Editor’s note: this review of AMC’s The Walking Dead will contain some spoilers. I will try to keep them to a minimum, but they’re be there nonetheless. You’ve been warned.
For the third episode of The Walking Dead‘s seventh season, we’re once again stepping away from the main group to spend some time with Daryl, who is being held by Negan’s henchman Dwight. This is nice, because I’m sick of Rick’s misery porn parade. Not that Daryl was terribly comfortable, but more on that in a bit.
Actually, let me get this out of the way straight off: that “Easy Street” song? Kind of catchy. That’s not exactly my kind of music, but it was fun. That bread also looked pretty good, at least before they put the dog food on it.
But, yeah, Daryl is in a rough spot. They have him locked in a tiny closet, naked and in the dark, blasting the same (catchy) song over and over again. He’s fed one dog food sandwich a day, and not really allowed to sleep.
I’m not going to spend too much time rehashing the plot, because “The Cell” was really light on plotting. This was an episode that establishes what it’s like to live under Negan’s rule, and it worked quite well in that respect. The only problem? Negan. Negan is the big weak point of this Negan arc. He’s not scary, at all. I just find him irritating and tiresome. What is a lot more effective is seeing how his people act. Their frightening deference to him makes an impression. Him walking around, talking to a bat is just stupid.
That said, both of the episode’s high points revolved around Negan. Both when Daryl is (predictibly) caught trying to escape, and when Dwight brings him to Negan for what they hope is a final breakdown worked really well. It established what Negan is supposed to be, at least when the character wasn’t undoing all the tension.
We also spent a lot of time with Dwight, one of the more interesting characters from last season. You may remember him as the guy who tried to escape with two women. In “The Cell”, we find out how he was brought back into the fold, and it’s a stomach-churning story.
Dwight is a bad guy you can actually sympathize with. He’s interesting. He has depth. He’s someone who probably would be a good man if circumstances would allow it, but he’s just doing what he needs to do to survive. Unfortunately, Negan is probably going to totally overshadow him this season.
The episode’s climax is pretty great. Daryl is beaten down and put in a position where he should choose to break, but he doesn’t. What this means for him is tough to say, although we can reasonably assume that it means nothing good.
All things being equal, this was a pretty strong episode of The Walking Dead, which is a pleasant surprise considering how poorly the season started. I really like this separate, self-contained stories that flesh out the universe and deepen the stakes. Unfortunately, we can only count on a couple of them before we have to get back to the main plot.