The third episode in the seventh season of The Walking Dead depicts Daryl’s current situation following the fallout of the brutal deaths of Glenn and Abraham in the opening episode. Taken by Negan to an unknown location, Daryl is confined to a cell without light, clothes, or water, and subjected to daily food rations of dog food sandwiches. Tortured daily by monotonous music, and visits from Dwight, Daryl is forced to come to terms with what his actions have resulted in, and where he goes from here.
Following a brief respite in episode two “The Well”, it’s back to the business of misery for The Walking Dead. Though nowhere near as grisly as the first episode, “The Cell” is much darker than its predecessor as we watch the methodical torment of one of our most beloved characters. Norman Reedus provides a solid performance during a rare time where Daryl has become an isolated and vulnerable character, and just goes to show what we’ve missed out on in previous seasons. As popular a character as he is, since the group reunited after Terminus, after he lost both Merle and Beth, Daryl has really had little to do. Fleeting moments with Carol, and being the groups muscle aside, the ever present character hasn’t had the opportunity to truly shine like he has in earlier seasons, until now.
Following a very similar path to episode one, which thoroughly detailed the subjugation of Rick, episode three shows us Negan and Dwight trying to do the same thing to Daryl. Unfortunately for them, and possibly disastrous for Daryl, he doesn’t buckle. During a pensive moment at the end of the episode he details why, as he acknowledges the reasons Dwight is where he is now. He won’t bow to Negan because he has nobody to do it for. It’s sad stuff, but not quite true when the leader of the saviours could just systematically butcher any one of the group in front of him. Either way it sets up an interesting dynamic for what is to come, where Rick gave in, Daryl has defied, so there must be consequences. However this episode is not just about Daryl Dixon and his predicament, it is also about Dwight and his role at the Sanctuary.
Austin Amelio is given a chance to flex his acting skills as Dwight becomes a three dimensional character with a distressing path to where he is now. Following a failed attempt at escape, Dwight has sacrificed his marriage loosing his wife to Negan in an effort to keep them both safe, whilst also meeting the hot end of an iron up close. Whether it’s in passing conversation with his ex-wife, imploring Daryl to help himself, or carrying out Negan’s tasks, Dwight shows his humanity. It offers a glimpse of what Daryl could become if he allows himself to give in to Negan. Overall “The Cell” is solid episode full of character study and development that lays down groundwork for what will be an intriguing dynamic for the rest of the season. It’s only taken three episodes but we are finally back on the path to the dramatic story telling, and great character work that made seasons three to five so compelling.