Full spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 7 Episode 3 (The Cell) follow.
Like Daryl Dixon, The Walking Dead fans who were hoping to see the Rick, Maggie, or most anyone else from Alexandria on Sunday night were trapped in a cell.
The Walking Dead's failure to balance multiple groups' storylines week to week and revealing them on a per episode basis proves frustrating. After paying off one of the largest moments in scripted television's history, the show has chosen not to show the lasting effects on the main characters for two weeks in a row. Instead, the AMC series followed Negan home to his Sanctuary for the first glimpse at how the Saviors live with an overall great episode but at time where we are hungry for something else.
For a show appeared to have been rebuilt around making Negan the centerpiece, The Cell episode of The Walking Dead did a surprisingly delightful job of making Austin Amelio's Dwight the star of the show.
Dwight became one of the show's most interesting characters as his struggles, both internal and external, consumed him. As Negan's world was explored from the burnt-faced cohort's perspective, we learned what makes the Saviors tick. A touch of Negan's rules, such as his no-rape policy comic book fans are familiar with, were unveiled but there is clearly a lot of uncharted territory with the new villain. However, his domination of Dwight prompted sympathy for the man who killed Denise late in Season 6.
Throughout The Cell, one thing is clear: Dwight wants to be Daryl. Daryl, though constantly dealing with insecurities himself, has always been strong enough to stand up for those he cares about on an endless basis. So much was evident when Daryl refused to let Negan torment Rosita with Abraham's blood and he was the only Alexandrian with the loins to pop Negan. Dwight, on the other hand, surrended his own wife to Negan and allowed the menace to burn his face with an iron to show his loyalty to the Saviors.
Still, Dwight reiterated points to Daryl throughout the episode which seemed to be more messages to himself than anything else. The same can be said for the moments he spent with Negan's escaped prisoner out on the road. It all culminated with Dwight telling Sherry, "We did the right thing." He is constantly looking for reassurance over his cowardice in returning to Negan.
Relentlessly, Negan pounds Dwight with reminders of his submission. Not only did he tease Dwight with the opportunity of sleeping with his own wife but he told the entire story of Dwight's submission to Daryl. Dwight, clearly humbled by the situation, wants to see Daryl transform into a Savior because he wants to know that even the strongest of Negan's enemies can be flipped.
The conflict prompted an impressive amount of sympathy for Dwight which audiences realzied when the character looked death in the face out on the open road. After a zombie fell onto him and had a chance to bite Dwight's life away, the audience was rooting for the man wearing Daryl's vest even after everything he has done to our survivors. It's proof that Dwight is already the most complex character on the series and Austin Amelio is doing a brilliant job of displaying his conflicts.
When Negan did take the screen on Sunday night, he certainly stole it. Jeffrey Dean Morgan continues to command the lead role in every scene which he is a part of. Long, colorful, and subtly insulting monologues definie the character as he labels people "fat Joey" as though it were commonplay to talk so derogatively.
Sunday night was an entirely different story for Daryl. The only one of good guys who was seen in The Cell was harrassed and jailed by the Saviors. He was fed dog food and treated like an animal being trained under the Pavlov theory with music queuing his expectation for food. Physical abuse was hardly the focus though it did come in the form of a severe beatdown. Dwight pinning a photo of Glenn's bashed skull and playing music which drew out Daryl's tears seem to only be the beginning of Daryl's mental breaking down by the Saviors. It wasn't enough tonight, though, as Daryl refused to take Negan's name.
The Cell looked like it was building to something but turned out to simply be an episode focused on skimming Negan's world and Daryl's mental state while heavily exploiting Dwight's struggles. Seeds were planted for several storylines with Dwight but Daryl is in the dark place we would have expected and little new happened with Negan.0comments
All in all, The Cell had an underwhelming finish as Dwight tortured himself by looking at the man he shot out on the street becoming an undead protector of the Sanctuary. While the show has passed on Rick's group two weeks in a row, it has managed to build two characters to impressive new heights in that time. Last week, Ezekiel became a fan favorite character with an enthralling arc being revealed by the episode's close and now Dwight has climbed the ranks in terms of importance and storytelling.
Next week, we return to Alexandira with hopes of Shiva arriving to tear up Negan but will instead see the how the group is handling their recent losses with little time to prepare for Negan's first visit. While it may be frustrating to go three weeks without Rick Grimes, the complexity of The Walking Dead has grown in his absence.