After the losses of the season premiere, it feels as though we are going through something akin to the 5 stages of grief when it comes to The Walking Dead. Last week, we were all still pretty depressed. This week, however, feels closer to acceptance than anything else. Acceptance comes as the audience realizes that The Walking Dead has a rhythm and pace that we all know. Some love it, while others hate it. Whichever side of the fence you sit on, you know that after a strong opener, The Walking Dead will now spend a number episodes explaining what is going on. In the case of episode 3, we were treated to an interesting view of what Daryl was going through as a prisoner of Negan.
Mild spoilers to follow for the episode.
First off, the episode opened with an absolutely amazing montage of Dwight on a quest to build a sandwich. Set to the almost perfect “Town Called Malice” by The Jam, the entire sequence oozed 80’s awesomeness. Everything from Dwight watching VHS tapes of “Who’s The Boss?” to triple takes on key scenes, the whole montage was a complete joy. The fact that The Walking Dead has never done a sequence like this before, shows that the writers and show runners are at least making an attempt to keep things fresh and entertaining. The episode could have easily taken the normal route of the series by explaining everything through character dialogue and exposition. That’s not to say that there was some of that going on, but it was stylistically done in a way that may not have been easily recognizable.
The episode was also more than able to show both the contrast and similarities between Daryl and Dwight. This became immediately apparent when we see Daryl in solitary confinement and his song begins. While Dwight had the freedom to pursue his sandwich, Daryl’s montage only consists of someone coming to feed him a most delicious sandwich (hint: it is NOT delicious). Naturally, Daryl’s montage is much shorter and we come to find out that the song called “Easy Street”, by Petra Haden, was used as a manner of psychological warfare in the ongoing effort to break him. The volume and repetitiveness of the song assaulted the ears so much, that if felt as if Negan was attempting to break the audience as well.
After the excellent opening, the episode alternates following Dwight and Daryl. Dwight ends up going out to track down a “Code Orange”, which is what they call it when someone steals some supplies and tries to get away from Sanctuary. Daryl ends up trying to escape and has several intense scenes with Negan. Dwight subdues the errant runaway and begins bringing him back to Sanctuary. The runaway weakly attempts to convince Dwight to let him go. When that fails, he gives Dwight permission to kill him. At first, Dwight declines. Dwight insists that there is nowhere for the runaway to go and that he needs to return. The runaway still attempts to have Dwight kill him, but Dwight counters by telling the man that he will have his family killed and put on display. The man yields to Dwight, but Dwight shoots the guy in the back anyway. This action could be a compromise by Dwight. He knows that the runaway would rather die that live under he rule of Negan, yet Dwight does not see a way out. In a way, Dwight is much more the prisoner in this episode than Daryl. Dwight knows the rules of Sanctuary and more importantly, the rules of Negan. Dwight also understands the consequences of not following Negan.
Daryl on the other hand, remains one of my favorite characters on the show. He also transitions from starting out as a prisoner, to becoming a metaphorical free man. In an amazing scene between Daryl and Negan, Negan gives us all the story of Dwight. It was nice to have some of the gaps filled in, but it wasn’t exactly necessary. Daryl does not say that he is Negan, like the other henchmen. Daryl says that he is Daryl. Even though he pays the price for it, Daryl stands his ground against Negan. By this time, Dwight has returned to his duties of feeding Mr. Dixon. Dwight attempts to tell Daryl too that there is no escape from Negan.
Huge kudos need to go out to Norman Reedus for this weeks performance. Daryl only spoke a handful of lines throughout the entire episode. The majority of the time, Daryl was communicating strictly through his face. The anguish and the agony were almost real as Reedus went for and nailed it. This comes as somewhat of a pleasant surprise since Daryl doesn’t usually get more that a gruff grunt in some episodes.
Towards the end of the episode, both Dwight and Daryl share a moment. In that moment, Dwight reveals that he surrenders to the reality of Negan because he was thinking of the well-being of someone else. In true Daryl fashion, he tells Dwight that is the same reason that Daryl refuses to kneel to Negan. This begs the question, “Who exactly is Daryl fighting so hard for?” Many believe that it is Carol, but without any confirmation, the audience will just have to wait and see.
Whether you have read the comics or not, we all know that Rick and company will not stand for Negan’s tyranny. The audience knows that things will turn around and ther
will be a large conflict. The problem is that many people, fans included, do not have the patience to wait for that conflict to build. For open war to happen, certain things need to be in place which simply aren’t there yet. The fear is that the show will spend a sizeable chunk on used episodes to build up characters and background. In essence, The Walking Dead has become a large game of chess. Pieces are being moved, strategies are being implemented. All the while, Negan continues to loom over all.
Even though it was a slower paced episode, it provided some good information about Dwight. It also showed the fascinating dichotomy between Daryl and Dwight.