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On today’s Walking Dead #TBT, we reminiscence about the time Negan had but a simple question for ole Daryl Dixon, “Who are you?”

Picture Daryl Dixon laying helpless on the ground like a maimed buck freshly hit with a round. Crossbow-less and therefore dehorned, being kept alive against its will, past an honorable expiration date. Filth highlights every corner as a bittersweet symphony blares across the room’s speakers on repeat. Dante’s Inferno playing a Liquorice-scented encore again and again with no crowd request. “We’re on Easy Street and it feels so sweet!” The only ticket out suddenly flips ajar, it’s rival Dwight serving up lunch sans the chef hat. Dog food. Yet, Daryl has eaten worse and indulges with no hesitation.

The Walking Dead’s “The Cell” asked viewers the question, does dignity have a price? How many in the same mentally deformed situation as Daryl would have thrown in the towel? For as much fan backlash as Eugene later took on social media… He did what 99% of people would have done. It was the mirror reflection back that haunted viewers and brewed resentment. An uncomfortable looking glass. The gritty reminder they would not rise above either given the predicament.

They too would likely say whatever a despotic regime demanded. Not even paying empty lip service but fully embracing its foundations. Engaging in the belief and rationale… That you are Negan.

Negan’s juxtaposition of Dwight to Daryl

From the onset of “The Cell” Dwight is seemingly living the good life in the heart of Sanctuary. Luxury food, premium items like cigarettes, his own secure room and board. Not to mention the honor and respect of being a prime-time Savior lieutenant. A made man one can say from the outside compared to his Alexandria-bred counterpart. Demeaned, dehumanized, stripped of all decency.

Negan recalling the origins of Dwight’s membership into Sanctuary to Daryl was obviously no small talk. It was meant to convey that the past can stay in their rearview mirror. Negan has always been about looking forward and maximizing his roster’s talent to the benefit of the team. The Savior team that is.

Telling the plight of Dwight and how he sacrificed his loving marriage was meant to foster two goals. Willing camaraderie to the fact that the team always comes first and obvious intimidation of what can happen when a member falls out of line. In Negan’s words’ you know how Lucille is a stickler for the rules!’ Thus Dwight had to give up half of his reflection as punishment for abandonment of the rules.

Easy Street requires Easy Words…

At the same time, Negan promised rewarding good team-oriented behavior. Those who fall under the umbrella of Negan enjoy the grander things in life. They get to see daylight whereas Daryl sees walls. They get to enjoy dijon so-to-speak while Daryl receives tinned pet food. Even rising up the hierarchy is an option on the table for Daryl if he just speaks the all mighty exit words.

The defining pardon that will end Daryl’s hardship and bring the beam of the sun through a newly built window. Emphasis on new. Negan believes in forming new relationships, new partnerships and new team seasons. A one time rival can become a teammate through roster trade or free agency to Negan. Last season was last season, there’s a new championship to build towards this year.

“Who are you?” Negan asks expecting to hear the answer he’s heard a thousand times before. Yet, one strays. This buck still has the vigor of life in it and is willing to endure. Its memory of a greener horizon where it lives free intact… Even through excruciating pain. The specter of riverbeds, fertile soil, and most importantly, its treasured herd. The wounds might fester but this buck will never give the desired signal to its captor.

“Daryl.”

Fun Fact: “The Cell” was penned by current Walking Dead showrunner Angela Kang! The Kubrick-esque episode was directed by Alrick Riley, who also directed episode 13, “Bury Me Here” in season 7.

Check out The Walking Dead #TBT: Nicholas says ‘Thank You’ to Glenn Rhee to revisit more ground of the show’s all-time mementos.

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Lydia, Negan steal show with shades of TLOU’s Ellie and Joel

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Cassady McClincy as Lydia, Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan - The Walking Dead _ Season 10, Episode 15 - Photo Credit: Jace Downs/AMC
Photo Credit: Jace Downs/AMC

Cassady McClincy gave her best acting performance to date on “The Tower” as she and Jeffrey Dean Morgan made a strong play for the roles of Ellie & Joel on HBO’s upcoming adaption of The Last of Us.

This article contains spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 10 Episode 15 (“The Tower”) and The Last of Us.

