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.
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.