Not a lot happened during this week’s THE WALKING DEAD, but we were taken to a place that was at least closer to where we need to be and the episode was at least narrower in focus as it forever should be. We were witness to an episode that shone the spotlight only on Daryl, his imprisonment by Negan and the horrors he has become victim too.
The plan here — by Negan and his group — is to convert Daryl to their ranks, this was made clear. To break him down mentally and build him back up to be a brand new soldier. Of course, knowing Daryl as we do, this is no easy process, and we saw this week how he resisted time and again their efforts to make him theirs — an effort which failed, at least so far.
This episode wasn’t grand in any way, there was nothing new happening here, nothing to get overly excited about, but what was revealing, what was interesting, was seeing the inner workings and history of The Saviors. We learned through various conversations about how Negan came strolling in after the apocalypse, swinging his bat with a big smile on his face and essentially scaring everyone into falling in line with him. We learned how Dwight — Daryl’s minder — tried to escape once and ended up marrying off his wife to Negan in order to save her life, becoming Negan’s lackey in the process. What happened with Glenn and the bat in episode one was abhorrent, but this story is truly horrific, showing Negan not only to be a psychopath, but a vindictive and cruel man as well.
We learnt also what happens to those that refuse to fall in line, to those that go down Daryl’s path and decide not to bend the knee. They end up lining the walls of their base, forever watching those inside even after death takes them. Daryl seems to be getting a bit more patience from Negan however, his resistance and natural rebellious streak obviously pleasing him in some way. How long it will last remains to be seen, but history suggests Daryl would rather die before giving in to anyone.
What made the episode far more watchable than last week however, wasn’t really any of this, it was just the simple fact that it felt like it mattered. These were the key players on display this week, the world breaking events of episode one were caused and witnessed by these very characters. I still believe an opportunity has been missed by having two episodes without seeing Rick, Maggie and the rest — the real centre of our world — and when we get back to them a lot of momentum and energy will be gone, but this was better, this was something. And I will take something over nothing even if it could, should and must be so much more if THE WALKING DEAD is to rise to the heights of its past glory.
Season 7 set the world on fire during episode one, these past two episodes have cooled those flames considerably. The fire is still there however, but the show must stoke them soon before they are gone forever.