Is it time for Negan to trade in his vintage leather jacket for an olive-green plaid shirt in-between seasons of The Walking Dead? Lydia’s chaotic outburst at the father figure who ironically made her an orphan tonight was magic. A frenzied tearjerker with the same intentionally unrefined edges that once made Rick Grimes’ breakdown ‘snot’ memorable. Vicious, raw screaming at the man who took away both Lydia’s mother and right to self-sacrifice at her hand. Cradled, sheltered, and snatched from fate. Just as Joel did to Ellie at the conclusion of The Last of Us.

The type of father/daughter on-screen chemistry Cassady McClincy and Jeffrey Dean Morgan share is a rare sight. Negan pleading with Lydia to hit him, desiring nothing more than to lean down to present an unguarded mug was one of the show’s more powerful visuals. What do you say to an abused teenager whose mother you just pushed past death row? Lydia, rejected the guilt-filled plea initially. Opting to pierce Negan where it hurts the most… With words of truth. ‘You just wanted to be a hero to them but you’ll never be one!’

Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan, Cassady McClincy as Lydia – The Walking Dead _ Season 10, Episode 15 – Photo: Jace Downs/AMC

Though TWD’s audience has seen a youngster losing a parent before with Carl Grimes, it was to an extent, mostly bottled up by Carl postmortem. Here we see the full spectrum of emotions from detachment, disgust and unbridled rage to complete shock, vulnerability and sadness by Lydia. Rockbottom.

The last remnants of Lydia’s innocence, of her childhood, forever gone. No chance of making her mother or father’s heart be filled with pride ever again. Not even the faintest, unrealistic daydreams of her mother’s starry-eyed happy tears at a college graduation or wedding. Every day forward will be spent alone, even when others are there. Instead of being gently guided, Lydia is shoved into the mud of adulthood.

Tonight’s TWD just needed Gustavo Santaolalla’s “All Gone” (No Escape) to complete the moment…

Be sure to read Lydia’s mistreatment proves Second Chances are Fashion Statements and more TWD Season 10 coverage in The Natural Aristocrat’s Walking Dead category section.

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Negan, Daryl scene brings danger back on ‘Look at the Flowers’

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Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon, Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan - The Walking Dead _ Season 10, Episode 14 - Photo Credit: Jackson Lee Davis/AMC
Photo Credit: Jackson Lee Davis/AMC

Negan and Daryl’s standoff felt like a lost treasure from Season 7’s glory days washing up onshore. Delightfully unpredictable.

This article contains spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 10 Episode 14 (“Look at the Flowers”).

Picture Negan caught in a tug of war between the sweet nectarine taste of freedom and signature bureaucracy of morality. Going from accused captive on his final march to the gallows to bestowed the title of Alpha. Rope removed from neck, a sudden insurrection switching his presumptive executioner on trial instead. Whisperers kneeling like The Saviors of yore before the might of Lucille’s bearer. An opportunity to rebuild TWD’s great antiquity from the ground up. Breathing new life into Sanctuary by pumping its heart full of fresh residents.

Negan confesses to relishing his lengthy, unauthorized parole granted by one Carol Peletier. A tongue defending against a sword will always be a flimsy substitute for another sword. Now, that Negan owns the calvary, denial is no longer necessary. Denial is for the weak. Should Negan surrender his leverage, all that awaits him are voting tribunals and paperwork. His chief recommendation: Gone a-wall. Evidence of his valor: Missing-in-action. There will be eyes judging his every movement as intrinsically vile even with proof of improved character.

Negan can reach for the key dangling in front of his ‘barred’ memories right at that second and reclaim his crown. Freedom swings back and forth in front of his eyes, a clock’s pendulum. Fully bejeweled, Easy Street. Daryl kneels in silence as the moonlight dances over his tattered vest’s wings. Live or die. Full circle, transported right back to the scene of the ‘crime’ where he took a swing at the leather jacketed one. Danger permeates the air, the will of Lucille. For the first time in a long while on The Walking Dead, true unpredictability reigns again.

Negan asks one of his newly recruited Whisperer henchman why he’s holding the ‘badass shotgun’ instead of the Alpha… Once the handoff is complete, it’s clear Season 7 Negan’s spirit reemerged only temporarily. Negan and Daryl team up to vanquish the Alpha followers with relative ease. What could have been one of the show’s greatest comebacks has the brakes put to it, instead of thriving ala The Governor’s return to the prison. Negan preemptively abandons a newly formed reclamation army in favor of civilized red tape back at Alexandria.

A narrative fit for an entire future season: Negan rebuilding the Saviors through his Whisperer influence is put to rest before it started. No internal war between Negan and Beta establishing a Negan/Simon redux-like reverie. The bigger picture. Thus, a lead episode highlight is only held back by not keeping Negan’s original spirit alive for at least a couple more chapters.

Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon, Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan – The Walking Dead _ Season 10, Episode 14 – Photo Credit: Jackson Lee Davis/AMC

“Look at the Flowers” firmly establishes that although Negan is capable of heroic deeds, he’s absolute dynamite as a ‘bad guy’. Being a ‘good guy’ comes with rules and regulations… Negan shines consistently in the absence of both. Leave the iron anchor behind and let the man be as bad as he wants to be. ‘That is the look Negan I wanted to see!’

All that being said, the scene is one of the high points of Season 10. Capturing the magic elixir formula that made Negan such a force to be reckoned with in the first place. Uncertainty.

Be sure to read The Walking Dead #TBT: Negan asks Daryl ‘Who are you?’

Missed an episode or looking to reflect on a scene past? No problem! Purchase episodes on Amazon today.

More TWD Season 10 coverage is available on The Natural Aristocrat’s The Walking Dead category section.

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Ezekiel broke the bro code when he picked up Carol at Daryl’s place

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The Walking Dead Season 10 - Daryl Dixon [Norman Reedus] and King Ezekiel [Khary Payton] - Photo Credit: AMC
Photo Credit: AMC

What kind of guy goes to another man’s riverbed tent to pick up his ex-girlfriend? King ‘Hide Your Carols’ Ezekiel, the ex always on the prowl for tragedy to strike before sending a 2 am feel out text.

This article contains spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 10 Episode 11 (“Morning Star”).

No scruples. Ezekiel is the type of guy to test waters by liking a girl’s Facebook photos 24/7 before texting ‘HYD?’ right after she has a fight with her boyfriend. Always queued in the shadows, waiting to pounce like his tiger Shiva before him at the right moment. Grinning from ear-to-ear in anticipation of hearing something has gone wrong, so he can make a move to ‘comfort.’ Why Daryl Dixon was reduced to being ‘the bigger person’ and telling Ezekiel, ‘he’s always respected what he’s been through’, post-coitus with Carol was just strange. It’s okay to be angry sometimes or even hold grudges like Daryl once did at Rick’s decision to spare Negan.

It didn’t feel realistic. Can you imagine Jessie Anderson getting back with Pete Anderson (had he lived) and Rick Grimes exchanging pleasantries? How about Lori sleeping with Shane again? Would Rick tell Shane how he’s always respected him right after the act? What is this ‘The Bold and The Beautiful‘ or one of the most savagely brutal shows in the history of television?

Why does Daryl have to ‘respect’ Ezekiel after he sleeps with the person Daryl presumably loves and seems to want a relationship with? There was no Governor type psychology/larger plan to be found in the scene… Really, you felt sorry that things have come to this. How would Season 1-2 rebellious Daryl Dixon look at Season 10 Daryl Dixon? Daryl seemed to be a Morgan-like clone on “Morning Star”, just happy to see everyone else be happy. Even at his own expense. Judith stitched together a new wing for Daryl’s vest on tonight’s episode… But he might as well have been completely de-feathered and wingless after that Ezekiel conversation.

There’s a range of pieces that don’t add up as of late on TWD, like why Negan didn’t just take out Alpha right then and there in the Season 10B Premiere, for example. Negan, the man who choked Simon to death with his barehands to finish a pure Rome-Gladiatorial style fistfight… Suddenly, can’t take out a vulnerable, unarmed naked Alpha and decides to sleep with her seemingly out of fear. In fact, recently Negan seems practically subservient, larger scheme in mind or not. Do you remember what Negan whispered to Rick Grimes after his first visit to Alexandria as a parting shot? Now the man is letting Alpha literally mutilate his wrists with a stick.

Eugene opting for a long distance relationship when he finally made Rosita jealous enough to want a kiss. Forgoing the opportunity so he can keep talking to a person he’s never actually met by radio. Literally after working to obtain Rosita’s affections for countless seasons. It just took almost all other competition to ‘drop out’ for Eugene to get a chance, true love right there. Now the peak has arrived, Daryl complimenting Ezekiel after he sleeps with Carol. Maybe it’s time TWD moved away from the ‘ships for a while and went back to basics.

Be sure to read Daryl and Ezekiel’s talk felt like a stiff handshake from a girl’s boyfriend and more TWD Season 10 coverage in The Walking Dead category section on The Natural Aristocrat.

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