Will someone please send Scott Gimple and Robert Kirkman copies of Game of Thrones? Because they really need some lessons in how to tell multiple stories at once. This has never been more obvious than with this week’s episode of The Walking Dead, “The Cell.”
This episode opens on an upbeat song, “Town Called Malice” as Dwight, one of the Saviors, goes around town, or The Sanctuary, helping himself to basically anything he wants. Skipping the line to snag a whole loaf of fresh bread. Pilfering someone’s jar of mustard and someone else’s pickles. Taking lettuce and tomatoes and eggs. Dwight does what he wants and no one stops him. Although he doesn’t hesitate to kneel with the rest when Negan walks by. The song ends as Dwight’s picture perfect day ends with a reminder that the Sanctuary is, like everywhere else, surrounded by the dead.
And then Dwight smears dog food on some bread and brings it to Daryl, naked and locked up in a cell. A different up tempo song begins. “Easy Street” by a little-known group called Collapsable Hearts Club. Daryl eats the sandwich and Dwight leaves. He repeats the ritual once or twice as Daryl’s situation seems to become more desperate, partly due to the song being piped in at full volume.
Finally, Dwight brings Daryl some clothes. Sweats painted with a giant orange A.
He makes Daryl see Dr. Carson. Oh, and he’s still strutting around with Daryl’s crossbow. When they go into the office, a woman named Sherry is finishing up. Daryl met Sherry in the Burned Forest last year with Dwight and it’s clear that Sherry and Dwight’s relationship is a lot different now. Sherry tells Dwight she took a pregnancy test and it was negative. She tries to talk to Daryl but Dwight stops her. As she’s leaving, though, she tells him, “Whatever they say, just do it.”
Oh, but Daryl is here to see the doctor too, who checks out his shoulder that apparently wasn’t super injured at the end of last season and the doctor assures Daryl that Negan will take care of him. Because that’s all anyone wants, right?
As they head back to Daryl’s cell, Negan comes by. Dwight drags Daryl so that they both kneel when he approaches. Dwight puts Daryl in a chair. He sees some kind of apartment with amenities like a leather chair, microwave, books.
Outside, Dwight shows Daryl the walkers surrounding the compound, as well as some other prisoners with different letters on their sweatshirts. Dwight shoves Daryl against the fence and says, “That’s you, unless you’re smart. You can be like them or me. Or them.”
They get back to Daryl’s cell and Dwight says, “Make it easy on yourself” but Daryl says, “I ain’t never gonna kneel.” The door closes, the lock clicks, and “Easy Street” starts again. Daryl tries kicking the door.
Negan and Dwight talk about Daryl. Dwight says Daryl is close to breaking. Then they talk about Sherry not being pregnant and this leads to the most awkward conversation that has ever happened on The Walking Dead when Negan taunts Dwight about erectile dysfunction. He offers Dwight time with Sherry but Dwight turns him down because he hasn’t finished his job and earned it yet.
Dwight says he’s going to go do some other task. Negan says it’s grunt work and Fat Joey should go, but Dwight insists.
He takes Daryl’s motorcycle out of The Sanctuary. He comes upon an overpass with a pile of dead walkers under it.
Daryl’s door swings open and, presumably, Fat Joey gives Daryl a sandwich that may or may not contain dog food. They don’t speak. The music turns off and Joey closes the door again. Except that the lock doesn’t click this time. And then the music starts again. Trap?
Daryl opens the door and walks out into the deserted hallway. Some Saviors are out in the hallway, but he manages to hide from them.
Dwight goes through the splattered pile of walkers, who all seem to have fallen from the overpass. Their bodies are broken and mangled. A walker up above falls off and almost lands on Dwight, and then tries to eat him but he manages to shoot it.
Daryl is about to go through a door when Sherry grabs him and says, “Go back while you can.” She tells him there is always more they can do and that he won’t get away. “And when you’re back, it’ll be worse.”
