It seems Rick and co need a good long rest to recover from the events of The Walking Dead premiere (opens in new tab) because once again, they’re nowhere to be seen in episode 3, The Cell. Instead we travel into Negan’s world, find out a bit more about the Saviors’ homebase, and catch up with Daryl who’s in a cell. Admittedly, these are things we want to see, but the episode suffers from its one-plot narrative and the lack of any discernible ending.
The start of the episode is like some ‘50s nightmare as the painfully chipper Easy Street by The Collapsable Hearts Club is blasted out. It turns out the Saviors are using it to stop Daryl from sleeping and if you’re anything like me, you’ll want to claw your own face off 15 minutes into the episode. Locked in a cell, naked, and living off dog food sandwiches, Daryl is looking rough. Negan wants him on his team and he’s willing to do anything to make that happen, so he’s put Dwight in charge of breaking him. This is both a good and bad thing. Both Daryl and Dwight are great characters and the latter really gets a chance to shine here, but their dynamic isn’t enough to carry the whole episode.
As Dwight tries to wrangle Daryl into submission, we get a look at what life is like in the Saviors’ ‘home’. As you probably saw in the trailer, everyone kneels as Negan passes and while we’re obviously supposed to be disgusted by his arrogance, it isn’t that different to everyone in the Kingdom calling Ezekiel King. People just want someone to believe in. Despite this, it quickly becomes clear that while Negan’s followers might be doing ok for themselves (compared to the people they’re torturing and murdering at least), the majority of them are less than happy with their situation.
We’re reintroduced to Sherry - that’s Dwight’s wife who stole Daryl’s bike and returned to the Saviors with him in season 6 - and it seems she’s regretting her decision to go back. Turns out, in order for them to be welcomed back with open arms, Sherry had to ‘divorce’ Dwight and ‘marry’ Negan (as well as Dwight’s face getting ironed) and now they’re trying to have a baby. Aww, sweet. She makes a point of telling Daryl on more than one occasion to just do whatever Negan asks, and that no matter how bad it is, it can always get worse. Something tells me Negan isn’t the most loving of husbands.
This is a message that’s reiterated by another Savior who makes a run for it. Dwight goes to bring him back and the two end up discussing Negan’s new world order leading us to ask, what’s so bad that this Savior, who’s already been through hell and back, would rather his former friend shoot him in the face than live under Negan? We know Negan’s a bad guy, we’ve seen it, but everyone keeps telling us that it gets worse. The problem is, no one is actually saying how. The Walking Dead might have got away with mere hints in this episode, but if the show doesn’t get specific soon, it’s going to get annoying.
Back to Daryl’s daily torture and despite the song from hell being played on repeat, he’s still defiant. An obvious trap is set for Daryl to prove he’s on team Negan and when he tries to escape, the big bad himself steps out to confront him. He’s obviously impressed by Daryl’s resilience in a way that will make fans feel all warm on fuzzy on the inside, but he also makes it clear that he’s not going home. One way or another, Daryl is a Savoir now. If, like me, you were wondering why someone took a picture of what was left of Glenn at the end of episode 1, it was so Dwight could pin it to the wall of Daryl’s cell to torture him with and that’s where we leave him. At least they changed the song though.
The problem with this episode is that nothing’s really changed by the end. Daryl is still the Saviors’ prisoner and while he’s closer to giving in, they’ve not broken him. It’s a typical middling Walking Dead episode where nothing much happens. The fact that we find out more about the Saviors’ way of life saves it from being terrible, but it’s still lacking for something. The first episode of season 7 was all about Rick and the gang, the second was about King Ezekiel and the Kingdom, the third is about Negan and the Savoirs… if the fourth episode follows this pattern as it just about Hilltop, I’m out! We can handle more than one story per episode AMC, come on!