Spoiler alert! The following contains spoilers for the The Walking Dead Season 7 Episode 3, "The Cell." To read our recap of Episode 2, click here.
“There’s nothing left.”
That’s what the poor, escaped Savior tells Dwight just before Dwight shoots him in the back. He meant there was nothing left in Negan’s compound for his followers, but he could be talking about The Walking Dead itself. There’s nothing left for this show in this world, nothing except disgust and despair.
After a season premiere that received criticism for its intense and almost pornographic violence, The Walking Dead spent its third episode physically and psychologically torturing yet another of its best and most beloved characters. And why did they do it? Because they had nothing else to do to push this tired and pointless Negan storyline along.
The show has a problem this season, and its name is Negan. The violence is just aresult of a poorly-conceived character driving the entire show. Here’s the thing: Negan is not an effective villain. The show spent half a season building him up, had him kill two major characters and put a big-name actor behind him. But still, he generates neither fear nor loathing nor awe. There’s not enough backstory to make him fully-fleshed out and too much to make him mysterious. He’s just boring, and the show is trying to make up for it by pushing the boundaries of what he does. But just because the characters around Negan say he is scary and horrible and menacing, doesn’t make him that way. The Walking Dead has always been one of the most graphically and relentlessly violent shows on television, but it has often done so with purpose, rather than laziness.
Until the show either finds a way to crack the Negan code or moves on from him entirely, every episodes is going to feel like work to get through. Death, torture and endless monologuing won’t help.
If any show currently airing was going to use the Who’s the Boss? theme music to sick and cruel effect, it would be The Walking Dead. Dwight has been kicking around the show since Season 5, when Daryl met him and his then-wife Sherry and her sister in the woods during the whole leading-the-massive-group-of-walkers-away-from-Alexandria disaster. Since then, he’s evolved from a man trying to escape Negan’s clutches, to one doing Negan’s bidding. And while he’s certainly getting the perks of being the lapdog of a psychopath (free mustard and pickles, for one), he’s not so excited to be on Team Man Who Always Carries a Barbed-Wire Bat.
Even before the show reveals just how reluctant of a convert Dwight is, it’s easy to see the cracks in his loyalty. He’s weird and awkward around Negan. He offers to do “grunt work,” instead of reveling in the spoils of Negan’s empire. He tortures Daryl (oh, we’ll get to him below), but in a pained, almost sympathetic kind of way. The words of the fleeing man affect him just a little too much.
So if he doesn’t actually want to be a Savior, why is he one? Well, as our monologuing villain tells Daryl (seriously, though, Negan needs to stop with the grandiose speeches), after the Great Escape, Dwight’s wife Sherry married Negan in order to save them from execution (and there was a whole lovely monologue about Negan wanting to marry her sister, where he says “super hot” a lot, because, you know, he’s evil). Now, Sherry’s wearing heels and sundresses and pregnant with Negan’s baby and Dwight is chasing down defectors and eating egg sandwiches and looking generally depressed. Yay?
This armistice between Dwight and Negan doesn’t look like it can last. Which is only good news for Daryl. And Daryl really needs some good news.
His name isn’t Reek yet
Were you upset by seeing Glenn’s eye pop out of his head while he told Maggie he loved her? Then you’ll surely love 43 minutes of naked Daryl being fed dog food and beaten and tormented with peppy children’s music!
Here are the following things we got out of the torture sequences: Negan is trying to break Daryl, Negan is mean and evil, Daryl is resilient and brave and strong and Negan is mean and evil. Hey, those are all thing we already knew! Negan’s desire to “break” his prisoners was demonstrated in the torment of Rick during the premiere, Daryl has proven his loyalty and fortitude over and over again during the series and we’ve been told and told that Negan is the worst. The torture scenes didn’t actually accomplish anything except prolong the episode and disgust the audience. What a great use of an episode.
Stuck in his hole with only vague whispers from Sherry to comfort him, Daryl is neither going to be able to escape nor help take down Negan unless something changes. That means we’re going to have to rely on the rest of our survivors to get themselves out of this situation. When the show goes back to Alexandria next week, we’ll see how broken Rick and the rest are after Glenn and Abraham’s deaths.
Hey, at least they aren’t eating dog food.
You can scroll through more photos from this season below.