Previously, on The Walking Dead…
Daryl meets Dwight and his wife, Sherry, in the forest and tries to recruit them to come back to Alexandria with him. Instead, they steal his crossbow and motorcycle, leaving to return to the Saviors. Later, during a supply run, Dwight accidentally kills Denise while aiming for Daryl; fighting ensues, and Dwight escapes. During the line-up from the season 7 premiere, Daryl lashes out at Negan after Abraham has been beaten to death, and Dwight offers to kill him. Instead, Negan decides to take Daryl captive.
The episode opens with a montage, offering the viewer a glimpse of Dwight’s cushy lifestyle as one of Negan’s top men living amongst the Saviors at their base, the Sanctuary. The camera cuts back and forth, and we see several events – such as a man refusing to work and being beaten up by Saviors, and Saviors kneeling in their garden as Negan walks by – interposed with shots of Dwight making himself a sandwich, assembling the ingredients by helping himself to whatever he wants from whomever he wants to take it from; being one of Negan’s top men has its perks!
Dwight sits outside and eats his sandwich; to his right, the Sanctuary is enclosed by a fence, with walkers impaled on spikes surrounding the perimeter. Two men in sweatsuits monitor the area, putting their time in for Negan by herding in new walkers and securing them to the spikes. Dwight looks on, contemplating the scene.
The camera cuts to Dwight making another sandwich – this one with dog food – and he walks down the hall with it. The screen goes black, and we hear the sound of a door being opened. Light fills the screen again, and Daryl is seen sitting alone in the corner of a cell, naked. Dwight hands him the sandwich and he eats, shivering.
Through a sliver of light, Daryl is seen lying on the floor of his cell as a different sort of montage begins – this one revealing his torture. As Daryl shivers, music begins to play – a song called “Easy Street” by The Collapsable Hearts Club. It is implied that the Saviors are making him listen to this on repeat every day (and, to get an idea of how fast that can drive someone crazy, you can listen to the song here).
The music plays as the door opens; Daryl stands there naked, the gunshot wound inflicted by Dwight in season 6 covered with gauze. As Daryl stares at the ground, Dwight hands him another sandwich, which he proceeds to eat.
Next, the music cuts out, and the camera cuts to a close-up on Daryl’s face as he sleeps on the ground. Suddenly, the music re-starts, jolting him awake in anguish.
After this, Daryl sits in the corner, shaking, as the music plays. Dwight opens the door and throws a sandwich on the ground, which Daryl picks up and begins eating; however, this time, Dwight also throws in clothes.
Now, Daryl sits in the corner with the music playing, clothed in a similar sweatsuit to the men who were putting in their time for Negan at the fence. Dwight comes in carrying Daryl’s crossbow and lifts him up by his shirt, practically dragging him out of the cell as the music ends.
Dwight walks Daryl through the dark halls of the Sanctuary, leading him to the base’s doctor. As they enter his office, Sherry is sitting in the doctor’s chair. She recognizes Daryl from their meeting in the woods and begins to talk to him, but Dwight tells her not to. As Daryl takes her place in the doctor’s chair, we see a pregnancy test on the table. Sherry tells Dwight that it is negative, and the tension between them is clear. Sherry attempts to reach out to Daryl again, telling him to do whatever the Saviors say; however, Dwight shuts down their interaction once more. She leaves the room, and the doctor inspects Daryl’s wound.
As Dwight walks Daryl back down the hallway, the two of them run into Negan. Dwight kneels immediately, forcing Daryl down with him. Negan and Dwight go off to talk privately, and Daryl is left sitting in a chair with a gun being pointed at him by another Savior. He is positioned outside an open living quarters, giving him a glimpse into the comfortable lifestyle one can have by serving Negan: a bed, a chair, a kitchen, books, lamps, etc. Dwight returns and picks Daryl up by the shirt again, forcing him to walk.
The camera cuts to Daryl’s face, now staring out at the fence that surrounds the Sanctuary. He watches the two men binding the walkers and the surrounding walkers themselves; we then see that one of the walkers is the man who was being beat up at the beginning of the episode, and it is implied that the walkers impaled around the fence are former Saviors who crossed Negan. Dwight forces Daryl to the fence to take a good look at the scene at hand. He tells Daryl that he has a choice to make: “You can be like them, or me. Or them.”
Daryl is thrown back into his cell, and Dwight tells him to “make it easy” on himself. Daryl sits back in his corner and looks up at Dwight, replying, “I ain’t ever gonna kneel.” As Daryl is locked back in, “Easy Street” resumes playing; he groans and covers his ears with his hands. The music continues to play while Daryl searches for a way out of the cell; he inspects the door, tries to open the knob, and tries to kick the door down, all to no avail.
We cut to Negan and Dwight discussing Daryl’s imprisonment. Negan is impressed with Dwight’s progress; he believes that the torture is working on Daryl, albeit slowly. As a reward for his good work, Negan asks Dwight if he wants to have a “blast from the past with you-know-who,” implying that Sherry is now with Negan. Dwight stares on, and Negan taunts him about the functionality of his – ahem – male apparatus. Dwight claims that all is fine down there, but knowing that this is a test of his loyalty, declines, saying that he won’t earn any such privileges until he finishes the job with Daryl. They are interrupted by another Savior on Dwight’s radio: a group member has fled the Sanctuary with stolen supplies. Dwight offers to go retrieve them, and Negan is pleased by his loyalty as he heads out (on Daryl’s motorcycle – sob).
