The Walking Dead: The Cell
I believe we have hit a new low here when it comes to padding out The Walking Dead. The first twenty minutes of “The Cell” dealt with the making of sandwiches. This was done in order to draw a comparison between fan favorite Daryl Dixon (who was probably eating dog food sandwiches before the apocalypse) and his captor, Dwight. But the sandwich making went on so long I found myself wondering “where the hell are they were getting all this bread?”
I know Negan is collecting resources from other communities so the Saviors are living on “easy street”, but is someone out there actually milling grain and making bread so Dwight can eat egg sandwiches? Trivial question, sure, but the mind tends to wander when half the episode is devoted to something I can watch at my local Subway. And those guys are sandwiches artists.
This is ostensibly a Daryl episode. The audience witnesses how Dwight (at Negan’s behest) tries to break the younger Dixon’s spirit by locking him in a dark room with no clothes (eventually he is given a dehumanizing sack to wear) and by playing the same song over and over again. The repetition is an effective tool for torture, but subjecting the audience to the same repetition makes for less than stellar entertainment. Unlike Daryl, my remote control is nearby and with a single click I can end the madness.
As the episode unfolds, it is revealed that Negan wants to convert Daryl into one of his lackeys. Does this make sense considering Negan expressly took Daryl as a hostage in order to have some leverage over Rick? Not really. But it’s Bad Guy 101, so of course that’s what Negan is going to do. Daryl falls into the most obvious trap in the world when his door is mistakenly left open. He is even warned by Dwight’s would-be-wife Sherry that he won’t get away, but Daryl takes the bait anyway.
Not surprisingly, Daryl was being led into an ambush. Negan and some cronies were waiting for him to walk out into the open. Once he did, Daryl was given a choice. It’s your basic “join us or die” scenario. Raise your hand if you thought Daryl would break. No one? Didn’t think so. Now raise your hand if you thought Negan would actually kill the most popular character on the show in the third episode of the season. Nope. What was supposed to be a tense scene was completely drained of suspense because the audience could be completely confident of the outcome. Daryl is untouchable and Negan had to find inventive reasons to not kill him.
But the episode was really more about Dwight. Last week, The Walking Dead introduced King Ezekiel and then immediately revealed his backstory. Dwight was a minor character in seasons past, but from the beginning the audience was aware that he wasn’t fully on board with Negan’s plans. Like with Ezekiel, this is a departure from the comic books where the reveal was held until it could be employed to greater effect. But I guess if we’re going to spend hours with these characters instead of panels, the show needs to fully define these characters up front.
Dwight has been through a similar process to what Daryl is going through. In case you missed the parallels, the writers drive the point home by having Dwight wear Daryl’s clothes, ride his motorcycle and carry his crossbow with him wherever he goes. Seriously, I think Dwight takes that crossbow with him when he takes a dump. Unlike Daryl, Dwight buckled under the pressure Negan applied. Negan both fills time and points out the obvious when he repeatedly puts Dwight in his place and explains their entire history to Daryl.
There’s a subplot in which Dwight deals with a friend who attempts to desert the Saviors. The friend is treated harshly and ends up becoming one of Negan’s pet walkers. The numerous shots of Dwight staring at zombies on pikes tells you he is not a happy camper. I wonder if that will be significant at some point in the future…