After some episodes focused on Rick, and then Morgan and Carol, it was time we caught up with Daryl in what was mostly a pretty effective episode of the show. Although, it didn’t really need an entire episode focused around Daryl’s storyline. It also worked because it fleshed out Negan’s character a bit more, and gave us a further look into what he was capable of in a way that shifts attention from The Kingdom to the Sanctuary.
The Walking Dead gets bonus points for opening with a killer song, The Jam’s Town Called Malice, as we get a montage of Dwight undergoing various activities that lead up to him eating a sandwich as though it isn’t the middle of the apocalypse. It’s not the only song we’ll get this episode with The Collapsible Hearts Club’s Easy Street (featuring Jim Bianco & Petra Haden) and Roy Orbinson’s Crying both featured. I liked the songs, but Crying was possibly the most obvious choice for them to go with here, not really demonstrating much in the way of subtly. But for all intents and purposes it worked, showing just how broken Daryl has become.
It turns out that Easy Street is being used as a torture device to Daryl who’s fed dog food and locked in a dark room. There’s a pregnancy scare when Dwight arrives to take Daryl to Carson and Sherry, who Dwight has encountered in the past whilst trying to escape the Saviors in the previous season. It’s Sherry who says that the pregnancy test is negative and is warned against talking to Daryl. He’s in pretty bad shape and it’s clear that things will only get better if he gives into Negan, who’s doing his best to break him.
Dwight is making progress with Daryl, so Negan offers him a reward as any woman in the Sanctuary as long as they have sex with him willingly. Negan remains insistent that despite all of his atrocities that he’s committed, rape will not be one of them, but that doesn’t stop him from humiliating him about his previous encounter with Sherry. Dwight ends up volunteering to capture a member of the Sanctuary who escaped with supplies, even though Negan thinks it’s a job too low for him.
Dwight takes Daryl’s bike and crossbow and chases after the escaped defector, eventually finding him battling a walker. Meanwhile, Daryl is using Dwight’s lack of presence as a means to escape and he gets out of the cell, but Sherry tries to warn her about the fact that Negan will only make things worse for him. Of course Daryl ignores this and escapes, finding a selection of motorcycles available for him, but is surrounded before he can go anywhere. It turns out that this was all a game and a trap to see if Daryl had truly been broken. Negan decides to offer Daryl three options, work as an underling, work like Dwight, which is a slightly better option, or end up as a walker guarding the Sanctuary from the outside.
Dwight ends up killing the defector and returns to Sherry, who’s happy that she and Dwight are treating them both well. Meanwhile Dwight once again reminds Daryl that he’s only alive because Negan likes him, explaining that Glenn’s death was his fault. Daryl ends up bursting into tears, and naturally, this is where the third song of the episode comes in, Roy Orbinson’s Crying. Again, a predictable yet effective choice.
Eventually, Daryl is brought to Negan and Negan decides that he wants Daryl to be like Dwight and offers him another choice, welcoming him in with open arms. However, he wants Daryl to say that Negan is his name now, but that is one thing that Daryl is refusing to do. So naturally, Negan throws him back in the cell. Daryl eventually gets why Dwight joined Negan, trying to protect someone close to him. Daryl then explains that’s why he can’t join Negan for that reason.
This episode then was all about breaking Daryl down, pushing him to his limits. It was a hard watch, but it wasn’t as bleak as The Walking Dead has been in the past, especially if you take this season’s premiere into account. It’s quickly become apparent that these last couple of episodes have seen the show improve a lot. It may still be incredibly frustrating at times and the most inconsistent show on television, but here, The Walking Dead reminded us that it can still be good. Hopefully its form can continue next week.