The Walking Dead: 703 “The Cell” Review
Reviewed by John Hussey.
After a somewhat filler episode last week that focused on introducing new characters and elements to this increasingly bigger world, “The Cell” moved the focus back onto the aftermath of Negan’s introduction to Rick’s group.
I’ll be honest and say that my love for Daryl has wavered over the years because of his internal progression, which I’ve enjoyed but I felt the badass we had come to love and respect had become too trusting, and because of this started to make grave errors. Most notably occurring in Season Six when he allowed Dwight to steal his infamous crossbow, followed by his irrationality towards the end of that season which ultimately got him caught by The Saviors.
On top of this it was Daryl’s fault that Glen died because of his outburst to Abraham’s death. But, if you want to get more technical, it was Daryl’s fault that Glen was even captured in the first place! Had Daryl not have let his emotions get the better of him and gone out searching for Dwight, then Glen, Michonne and Rosita wouldn’t have followed him and also got caught, thereby preventing Glen’s death permanently. So it’s fair to say that Daryl has double the amount of reasons to feel guilty about Glen’s death (and so he should).
“The Cell” centered around Daryl’s capture, following on from the end of the season premier, and shows his struggle as Negan attempts to torture him into submission. What I loved most about this episode was how it painted Negan’s world and how he enforces his will. It’s all very psychological. What cements his strength is how unpredictable he feels in every scene he is in. You have no idea whether Negan is going to loose his s**t or whether he is going to be calm and offer you a fair deal. But even the fair deal is based around this psychological game of him taking hold of you, potentially making you lose who you are and making you his property to do with as he pleases.
It’s fair to say that Season Seven is going for a rather grim tone, purposely showing us that our beloved characters haven’t got much of a shot at seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. At the moment Negan is in charge whether we, or they, like it or not. And this paints a really interesting scenario, one we haven’t seen before in the show. Looking back at the start of the series, and coming back to the present you can clearly see how it has shaped and evolved into something completely different (in a good way).
I love how The Walking Dead has truly grown and adapted to tell the best possible story and this seemed like the next logical step. Instead of the group facing yet another foe that appears defeatable from the start, they have a villain that has a system, has numbers and has characteristics that are simply there to make you afraid because they are unpredictable and totally inhuman. Then you have a real battle for survival, one that hasn’t got an obvious escape plan and one that will take everything the group has to take back their freedom.
Daryl was certainly tested by this new, twisted reality and was slowly brought to the understanding that Negan is the law, and there is no Option 4. You either die to become security, serve Negan as a groveling slave wishing for death, or become like him, losing all of your identity and humanity for the sake of staying on Negan’s good side. It was horrible seeing Daryl reduced to the conditions we saw him in, which started off with him stripped naked whilst locked in a darkened cell. On top of the repeated montage of seeing him fed dog food in bread he had to endure the torture of hearing the same song over and over again.
If there was a Hell in this universe, The Sanctuary is definitely it. Throughout the episode you could see Daryl struggling to remain optimistic, trying his best to overcome the frightening odds in order to escape but it quickly became apparent there was no hope for him. Negan on multiple occasions tried breaking him to his will, but you have to give Daryl due credit for staying strong and denying the psychopath his satisfaction. Though towards the end I wasn’t entirely sure that Daryl was going to survive this ordeal, ultimately breaking down and giving in (which you could hardly blame him for).
The nail in the coffin was Dwight torturing him by giving him a picture of Glen after he had been beaten to death and then playing music to really re-emphasise the fact that it was his fault he died, and that Maggie was now a widow and that their child could grow up without a father. To see Daryl break down in tears was a true indication that this hellish, never-ending nightmare was too much for him to handle and despair had just about taken over.
An interesting side-story, which gave more great insight into the twisted world of Negan, was that of Dwight. I really needed this information as it had been bothering me ever since he returned as to why he had suddenly changed and become this monster. This wasn’t the man that stole Daryl’s crossbow and bike but that of a heartless thing that had been corrupted. I gathered something had happened in the meantime and that very event changed everything. It made you understand him a little more, though you still have to question him despite your understanding as to why he made his regrettable decisions.
Having decided to return to The Sanctuary to ask for forgiveness from Negan everything fell apart. Negan wanted to kill him as punishment for stealing from him, and getting his potential fiancée killed. His life was spared after a deal was made that Dwight’s wife, Sherry, would become Negan’s whilst Dwight was ‘rehabilitated’ after receiving an iron to the face. After this Dwight was bent out of shape and turned into the man we see today. It’s an interesting story when you clearly see that the reasons behind his loyalty are meaningless and Dwight is aware of this.
Sherry too is aware of this but they both follow Negan because they have been made to think that way. I also like the idea that Sherry is caught in the middle of the psychological conflict as she tries helping Daryl understand the system to spare him from further pain, but also has lost faith in her ex-husband because of what he’s become. As they declared in their first appearance they haven’t killed anyone because there would be no turning back, meaning you would inevitably lose yourself. And yet Dwight has now become the very thing that they didn’t want to become all for a man that blatantly abusing them for his own personal pleasure.
The scene in which has Negan attempting to convert Daryl whilst humiliating Dwight just shows how twisted Negan can be and how much control he has over his people. They follow him blindly because they are afraid. Despite Dwight being told by escapee Gordon that Negan is but one man (and that they could overthrow him if they simply worked together) desperately showcases the impact his fierce power has on the people of The Sanctuary, making him even more deadly. But Dwight takes it all without any retaliation as he desperately tries to convince Daryl that resistance is useless and it will only bring him more pain.
It was great to see more of Negan, his world, his methods of controlling his people, and of course the ramifications of that threat upon those inside The Sanctuary, including Daryl, Dwight and Sherry. I do feel though that despite its strong, and important opening that Season Seven has started to feel rather steady in its pace, delivering episodes that are merely there to feed us information that will become important later on, such as the introduction of King Ezekiel, The Kingdom, Daryl’s kidnapping and Dwight’s development.
Though this week did seem more progressive, it was still rather slow and I am looking forward to next week a lot because the focus will finally go back on Rick and really showcase the aftermath of the premier and the damage Negan has done to Rick’s leadership and the overall morale of his group (something we’ve been deprived of long enough).