Obviously, I’m a little behind on these recaps, and for that I apologize. But I do believe these last two episodes were two sides of the same coin, setting up the future of this season and the trajectory for two of the strongest members of our group, Daryl and Rick.
“The Cell”, which featured the story of Daryl’s time since he was taken to Negan’s camp, had so many hallmarks of a great episode of Lost. There were the mysterious goings on in Negan’s compound that reminded us ever so slightly of the weird habits of those in The Dharma Initiative. The way the show informed us, in bits and pieces, about how Dwight got to where he is in Negan’s organization since we first met him in the forest. We learned that his own wife Sherry turned herself over to Negan as a way for both of them to stay alive and even allow him to earn a bit of a leadership position in the group. We learned Sherry is advising Daryl to just accept his new reality and not try to escape. And that as a bonus for a job well done (continuing the breaking of Daryl by feeding him dog food sandwiches and not giving him even a bit of human kindness in the process), Negan offers Dwight a chance to sleep with his own wife, who now belongs to Negan. Oh, and this is after he takes Daryl to the compound doctor for an exam just as Sherry is leaving, having failed a pregnancy test. His words to her: “Maybe next time.” Awkward! Yeah, this is Negan’s world and all these people are just living in it. Are they really ok with this or would they actually be thankful to be saved from their miserable existence by an outside revolt?
We see Dwight leave the compound to go after an escapee, Gordon, who was definitely done with following Negan blindly. He asked Dwight to just kill him instead of making him go back, but at first Dwight refused, knowing Negan was demanding that Gordon be returned to service, even threatening to dig up the poor guy’s dead wife. Then, he met him about halfway…shooting Gordon in the back before taking him back and placing him, in zombie form, in the pen where trainees could practice their zombie evading and head bashing skills.
When Dwight finally does escape his cell, he gets about as far as the yard when his stopped by a slew of Negans, including the real, leather-clad one. He is given three options: 1) Daryl could work for Negan as a dead man in the pen. 2) He could “work for points” but wish he was dead. Or 3) he could work for Negan outright and “live like a king.” After he finally seems broken upon seeing a Polaroid of a dead, disfigured Glenn (it finally brings the stoic hero to racked sobs), Negan offers him a plum gig. But Daryl refuses to bow down. Negan asks him, “Who are you?” Daryl’s answer? “Daryl”.
This led perfectly into last week’s “Service”, an extended episode that saw Negan, Dwight, Daryl and the Saviors arrive at Alexandria early and very much unannounced. They took pretty much the entire armory, a ton of food, mattresses and even poured out the community’s water supply. Rick had to stand by, even holding Lucille per Negan’s instruction, and watch this happen. He’d been broken down, and now he was seeing that Daryl was in the same space, not even allowed to communicate with him. Negan refused to let him stay in Alexandria, and when Daryl was given a chance to utter his own opinion on the matter, he refused to say a word.
While Rick managed to keep his emotions largely in check, it was a challenge. First, he had to rally the community to cough up two missing guns that turned out to be hidden under Spencer’s floorboards in order to save Olivia’s life, then insist Michonne turn over a gun she’d been using in target practice, despite her mild protests. He also had to corral his son Carl, who’d fired off a warning shot when he found that the Saviors were taking far more than half of their meds (Negan: “Half is what I say it is.”)
Father Gabriel turns out to be an unlikely help, welcoming the Saviors and even offering to allow them pay their respects to a fake grave set up for Maggie, who the Saviors are now pretty sure is dead. His cheery demeanor has to be a ruse to hide something, but with him it’s always hard to tell what.
In the end, Rick has a heart to heart with a clearly disappointed Michonne, who simply doesn’t understand why they don’t come up with a plan to join forces with The Hilltop and fight back. Rick demurs, and explains his motivations to keep Judith alive, even though he knows she’s not his. He recounts the whole story of Shane, and how he figured into Rick’s life and that of Judith, the baby he fathered with Laurie. It’s a big revelation and the episode ends there.
We’re hoping the Hilltop mention is a foreshadowing of the future, and continue to wonder how come Ezekeial and The Kindgom haven’t set Shiva the tiger on the baddie as of yet. Maybe saving him for a last minute attack?