Gene Page / AMC
While I understand the meaning behind the use of Who’s The Boss in the opening scene of this episode, I can’t help but wonder two things: a) were there no other available VHS tapes in the DC-Metro area worth scavenging and watching, and b) what type of person recorded episodes of Who’s The Boss back in the 80s? In our house, VHS tapes were used for home movies, actual movies (most likely recorded off of Pay-Per-View) and mom’s “soap tape”. Who’s The Boss? Really? Really?
First things first… CLICK HERE to read a complete recap of the episode with detailed spoilers. All set? Let’s do this.
I did immensely enjoy the use of The Jam’s Town Called Malice playing over the opening montage.
“Better stop dreaming of the quiet life
‘Cos it’s the one we’ll never know
And quit running for that runaway bus
‘Cos those rosey days are few
And…stop apologising for the things you’ve never done
‘Cos time is short and life is cruel
But it’s up to us to change
This town called Malice”
Yes, Mr. Weller, it is indeed up to us to change this town called malice, otherwise known as the Sanctuary.
In this episode of The Walking Dead, we get a closer look at life under Negan’s rule. As I stated last week, Negan and Ezekiel are two sides of the same coin. Ezekiel “showed up with a tiger” and people fell in line to follow him (charade and all). Negan, a “thug” who “showed up with a bat” walked in smiling and somehow managed to forcefully take control of Sanctuary. [Back to his HS coach roots, every time he starts the chant with his crew, “Who are you?” “Negan!” all I can picture is Negan on a football field, young players eager to please shouting something along the lines of “We are Marshall!”] As Dwight points out, prior to Negan’s arrival, “we were losing. Now we’re not.” But, his friend had a compelling argument: there is only one of Negan and so many of them. Why do they allow themselves to live that way?
The writers very quickly touched on a lot of source material for this episode. By the end of the hour, viewers had a basic understanding of Negan’s no-rape rule (though what he does with his ‘harem’ is no different than the level of abuse brought on by Kilgrave on the Netflix series Jessica Jones; rape is rape). We also saw how miserably people were ‘living’ within the compound. The women taken as Negan’s ‘wives’ are in many cases breeding little Negans.
We learn that when Daryl first encountered Dwight, Sherry, and Tina, they were trying to escape from Negan. They had stolen insulin and other medications and were fleeing, rather than subject Tina to “marrying” Negan for the meds, as was his offer. Tina, as we saw, was killed. Dwight and Sherry panicked and decided to go back to Sanctuary, stealing Daryl’s belongings in the process. But when they got home, Sherry pleaded for their lives and reluctantly took her sister’s place by Negan’s side in order for Dwight’s life to be spared. Dwight was still harshly punished with the hot iron, but later allowed to work his way up the ranks as one of Negan’s top soldiers. Negan, of course, emasculates Dwight at every possible turn (including the season premiere in front of a lot of people). This punishment is far more entertaining to Negan than simply killing Dwight would have been.
Dwight, meanwhile, is keeping Daryl alive in a tiny cell, hoping to ‘break him’ the way Negan broke Rick, into compliance. Miserable as it seems, in both Sherry and Dwight’s eyes, compliance is better than death.
But is it?
Check out Dwight’s face as he watches the walkers along the fence at the start of the episode. One walker in particular, is held in place by a giant spike. It cannot move around, only sliding itself up and down the post, which looks eerily like the residents of Sanctuary dropping to take a knee every time Negan is present. The living are no more ‘alive’ in there than the dead. At the end of the episode, Dwight stares into the eyes of his old friend, an escapee that Dwight was sent to recapture and bring to justice. His friend calmly explained his reasoning for preferring death over another moment at Sanctuary. Finally relenting, Dwight shoots the man, essentially freeing him. However, it was a shot in the back, enabling Dwight to complete his ‘mission’ and ensure his own safety. Now, seeing the man placed along the fence as a walker, Dwight once again is left to contemplate the choices he has made.
Back to Daryl. Like the other “grunts”, Daryl is wearing a jogging suit marked with a letter of the alphabet (no doubt their simple way of keeping track of their prisoners). The irony of Daryl’s letter being ‘A’ was not lost on the audience. We saw what that meant at both Terminus and Alexandria. Daryl fights to stay strong, in spite of numerous physical and emotional beatings. He endures isolation, deprivation, dog food sandwiches, living in his own sick and filth, physical torture in the form of beatings and mental torture in the form of loud music played repetitively (thanks GITMO). Dwight–along with the viewers–is certain that Daryl has reached his submission point after being given a Polaroid of Glenn’s remains (as is customary, post-Lucille beatings), while listening to Roy Orbison sing Crying. Daryl does break down crying, but when Negan asks “Who are you?” Daryl replies, “Daryl” much to Negan’s dismay. Back to the cell with you!
Daryl shares an enlightening moment with both Sherry and Dwight, respectively, and later says that he understands why Dwight made the choices that he did. “You were thinking of someone else.” Daryl then explains that this is his exact same reason for non-compliance.
All in all, this makes the third episode in a row that I have truly enjoyed. The show’s pendulum has begun to swing back into the realm of psychological thriller VS the plot-less, gore-fest it had become in recent years (albeit with far less walkers than seasons 1-2). Having read the comics, I am still very excited to see this story pan out, even with the obvious changes from page to screen. Austin Amelio and Jeffrey Dean Morgan are not holding back with their acting chops. Both have become fascinating to watch.
Now, theory time. Spoilers abound. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
In the comics, Negan will eventually be overthrown (we’ve already witnessed Morgan’s construction of the prison cell). Dwight becomes an ally of the Alexandrians, ruling the Saviors. Ezekiel (and his lover Michonne) rule the Kingdom. Maggie (along with Sophia and her new child) rule the Hilltop. While Rick (and wife Andrea) continue to run things back in Alexandria. Trade routes are established. Things are happy. And then we are met with the most heinous villains yet, the Whisperers, which allows the old adage “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” to come into play for Rick and Negan.
All of that information is wrong, you yell at me. Not wrong, just different. Let’s look at it again but shuffle it to reflect the television story arc. Andrea is dead. Rick is with Michonne and they will lead Alexandria. Maggie can still rule the Hilltop, sans one child as her ‘adopted’ daughter Sophia is also dead. Carol, alive and well as opposed to her comic counterpart, will take Michonne’s place at Ezekiel’s side in the Kingdom. And, my prediction…having lost Carol to a zookeeper, Daryl will rise up and become the hero Sanctuary needs. With the help of Dwight and Sherry, Daryl will become the leader of the Saviors, not Dwight. Besides, it would be nice to see Daryl step into the light and realize all of the good things that Carol and Beth always told him to believe about himself. He got out from under Merle and their father. He can and will get out from under Rick. Daryl will lead. Mark my words. I have heard a pleasant rumor that when we finally see what happened to Tara and Heath on their supply run during all of this chaos, they will come across our first evidence of the Whisperers. I doubt they will be introduced this season, as AMC will milk this Negan bit for all it’s worth. But, perhaps they will leave breadcrumbs like they did before the introduction of the Wolves. I think it would be a smart move, given how enormous their group is. Fair warning, their introduction in the comics is insane!
Feel free to leave your own theories and thoughts on season 7 (thus far) in the comments below!