“Wow! You don’t scare easy…I love that,” says Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) to his prisoner Daryl (Norman Reedus) after Darryl fails to flinch when Negan makes as if to hit him with his bat, Lucille, in season seven episode three of AMC’s horror/drama series, The Walking Dead.
As the episode begins, Daryl is being kept prisoner in a solitary cell, naked with no windows or doors, and being given dog food sandwiches by his jailer, Dwight (Austin Amelio). He’s also being forced to listen to the same annoying pop song over and over again as a way to try to break him. Dwight spends his days in The Saviors’ Sanctuary making tasty sandwiches for himself, running errands for Negan, and guarding/tormenting Daryl. A scene illustrates what The Saviors must do in Negan’s presence, with every member of the group trained to stop what they’re doing and bow down to Negan when he walks by. There is no question who is in charge at the Sanctuary.
Dwight gives Daryl some clothes (they look like a sack top and bottom that mental patients might wear) and takes him to see the doctor for a check-up. In the doctor’s office, Dwight comes face-to-face with his ex-wife, Sherry (Christine Evangelista), who tells him that her pregnancy test came back negative. “Maybe next time,” says Dwight, feigning optimism. Sherry recognizes Daryl as the one they stole supplies, his crossbow, and his motorcycle from in the woods back in season six. She starts to talk to Daryl but Dwight quickly tells her to NOT speak to him. The doctor exams Daryl and tells him his wounds will heal given time and that, “Negan will take care of you. Trust him.” Reinforcing the doctor’s words, Sherry whispers to Daryl on her way out, “Whatever they say, just do it.” Dwight takes Daryl back to his cell and puts the world’s most annoying pop song back on repeat.
Outside, Negan talks to Dwight and they both agree that Daryl is close to breaking. They get a call on their radios that one of the Sanctuary members has left, unauthorized, with supplies. Negan says he wants his stuff back and Dwight volunteers to go and handle it. Negan suggests he should send one of the others, that it’s just grunt work but Dwight says he wants to go and enjoys that aspect of his job. Negan’s suspicious of Dwight, and you can tell their relationship is an uneasy one.
The next day a different “savior” gives Daryl his disgusting sandwich, but doesn’t lock the door behind him as he leaves. Daryl notices it and sneaks out, trying to escape. (Anyone else sensing this is nothing but a set-up for Daryl?!) He’s not out very long before Sherry sneaks up on him and tells him to go back before it’s too late. “Whatever he’s done to you, there’s more,” Sherry whispers to him meaning Negan, of course, and seeming to be genuinely concerned for Daryl. Daryl pays her no mind and keeps going.
Daryl reaches a door that leads outside and spots motorcycles nearby, quickly running to them before being encircled by a handful of Saviors and Negan, who’s walking slowly and carrying his big bat. Negan asks each Savior what his name is and every time each man replies Negan. “See that? I am everywhere,” Negan tells Daryl. He then explains that Daryl has three options: 1) He can end up as a walker and be on the fence working for him. 2) He can be let out and “work for points” but that he’ll wish he was dead. And 3) He can work for Negan outright and “live like a king.” Negan thinks the choice is obvious but when he asks Daryl what his name is, Daryl just remains silent. This is when Negan moves as though he’s going to hit Daryl with Lucille, but it’s just a fake-out to see if Daryl is scared which he’s not. Smiling and admiring Daryl’s strength and determination, Negan walks away leaving Daryl to get beaten up by his men.
Off on his road trip to retrieve the Savior who’s fleeing the Sanctuary after stealing supplies, Dwight comes across a pile of walkers who can’t really move from their spot due to their limbs and arms being twisted beyond use and/or rotted away. Even though they can’t move, they’re still grunting and making biting sounds. The scene seems to bother Dwight who slowly makes his way through them (why not just go around them, idiot?!) and almost gets taken out by a walker falling from bridge above. Dwight manages to get past them and catches up to the one who left after stealing supplies, Gordon, who refuses to go back. Dwight holds him at gunpoint and tells him he has to while Gordon reminds Dwight that they used to be friendly to each other and that there’s nothing for him back at The Sanctuary. He asks why they fear Negan so much, saying that he’s just one man but they cower and bow down to him. Dwight keeps yelling at Gordon to keep moving back to town but Gordon gets down on his knees and tells Dwight it’s the last time he’ll bow down and to please do it, meaning shoot him. Dwight becomes infuriated and threatens Gordon saying if he doesn’t come back with him, he’ll dig up his dead wife and let the crows fed on her bones. (Okay, that’s just twisted and sick!) Gordon, not being able to stand the idea of that, tells Dwight he’s won and heads back to The Sanctuary. Dwight, however, seems bothered by what he said he would do to Gordon’s wife and it also seems as though Gordon was actually getting to Dwight when he was talking to him. Dwight points his pistol at Gordon’s back as he is walking ahead of him and fires.
