What a terrific character piece. It was like an episode of Lost where we started out disliking a character we barely knew, and came out at the end truly caring about them.
Until now, I totally despised Dwight. He came across as a double-crossing suck-up of a minion who rejected Daryl's offer of friendship and a place in Alexandria, and then stole his motorcycle and crossbow after Daryl was kind enough to bring back Tina's insulin.
But as "The Cell" progressed, we got bits and pieces about Dwight, slowly filling in the full extent of his current and absolutely appalling situation. We learned that in "Always Accountable," Dwight, his wife Sherry, and Sherry's sister Tina ran away from the Saviors because Negan was unwilling to provide the insulin to keep Tina alive unless she "married" him. After Tina was killed, Dwight and Sherry returned to the Saviors because they felt they had no choice, but they paid a terrible price.
In order to keep Dwight alive, Sherry is now "married" to Negan and expected to provide him with offspring. The second time I watched this episode, the pregnancy test made me shudder. Dwight must kneel, bow and scrape and enthusiastically serve this psycho who is continually droit du seigneur-ing his own wife. Dwight also got "the iron" as punishment, explaining what happened to his face.
There was such utter cruelty in that scene where Negan offered Dwight a quickie with Sherry as a reward, but then took it back and said, "Pick whoever you want as long as she says yes." Did Dwight know that Negan was testing him as well as verbally emasculating him? Does that mean a woman other than Negan's "wife" can choose not to consent? Do women actually have rights in this community? Clearly, Negan doesn't see taking Dwight's "hot wife" for his own as wrong, and yet, it is undoubtedly a bizarre form of rape.
Dwight serves Negan to keep Sherry alive. During that scene on the road, Dwight told Gordon, the suicidal escapee, that if he killed himself, everyone he'd ever talked to would wind up on the fence. If Dwight didn't still have a bit of a rebel inside him, he wouldn't have mercy-killed that poor guy. Twice during the episode, Dwight stared at a walker stuck on a spike, and I thought that meant Dwight longed for death. But according to what he told Gordon, if Dwight commits suicide, the rules state that Negan will punish Sherry for it. It's a hellish trap with no escape for either of them.
Negan's people are slaves who can't just work under the threat of death -- they must act as if they like it. When asked who they are, they must identify themselves as Negan, as if he has removed their personalities. If they work directly for Negan, they get food and a bed to sleep in and play air hockey and watch Who's the Boss reruns. (Who's the Boss. Clever. I just got that.) If they don't, they work for "points," which I'm assuming is some sort of brutal exchange of work for food. Or they wind up dead on a spike in the yard.
It's pretty obvious that Negan puts on a performance, because he repeats his lines. "Are we pissing our pants yet?" That bat is always in his hand 24/7, and he talks about Lucille as if she's a person. Is that also a performance? Is Negan delusional as well as sociopathic? He must be fully aware that Dwight hates him with the power of a thousand blazing suns, that someone could go berserk and try to kill him at any moment. Or is he?
And yet, while Negan says the rules are all important, he is also impulsive. Negan likes Daryl and is giving him multiple chances to be one of his guys. I wonder if Daryl will ever be capable of faking it, the way Dwight does? What if Negan had, say, Maggie or Carol or Michonne as his wife?
I haven't really even talked about Daryl yet, probably because while he is imprisoned in an actual Abu Graib a la Negan cell eating dog food, Dwight's form of imprisonment is actually worse. There were three songs played during the episode: "This Town Called Malice," which is self-explanatory; "We're on Easy Street," the music used as sleep deprivation torture on Daryl, and an anvil of a reminder that Negan's people seem to have everything but most certainly do not; and the Roy Orbison song, "Crying." In a strange way, Dwight showed Daryl kindness by helping him to grieve for Glenn by giving him that Polaroid and playing that last song.
Dwight is wearing Daryl's angel wing vest for a reason. You got Glenn killed, I got Tina killed, Dwight relates to Daryl and wants to save his life. There is still a little bit of rebel inside Dwight, a man that could be Daryl's friend. I hope that's where the story is going.
Gold acting stars for Austin Amelio (Dwight). The second time through the episode, when I knew what was really going on with Dwight, I was fascinated by the subtle expressions on his face. And Jeffrey Dean Morgan continues to be awesome. I am accustomed to liking Morgan a lot because of his other roles, but I find Negan equal parts revolting and fascinating.
-- The preview showed Daryl taken prisoner but it didn't show Glenn's death. The Polaroid Dwight gave Daryl was also hard to see. Thank you.
-- Norman Reedus naked would have been a lot more fun if he hadn't been so utterly filthy and miserable.
-- Dog food sandwiches. I kept thinking, not such a big deal, Daryl has eaten dog food before. Loved the parallel with Dwight creating that huge egg sandwich by taking the ingredients away from everyone else, showing how important he is.
-- What's with the letters on the sweatshirts? Prisoner numbers?
-- The moth, the angel, or the hard way? I'm assuming the angel was the statue with the hands tied to it. Was "the hard way" that highway where someone was tossing walkers off the overpass for who knows what reason?
-- The stairway scene with Dwight and Sherry was beautifully shot. It was just the two of them in silhouette, smoking cigarettes, lying to each other in monotones, and yet I could feel the emotion between them.
Dwight: "He good to you?"
Sherry: "You happy?"
Sherry: "That's good."
Dwight: "I did the right thing. It's a helluva lot better than being dead."
But clearly, it is not.
I was impressed with this episode. Four out of four sandwiches,
Billie Doux loves science fiction but hates horror, and is confused about why she loves The Walking Dead so much.
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