’s men, he gets privilege over others. At the “grocery store,” he can cut the line and take what he wants. When he sees another gentleman across the way arguing over food, he makes a note to raid that man’s foot locker and take his groceries. With each acquisition, the scene cuts back and forth to Dwight making himself a delicious egg sandwich with all the ingredients he has pilfered. Once completed, he sits and eats on the outside steps of the compound, staring at the men who have been relegated to handling the walkers.
In the next scene, we finally get to see where Daryl has been all this time: naked in a dark, dank prison cell. We see Dwight make another sandwich, this time with the ends of the bread and dog food as the protein. Dwight alerts Daryl to his presence by piping music into the cell, a song called “Easy Street” by The Collapsable Hearts Club featuring Jim Bianco and Petra Haden. Every time Daryl is fed, this is the song that he is greeted with, as a form of torture while Dwight brings him food and eventually prison-yard wear so Doctor Carson (Tim Parati) can address his injuries.
When Daryl is taken to the doctor’s office, Sherry (Christine Evangelista) is there finishing up an examination, checking to see if she is potentially pregnant. Dwight and Sherry were very close the last time we saw them together in “Always Accountable,” but now their relationship seems strained. Sherry recognizes Daryl, but is warded off by Dwight while Daryl is examined. Before she leaves, she advises Daryl to listen to whatever they tell him to do.
Post-examination, Dwight leads Daryl back to his room. Negan appears and Dwight forces Daryl to kneel, as per protocol. When Negan pulls Dwight away for a quick chat, Daryl is led to a chair and observes his surroundings. Before leading Daryl back to his cell, Dwight advises that his choice is simple: he can either be like everyone else and pay or he can be like him and survive. When the cell door closes, Daryl is tortured further with the song “Easy Street” playing, but this time he starts kicking the door.
Negan and Dwight have a more in-depth conversation with Negan acknowledging Dwight’s accomplishments and how he should be rewarded for his work with Daryl. At first Negan offers him a woman, mentioning Sherry, but Dwight refuses as he doesn’t feel he has earned it yet. A voice comes over Negan’s walkie-talkie, advising of an “Orange Situation.” Dwight offers to take care of the grunt work, wearing Daryl’s clothes and taking his bike to investigate.
With Dwight gone, Joey (Joshua Hoover) brings Daryl his food and has conveniently left the cell door unlocked. Utilizing the opportunity, Daryl escapes and does his best to avoid running into a Savior. Instead, he runs into Sherry who tells him to go back to his cell because whatever has been done to him already, it will be worse. Daryl chooses to ignore her, instead locating a door to escape outside to the row of motorcycles. Unfortunately, he is cornered in the lot by the Saviors.
Negan arrives and demonstrates how his men assume the identity of Negan as part of their initiation. For all newcomers, there are three options at their compound: you are either a dead man working with the walkers, you live as a civilian and earn points for everything you take or you become one of Negan’s men. Even wielding Lucille in his face, Daryl seems unphased and in turn is beaten up by the Saviors before being returned to his cell. Sherry comes to visit him, reminding him how when her and Dwight had taken his motorcycle she apologized and that Daryl’s words had rang true for her.
With Dwight on the road, he encounters a wreck filled with mangled walkers. He is almost bitten, but manages to overcome and push on towards his target. As the bike runs out of gas and carries on, Dwight’s destination finally comes into view: Gordon (Michael Scialabba) – one of the members of the compound, fending off a walker in the distance. An “Orange Situation” seems to mean a compound member leaves without notice.
Gordon has decided to leave, feeling that it would be better to live outside of the walls than to return and be under Negan’s rule. Dwight pulls a gun on him, but Gordon remains steadfast in his decision, even willing to die. When Dwight threatens to hurt those who have interacted with Gordon, even going so far as to dig up his dead wife and feed her to the walkers, he stiffens and relents on returning to the compound. But something has changed in Dwight, who raises his gun and finally decides to give Gordon what he has asked for: death.
Upon return from the trip, Dwight runs into Sherry in the stairwell. They share minimal words, but both assure one another that they are happy with their decision. Dwight returns to his post as Daryl’s caretaker, continuing to torment him. But Daryl has begun to resist, throwing his sandwich in protest. Dwight’s response is to tack a polaroid of Glenn’s corpse onto the prison wall, reminding Daryl that he is the reason his friend is dead, and shut the door. Instead of “Easy Street” playing, Roy Orbison’s “Crying” comes over the speakers as Daryl breaks down in tears. Dwight sits diligently outside of Daryl’s cell, looking remorseful.
The next time Dwight comes for Daryl, he notices that Daryl has the polaroid picture next to him, after vomiting and crying himself to sleep. As they meet up in Negan’s quarters, Daryl learns more about Dwight, Sherry, and Sherry’s sister Tina (Liz E. Morgan). They were initially on the run from the compound as Tina was promised in marriage to Negan and did not want to go down that path. So they took all the meds for Tina and fled the compound. Upon return, to earn forgiveness, Sherry offered herself in place of her sister and Dwight, after taking an iron to his face, pledged his loyalty to Negan.
And so, now the choice is Daryl’s, as Negan asks him who he is. Instead of conforming, he says “Daryl”, clearly showing Negan that he will not play along. When Dwight returns him to the cell, he chastises Daryl for his decision. But Daryl understands why Dwight made his choice, for someone else. Because of that same reason, Daryl can’t. In the last scene, as Dwight goes back out to those steps where he was eating the sandwich at the beginning of the episode, he sees a new walker behind the fences: Gordon.
As Daryl continues the good fight in Glenn’s memory, we will get to check in everyone else next time. With Rick (Andrew Lincoln) bowing down to Negan, what will the community do? Can new big baddie be defeated? Join me next week as Negan finally arrives at Alexandria on The Walking Dead!