Back at The Sanctuary, Dwight shares a quiet, private moment with Sherry away from Negan and the rest of the Saviors. He asks her if Negan’s good to her to and she says yes. Seeming to be content with her answer, Dwight heads off to torment Daryl again by leaving him a Polariod photo of Glenn with his head completely smashed in. Dwight changes the song he’s been using to torment Daryl to Roy Orbison’s “Crying,” and he listens outside the cell as Daryl cries over the deaths of Glenn and Abraham.
Believing he’s finally broken Daryl, Dwight takes him to a comfortable-looking room, complete with a bed, table, chairs, and books. Sitting in the room is Negan who decides to tell Daryl how his relationship with Dwight came about. It seems that Dwight, his wife, and his sister-in-law Tina used to work for points but with Tina needing medication due to her condition they kept falling behind. So being the stand-up-guy that he is, Negan offered to marry Tina and take care of her. She told him she’d think about it. Dwight then stole the medication and took off with Tina and Sherry, but Tina was killed by a walker. Negan had to send his people to hunt them down, however Dwight and Sherry still managed to get away. They eventually returned to The Sanctuary after discovering they had nowhere else to go. Negan liked the fact Dwight came back begging to be forgiven and begging for him to spare Sherry’s life. Sherry offered to marry Negan if he spared Dwight, so Negan took Sherry for his bride and decided to spare Dwight but punished him by putting a hot iron to the side of his face.
Enjoying seeing Dwight squirm as he tells the story to Daryl, Negan points out that now Dwight is one of his main men and that they are “totally cool.” Negan tells Daryl that he can do the same and be his main man if he just answers one simple question, “Who are you?” After a very long pause Daryl looks at Negan through the hair in his eyes and answers, “Daryl.” Not happy, Negan has Dwight take Daryl back to his cell and after Dwight tosses him in, Daryl tells Dwight he understands now why he stole from him and did everything he did when they were in the woods. Daryl recognizes everything Dwight’s done has been for someone else and confesses that’s why he can’t bend a knee, meaning he will not give in and serve Negan.
As the episode ends, Dwight is outside looking at the pen where they keep the walkers and sees Gordon, now a zombie added to the pen and stumbling around which seems to bother Dwight.
The Walking Dead Season 7 Episode 3 Review:
Slow and tedious, episode three of season seven titled “The Cell” seems to work extremely hard at trying to get the audience to empathize and feel sorry for Dwight who honestly has never been a sympathetic, let alone likeable, character. The episode spent considerable time explaining the history of the relationship between Negan, Dwight, and Sherry, but the backstory felt flat and ultimately uninteresting.
The continuous scenes early in the episode where the show was on a loop of Dwight giving Daryl the dog food sandwich and blasting the annoying music over and over to try to break Daryl weren’t powerful or disturbing as they were meant to be but instead were just monotonous and annoying. Also, even when Austin Amelio tries to convey Dwight possibly struggling with what little humanity he might still have in him after some of his despicable actions, it barely comes across which doesn’t help in making his character someone the audience should care about.
The stand-out performance in this episode goes to Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan. It’s his dynamic and intimidating performance as the sadistic leader that keeps the episode from becoming painfully boring and injects it with energy and fear. The two scenes with Morgan as Negan talking to Reedus as Daryl trying to convince him to become his new right-hand man are the absolute best scenes in the episode and truly show why so many others would – and have – joined his team if only to stop the never-ending torture.
With Daryl’s fate not looking good and Negan about to pay a visit to Rick and the gang, the next episode should be extremely tense and possibly bloody. C’mon Rick and what’s left of his ragtag group of survivors…save Daryl!