walking-dead

Who are you? That’s the question at the core of this week’s episode of The Walking Dead, as we find out what happened to Daryl when he was abducted by Negan from the killing field that claimed the life of his friends.

The grim situation has Daryl locked in a dark room, with music constantly playing and dog food sandwiches served as his lone sustenance. It’s a psychological ploy to break his will and get him to enlist on Negan’s team. Assigned the duty: Dwight, the scruffy, scar-faced hoodlum who stole Daryl’s motorcycle and later led an assault team that killed Dr. Denise.

Daryl holds up admirably under the circumstances, but almost as intriguing is the backstory we learn about Dwight, his main jailer. It’s no paradise in Negan’s home base, the Sanctuary, and even his loyalists sometimes have their doubts about the dear leader.

One thing’s for sure – Negan sure does love to talk. The episodes are beginning to bog down from his constant monologuing. Yes, we get that it’s all part of his psychological warfare. But it’s making viewers feel they’re the real prisoners.

This week’s recap:

*** We open with an examination of Dwight’s morning routine. He’s watching an old video of “Who’s the Boss?” on his TV; playing a table-top game of Nok-Hockey; and aggressively taking whatever food he wants from the compound’s supply to make the perfect sandwich. Of course, this paradise has its other side: you must kneel when Negan walks past, and there are walkers flailing on spikes visible on the perimeter, a reminder of the dangers awaiting in the real world and the hopelessness of trying to escape the Sanctuary.

*** Dwight is considered one of Negan’s “top guys,” but that exalted position comes at a price. Dwight, his wife and sister-in-law once tried to escape from Negan to find insulin for the diabetic sister. But once out in the countryside, they realized the futility of trying to exist on their own. They returned to Negan, who wanted to kill Dwight, but settled for burning his face after Dwight’s “super-hot wife” agreed to marry him. Dwight is now a compliant cuckold, hustling to do his master’s bidding.

*** Daryl has been tossed into a bare cell, where he spends most of his days in darkness. Dwight is his lone human contact, but it’s fleeting, just enough to be served a dog-food sandwich. They also play mind games with Daryl. They leave his cell door open so he can attempt an escape, only to be caught and returned after a long monolog from Negan and a beating by his lieutenants, who all vouch that “I am Negan” when asked “Who are you?” In the meantime, Negan’s wife, Sherry (the former Mrs. Dwight) keeps a sad vigil for Daryl, warning him that cooperation is the only path.

*** Although Dwight is a loyal lieutenant for Negan, he’s not totally forgotten the past. Sent after an escapee, he discovers it’s a former friend. The friend begs Dwight to kill him. There’s nothing for him back at Negan’s compound. But Dwight plays hard guy, telling him others will be made to suffer for his sins, even as the friend asks, “There’s only one of him and all of us – so why are we living like this?”  The question hangs in the air as the friend begins to comply. But the lone spark of humanity left in Dwight shoots him in the back as he walks toward the Sanctuary. It is a mercy killing, a strange twist for a man who has previously shown no mercy.

*** Finally, Daryl is brought before Negan. He has three choices – death and a destiny on a spike; working for points in various grueling tasks in return for food and protection; or becoming one of Negan’s top soldiers, in which case he gets his own apartment and added luxuries. “There is no door number four,” Negan warns. When asked the key question, “Who are you?”  Daryl is silent and sullen, then mutters, “Daryl.”  He’s made his choice.

*** When Dwight returns Daryl to the cell, he lets Daryl know what a big mistake he made. “I’ll never kneel,” says Daryl. “But I understand why you did – you had someone else to take care of.”  The mention of his situation stuns Dwight, who closes the door.

*** Walking outside, Dwight is clearly troubled. He looks out to the surrounding fence around the compound, and sees his former friend, the man he shot dead. He’s now turned into a walker, and has been returned to the compound’s perimeter as a guard dog. Even death was not an escape, and Dwight senses the hopelessness of the entire situation.

Next week: We return to Team Rick and the Alexandrians as they decide whether they fight or flee from Negan.

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