On the road, Dwight comes upon a car crash up ahead; meanwhile, “Easy Street” plays outside Daryl’s cell, and another Savior brings him a sandwich. Daryl takes it and begins to eat, taking note of Dwight’s absence. The door closes, but this Savior does not lock it. Taking this as an opportunity, Daryl checks under the door to make sure no one is coming, eases the cell door open, and sneaks out. Leaving the music behind, he walks through the halls, trying to avoid any Saviors.
Back at the crash, Dwight investigates the scene. As he explores, a walker falls from the highway overhead, nearly landing on him. Dwight fights the walker as more begin to fall from above.
As Daryl continues to creep through the halls of the Sanctuary, Sherry grabs him from behind. She tells him to go back, saying that “there’s always more” where Negan is concerned, and that things will only be worse once he’s caught. Daryl ignores this advice, exiting the Sanctuary. Outside, he attempts to choose a motorcycle to escape on, but he is surrounded by Saviors…including Negan himself.
As Negan regards Daryl, he asks the surrounding Saviors, “Who are you?” Each responds, “Negan.” He goes on to tell Daryl that he is “everywhere,” and that this was Daryl’s test to prove that he had learned this – a test that Daryl failed. Negan taunts Daryl with Lucille and explains that the only way now is to work for him, and it is up to Daryl to choose from three methods: to protect the Sanctuary on the fence as a dead body, to work for points in order to earn his keep, or to work directly for Negan himself. With Daryl unresponsive, Negan whips Lucille around, making as if he is going to hit Daryl but stopping just short of his face. Daryl does not flinch, and Negan is impressed by his lack of fear. He leaves Daryl to the mercy of the Saviors; as Daryl begins to fight, he is knocked to the ground and beaten by them.
We see Dwight catching up with the escaped Savior on the road before cutting back to Daryl in his cell at the Sanctuary once more. Sherry comes to visit him, revealing that she is truly sorry for all that has happened since that day they met in the woods.
On the road, Dwight holds the escapee, Gordon, at gunpoint. Gordon questions why Dwight is remaining so loyal to Negan after everything that happened with Sherry. Dwight responds, “Everything’s his, or will be.” But instead of continuing to walk, Gordon begs Dwight to just kill him. Dwight refuses, saying that going back is the only way to survive, but Gordon implies that Negan, not the walkers, is the real monster. He kneels before Dwight, claiming that it is the last time he will ever kneel. Dwight threatens Gordon until he gives in and begins to walk again…but Dwight shoots him from behind, fulfilling Gordon’s wish.
Back at the Sanctuary, Dwight and Sherry talk and smoke cigarettes in a corridor, attempting to convince themselves that the choices they made were the right ones.
The camera cuts to Daryl’s shadowed face as he sits in the cell, with “Easy Street” on its never-ending loop. The music cuts out, and Dwight attempts to hand Daryl a sandwich, throwing it on the ground when Daryl will not take it. Dwight reminds him of Glenn’s death, and Daryl throws some of the food in his face. Dwight tells Daryl that he should be thankful that Negan hasn’t decided to kill him yet, taping a polaroid photo to the wall of the cell and locking Daryl in. Daryl realizes that the photo is of Glenn’s bloody remains immediately following his death. Dwight turns the music back on…but, this time, “Easy Street” is not the song that plays. Instead, it is “Crying,” by Roy Orbison, and Daryl begins to sob as Dwight walks away.
Some time later, Dwight comes back to the cell, where Daryl is laying on the floor; he is surrounded by vomit, the remains of the sandwich, and the photograph of Glenn. Dwight takes Daryl to Negan, who begins to tell him a bit more about Dwight’s background with the Saviors. He, Sherry, and her sister, Tina, had all worked for points – but since Tina needed medication, she fell behind. Negan asked her to marry him, but Dwight stole the base’s medication and left with Tina and Sherry instead. Following Tina’s death, he and Sherry returned to the base and asked for Negan’s forgiveness. In order to save Dwight’s life, Sherry offered to marry Negan, which Negan accepted…but he also burned Dwight’s face for full compensation. And, since Dwight still became one of his top men, Negan believes that Daryl can do the same. In order to get the same comfortable lifestyle, Negan asks Daryl, “Who are you?” And, after several moments of silence, Daryl finally answers: “Daryl.”
Throwing Daryl back into the cell, Dwight yells at him for what he believes is stupidity. Daryl responds that he understands why Dwight returned and has taken all of this: “You were thinking about someone else.” Daryl says that it’s the reason that he cannot do the same, implying to the viewer that he plans to live for all that Glenn stood for by not giving his honor away to Negan.
Dwight visits the fence outside the Sanctuary once more, observing the scene. The fence’s latest addition is none other than Gordon, and the realization of the circle of life as a Savior is clear on Dwight’s face as he turns and goes back into the Sanctuary.
Personally, I thought that this episode was very well done. Though it pained me to see Daryl in such a terrible state, the writing and performances were superb all around. I have to give shout-outs to both Norman Reedus, whose nuanced portrayal of Daryl in this episode was absolutely heartbreaking, and to the production team, who could not have chosen better music for Daryl’s torture scenes (if it were me, I’d probably snap after listening to “Easy Street” only twice).
Story-wise, I think that the daily life of the Saviors was effectively shown to the viewer for the first time – plus, introducing us to the Sanctuary’s base could prove to be crucial to the story down the line in the showdown between Rick and Negan that is sure to come. And, with Dwight clearly contemplating a lot at the end of this episode, it will be very interesting to see which side he ends up falling on.
For those who play the No Man’s Land mobile game, this week’s season 7 mission is ‘Daryl’s Nightmare’: Daryl is wandering through the cell block underneath The Sanctuary, having to fight off walkers and turn off boomboxes torturing him with an annoying song.