Daryl is in trouble! After more or less being responsible for the death of Glenn in the season premiere, he was bundled off in Negan’s van and taken back to the Savior’s compound. Since then he’s been getting tortured with horribly catchy and upbeat pop earworms. Negan is more evil than we first thought.
The episode opens with an awesome montage of life at The Sancutary, all set to the sound of The Jam’s ‘Town Called Malice’. We see the basic day-to-day workings of the place, see a brief show of the violence between the Saviors, and see what happens to anyone who disagrees with Negan. Taking us on this tour is Dwight, perhaps everyone’s least favourite character from last season. The music contrasted with something like Dwight making himself a bomb-ass sandwich feels very Lost-like in the best way. It felt reminiscent of when we saw Desmond going through the motions of his life in the hatch to the sounds of Mama Cass. The lyrics were also extremely relevant to the new world order Rick and Co find themselves in (Better stop dreaming of the quiet life / Cause it’s the one we’ll never know / And quit running for that runaway bus / Cause those rosy days are few…) In fact it is more or less the new rules Negan laid out for them in the premiere. Some might say this sort of thing is too on the nose, but I loved it. It was a surprising and confident way to start this episode.
As well as irritatingly catchy songs ALL day and night to keep you from sleeping, Daryl is humiliated and tortured further by being butt naked and having to grovel for dog food sandwiches to stay alive. At first it’s tough to see him like this, after all Rick has already been broken, we need Daryl. But it soon becomes apparent that Daryl is made of even stronger stuff. Even with Lucille inches from his face he won’t break. Even with the promise of all the things that The Sanctuary has to offer (no doubt including a trip to Negan’s “Pussy Bar”) he refuses to bow to Negan. This is what we need right now, even in the face of the worst evil the group has come up against in this world, Daryl stays tough. The only excpetion is when no one is looking he cries in his cell. But they also stuck up a picture of Glenn’s smushed head, so we can’t really blame him for that.
The other character with a lot of screen time in this episode is Dwight. Like I said earlier, he was far from people’s favourite character. But after this episode I wouldn’t be surprised if most of the fans are warming to him. He’s horrible and bows to Negan but you 100% can see why, from his point of view, this was the best idea. The scene with him and the ex-savior on the road is really well done and heart-breaking (with excellent music). Dwight doesn’t have a choice. He says to his (ex-)wife Sherrie “We did the right thing. It’s a helluva lot better than being dead.” You almost believe it too. Almost.
After a disappearance last week, we get more Negan! JDM is just killing it as Negan right now. Somehow being the most despicable human-being you’ve ever seen and being hilarious. To Negan people are things to be used, either to be broken like Dwight or taken for himself like Sherry. This episode only paints a picture of the low depths of Negan’s morality, with mentions of ‘the iron’ used on Dwight, or his harem of wives that he keeps in his quarters. I have no doubt that we’ll get to see more of Negan’s depravity as the series goes on. We also got a glimpse of how Negan runs his camp, with his Savior’s bowing to him when he walks past. This is a nice contrast to how we saw Ezekiel run things last week. Unlike Ezekiel, Negan leads through fear and makes them worship him. Ezekiel might go by the title of ‘King’ but he’s reluctant and does it in the best interest of his people. It’s also an act, Negan seems evil to the core.
‘The Cell’ feels like part two of the story from last week. We saw how Ezekiel runs The Kingdom, and it’s juxtaposed with how Negan runs The Sanctuary. Like last week, it might throw off some fans who expect more of the gruesome zombie action. But at the end of the day this is a drama about humans, no matter what people might say. And at the moment it’s as interesting and as gripping as ever.
Next week, Rick’s back!
Reviewed by Jack