We all knew it couldn’t last. I mean, I said based on last week’s preview that this week would be a slog. And yep. It was. Last week was so refreshing and different, so I guess they thought we were ready to return to grimdark dystopia.
This episode was all about Dwight, one of Negan’s main dudes, and Daryl. Daryl, you might remember, is being held prisoner by the Saviors as collateral against Rick and co.’s good behavior.
Do I care about Dwight? No. Did the show want me to care about Dwight? Desperately.
Daryl is being sort of mildly tortured (not to make light of torture in any form) through sleep deprivation and being fed dog food sandwiches. I guess being kept in a mostly dark room and listening to a really terrible song over and over is supposed to break him, but this is Daryl. Not only has he survived serious abuse in his life, but he’s also Fan Favorite White Boy.
We learn a few things about Dwight: he seems to pity the zombies, he steals people’s food, he keeps track of deaths (I think) amongst the Saviors, aaaaannnnd…
Apparently when Daryl ran into him and the two women early last season, he, his wife, and his diabetic sister-in-law were running away from the Saviors. The sister-in-law died, and Dwight and his wife Sherry went back. Sherry offered to marry Negan to spare Dwight’s life, so that’s what happened.
There are several scenes with Sherry reaching out to Daryl. She tells him just to submit, because as bad as it is now (it honestly doesn’t seem THAT bad, considering), it can and will get worse. There’s also a scene with Dwight and Sherry where they’re smoking and jaded and *yawn* What? Oh, sorry, I fell asleep because I DON’T CARE.
We do get a small amount of insight into how the Saviors work. They have nice-looking old ladies and fresh-baked bread. When you misbehave, you get zombified and tied to the fence to protect the compound. Also you have the option of “working for points.” That’s what Dwight and his family were doing before Dwight stole all the insulin and ran off.
At the end Negan tells Daryl Dwight’s story, then gives Daryl a chance to submit. Which, of course, he doesn’t. Negan just laughs, so who knows what the consequences are. They keep threatening to put Daryl on the fence, but then he wouldn’t be very good collateral, would he? So that threat seems sorta empty.
Dwight drags him back to his cell, where Daryl tells him he understands why Dwight gave in to Negan. “You were thinking about someone else,” he says. “That’s why I can’t.”
Okay, well, first of all, I would find this storyline a lot more compelling if it were Glenn in that cell rather than Daryl. I mean, sure, his last words to Dwight showed that he’s thinking about the group, but, like…who’s he particularly attached to back home?
If Daryl had been killed in the opening, it would’ve been an actual gutsy move on that show’s part, since he’s Fan Favorite White Boy. What show actually kills a Daryl??
Then they could keep GLENN as collateral. Glenn, with a pregnant wife. Glenn, who’s been with us since the very very beginning. He has actual attachments with the group. Of course I don’t want to see Glenn tortured (or Daryl; I do like Daryl, I’m just a bored with him), but it would be much more compelling. It wouldn’t be like Daryl, who isn’t submitting just because he’s DARYL and he’s badass and of course he wouldn’t submit to Negan!
Instead you’d have a character whose relationships we’re incredibly invested in (Maggie, of course, but also Rick and, more recently, Enid) who’s got so much to lose by kneeling. He’d not only be giving up his own pride and self respect, but he’d also be letting Maggie and his unborn baby down. It’s a much more organic and compelling storyline, relying more on actual characters and their relationships that we’ve invested so much in, rather than betting the entire farm on one dude’s charisma and popularity with fans.
Also I’m tired of the plot of this show existing to give Daryl manpain. Beth’s death, Denise’s, and now Glenn’s. Daryl’s upset. We get it. Stop killing marginalized characters to give the white dude a plot.
From the way fandom has been crying and wringing their hands, I was expecting Daryl’s torture to be a LOT worse. I’m not trying to say sleep deprivation isn’t awful, because I mean it is, but like Supernatural spent its opening 2 episodes burning, beating, cutting, and mentally manipulating Sam Winchester. I was expecting more along those lines, to be honest.
Uh. Not that I want to give this show any ideas about how to get more violent…
Dwight is an important character in the comics (according to my friend Dylan; for once I haven’t read the books), so I guess this episode was to establish his backstory and a small amount of sympathy for him as we go forward. But I wish they’d had him become important, then give him a backstory. I might care more at that point.
He’s clearly a weak point in Team Negan. At least so it seems. But honestly, despite what Machiavelli said, I think Negan’s approach to leadership creates a leakier ship than Ezekiel’s. One guy actually defects and ends up on the fence. I mean, literally. Dwight goes after him and shoots him in the back, and the episode ends with him being put on the fence. Dwight shows some sort of regret, but…
Too little, too late.
Episode Grade: Eh. C? It didn’t suck, but it was just kinda bland and boring. I want more Ezekiel!
Images curtesy of AMC