Daryl, being Daryl, ignores her and goes out the door to where a bunch of motorcycles are waiting. He runs to one, but a bunch of Saviors come from everywhere to stop him. And Negan appears because of course he does. He says, “Are we pissing our pants yet?” Has he not been watching the last six seasons? This doesn’t scare Daryl, come on.
Negan points Lucille at a Savior and says, “Who are you?” He answers, “Negan.” He points at another. “Negan.” He asks all of them. “Negan.” And Negan says, “I am everywhere.” He tells Daryl he has three choices: 1) You wind up on the spike and work for me as a dead man. 2) You get out of your cell, work for points, but wish you were dead. 3) You get out of your cell, get some new shoes, and live like a king. There is no door #4.
Daryl says nothing. Negan says, “Screw it” and raises Lucille, stopping just before he hits Daryl in the head. “Wow. You don’t scare easy.”
Negan walks away while the Saviors beat up Daryl.
Dwight’s motorcycle a bent rim and can’t be ridden. He drops it when he sees a man up ahead being attacked by a walker. Dwight shoots the walker and rescues the man.
Sherry is outside Daryl’s cell. She talks about when they ran into him in the woods and Sherry says, “You told me I was gonna be sorry and I am.”
Dwight has a gun on the man he saved. He tries to talk but Dwight keeps telling him to shut up. “After everything he did to you and your wife…” Dwight says she’s not his wife anymore and that everything is Negan’s.
And then the man asks Dwight to kill him because he can’t go back. “A thug swoops in with a baseball bat and a smile and we’re so scared we gave up everything.” He talks some more about his wife Maria. Then he gets down on his knees while Dwight screams at him to get up. He starts making threats against everyone the man ever talked to. Threatens to dig up his dead wife and feed her to the crows.
Finally, he gets up and tells Dwight, “You won, but you know there’s nothing left.” And he starts to walk again and then Dwight shoots him.
Dwight gets back. He finds Sherry on the stairs, smoking. Good thing that test was negative. He bums a cigarette and then asks if Negan is good to her. She says yes. She asks if he’s happy and he says yes. And he says he did the right thing because this life is better than being dead. She agrees.
Daryl is still subjected to the musical stylings of Collapsable Hearts Club. His cell door opens and Dwight offers him another sandwich, which he refuses. And Dwight says, “You got your friend killed and I got Tina killed. Don’t pretend you don’t know the score.” He tapes up a picture on Daryl’s wall. It’s hard to see, but appears to be what was left of Glenn.
A different song starts up this time. “Crying” by Roy Orbison. As Dwight waits in the hall, he hears Daryl start to sob.
The next day(?) because time doesn’t exist in a normal way in The Walking Dead, Dwight takes Daryl to the apartment he saw earlier. Negan is there waiting. He says the doctor will fix up Daryl, offers him water which is refused.
Negan explains his relationship with Dwight and his Super Hot Wife and her Super Hot Sister. He explains they were working for points but the sister fell behind and so Negan asked her to marry him, but she had to think about it. And then the three of them ran away, and Negan sent his guys after them. Dwight got away but eventually came back when he saw the light. He begged Negan not to kill Sherry. Sherry offered to marry Negan if he would spare Dwight. So Negan burned Dwight’s face, married Sherry, and now they’re cool.
Negan tells Daryl, “I think you’re ready to be that guy.” He offers him the apartment. “All you gotta do is answer one simple question. Who are you?” Daryl doesn’t say anything. Negan taunts him and repeats the question. Daryl looks up at him and says, “Daryl.”
Back in his cell, Dwight says, “You’re gonna wind up in that room or hanging on the fence.”
Daryl says he gets that Dwight did it because he was thinking about someone else. “That’s why I can’t.”
Outside, Dwight drinks a beer and throws the empty bottle. He sees two guys chaining up his friend to the fence. The man is now a walker.