WARNING: The following contains spoilers for the The Walking Dead Season 7, Episode 3, “The Cell”
Despite the fact that the episode that premiered on November 6 was called ‘The Cell,’ based on Daryl’s cell, the episode seemed to really be about Dwight.
Daryl had an encounter with Dwight, Dwight’s wife Sherry, and Sherrys sisters Tina last season. When the three of them were running from Negan in the woods, they were helped by Daryl in the woods. When Tina was killed by a walker, Sherry and Dwight decided to go with Negan and stole Daryl’s motorcycle and crossbow.
The next time we see Dwight, his face is covered in severe burn scars and he is one of Negan’s men. In this episode, we learn what happened in the time lost. Negan tells us that Dwight and Sherry came back to him and he was going to murder one of them. His planned changed when he decided to not kill them, but instead marry Sherry.
Because just taking Dwight’s wife wasn’t enough for Negan, he put a hot clothes iron on his face. After this, Dwight became one of Negans “top guys” and Negan even calls their collab “totally cool.” You see that Dwight does not agrees as Negan goes through the details of these past events. Dwight is more of a doting puppy to Negan. Negan rewards him well for being obedient, but we cannot forget that Negan took his wife; which is emasculating and humiliating for a man.
Negan is more of a king than King Ezekiel. When Ezekiel walks past his people, they smile and wave. When Negan walks his followers fall to their knees and bow in fear. Personally, I can’t help but find it entertaining. Negan is horrifying, but if they all collectively stood up against him, he could be easily overpowered.
Dwight’s half-mutilated face symbolizes his personality. His unburned half represents how he takes pity and can actually see right from wrong. You can see the constant emotional conflict that Dwight experiences. He’s a complicated character that I appreciate. He certainly is not a good person, but it is evident that much of his cynicism is built up over time. He most likely was not (this) bad of a person in pre-apocalyptic America. Dwight changed for the worse, and that is thanks to Negan. I feel that when Negan does fall, like all villains do, he will play a very key role in it.
We also spend time with Daryl in this episode. Dwight was given the job to break Daryl. Dwight feeds Daryl dog food sandwiches. Daryl is left in his cell, naked, beaten, and in the dark. Furthermore, he isn’t allowed to sleep. Every time he is left alone, music is played loudly outside of his cell door to stop him from sleeping. Sleep deprivation is a type of psychological torture.
Daryl is arguably one of TWD’s most favored character. As a fan of this character, this episode was hard to watch. Negan is only going through these lengths to have him “broken” is so that he will eventually become one of his followers. Negan gives Daryl three choices: he can become a walker; suffer more in his cell; or join Negan and “live like a king.” Throughout this episode Daryl has proven that he has not lost his sense of self. When Negan asks Daryl who he is, he was supposed to respond with “Negan,” like all of the other goons. It’s a strange ritual, where they bow and identify as their horrible tyrant. Everytime he is asked the question, he refuses to kneel. I personally think that he should just go along with the nonsense and blend in just to figure out how to escape. Unfortunately, Daryl is far too stubborn to submit to anyone.
Overall this was a powerful episode. It made me appreciate Norman Reedus (Daryl) as an actor. The episode was especially great because we got to see how things run in Negan’s “kingdom,” so to speak. This environment is a stark contrast to the environment in last week’s episode. The lack of action in this episode was definitely made up for by the quality of acting and the building of characters. I cannot seem to ‘get’ Negan. We as viewers can at least somewhat identify with most villains, but I can’t seem to follow Negan. I find him more annoying than anything. Other than the threat of violence, he isn’t very scary, he’s actually almost whiny. I find him reminiscent of Veruca Salt, the demanding and spoiled girl in Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory.