Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Walking Dead S7x3 The Cell

Photo Credit: The Walking Dead / Gene Page
After a visit to the Kingdom, The Walking Dead enters the Savior's compound. Daryl was taken capture after Lucille's massacre, so what is his life like now? How role does Dwight play in his captivity? (This post contains spoilers. As well, this post contains trigger warnings to topics of rape and consent You've been warned.)

We're two weeks passed since the emotional premiere, and the series seems to be holding out on the excitement and trepidation it once promised. This past Sunday's The Cell managed to do what the series rarely did even in the past: bore me to tears.

Time spent at the Kingdom and Saviors compound makes us take a look at the future in terms of old and new characters: who are we going to care about or care enough to hate in the future if we don't learn about them? after losing such important characters in the premiere? This episode flipped the coin and try to land on both sides: Daryl processing what happened at the RV and being taken prisoner, and Dwight milking his ruling over Daryl for all it's worth.

Easy Street The Walking DeadBecause of the cast and direction, the episode wasn't a complete waste. As far as the episode was concerned, the opening itself was it's most intriguing bit. Differences and similarities between Dwight and Daryl were established an effort to expose Negan's conversion tactics.

With the vest, bike, and crossbow, spending his days smoking and hanging out with blondes, Dwight is pretty much a clone of Daryl (excluding his facial scars). His run at the compound is spent watching reruns of Who's The Boss (pretty much suggesting the theme of the episode), enjoying an abundance of yummy sandwiches, overseeing the prison yard of walkers. His main object consists of converting Daryl into a Negan-wannabe.

Things are pretty much Easy Street by The Collapsable Hearts for Daryl 2.0. That impressively selected tune is one of the series best music moments as the song played overhead in Daryl's cell.  It creepingly accentuated Daryl beating himself up, the torture, and cruel dog food sandwiches.

Eventually the duo's conflict was a mix between a blatant nod to discerning Who Is The Boss and the Walking Dead's version of Pavlov's Dog; the famous science experiment of dogs and their salivation; Daryl associating being fed with the song, salivation or expectation to his owner Dwight, and with the result of answering to Negan as an unconditioned response.

Over time, Daryl became subservient enough that he was given clothes, but failed to show his loyalty. His cell was left unlocked, and of course, he tries to escape 'cause Rebel Ya'll when he's cornered and beaten by Negan's men - only to return to the same old routine.

It's no secret Negan has taken an unique interest to Daryl and is taking more immense pleasure in Dwight attempting to crack him. The latter's near obsession with Daryl seems to stem from jealousy instead of just settling a score, while Negan enjoys to have another plaything to bat around.

Halfway through the episode, Dwight's complexity (his showdown with the Radio Shack manager on the highway) started to lose momentum. Austin Nichols balanced Dwight's struggle to revel in his newfound confidence and letting his domination be second nature. But the male-side of how the Saviors emasculate each other was repetitive. People either work for points and wish they were dead, work for Negan and live like a king, or work the compound as a walker. Okay, we get it. Believe me writers, we get it.

As the only feminine influence in The Cell, we understand more about Negan by knowing the women in his group. So let's talk about the only woman in the episode Sherry, and how she represents the series' newest elephant in the apocalypse: CONSENT. Last time I checked forced volunteerism through the use of fear and punishment is not consent.
But Lucille… Well…you know how she is. She is a stickler for the rules. So, Dwight… he begged me not to kill Sherry, which I thought was kind of cute, so I was just gonna kill him. But then Sherry says that she will marry me if I let Dwight live, which, if you think about it, that’s a pretty screwed-up deal, ‘cause I was gonna marry her sister until she wound up dead, but… Sherry is super hot. Anyways, it was a start. But it wasn’t enough. So Dwight… he got the iron. And then I married his super hot wife. Ex-wife.
Rape and sexual assault itself is not an entirely new theme on The Walking Dead (going back to Maggie's sexual assault by the Governor on the show and Michonne's rape in the comic  books), though it's just not a common route compared to how other shows treat women.

As such, Sherry rightfully can't be made the poster Savior of the female populace because of what she was forced to do - 'marry Negan to save her husband. But from her we know for sure: people are roped into Negan's army in two ways: They comfortably join his ranks out of free will (like Paula/Molly from The Same Boat). Or like Rick, Sherry, and Dwight, have no other option except to serve Negan out of sheer coercion.

While thinking about Negan's leadership, I was reminded of Dawn's tenure at Grady Memorial Hospital and how the series inadvertently or actively commented on rape culture there too. She operated in a similar sense in that people had no other choice but to serve her as an act of paying off debt (the wards were kidnapped or brought in due to injury and saved). Very few of them ended up at the hospital out of sheer will. In addition, a cop raped one of the wards, but Dawn didn't dole out explicit punishment. In an effort to keep her system balanced, business was usual until another cop tried to sexually assault Beth.

Unlike the lil' Green songstress at Grady Memorial Hospital, where there was a balance of power by a woman, Negan's blatant attitude is that a woman's currency in his world is their body/consent while men's currency is their brawn and allegiance.

People will say Negan abhors sexual violence, doesn't kill women or children, and rape is not allowed in the Saviors compound. Just because we didn't see a sexually violent act between Negan and his wives, or other women and their wives, for most people's inception into the environment, free will wasn't ever an option.

Christine Evangelista was refreshing. She didn't have much screentime but Sherry tried to make amends with Daryl. Part of me truly felt for her, but was it a coincidence she showed up at every opportune moment when Daryl was alone to wax her regrets. Was her apologies genuine? Overall, I'm hoping there's more of Sherry.

Glenn Daryl The Walking DeadSurprisingly, Jeffrey Dean Morgan actually grew on me in The Cell. His quieter moments as Negan talking or persuading his wards doesn't make his performance as hammy as before. However, when the writing tattoos his rules to the back of our eyelids, his chilling nature is tiring and the story's flow is severed.

"Man pain" is okay. Male dominated protagonist / antagonist stories are fine by me. But if they're just whipping out rulers for every scene, the story becomes so emasculating for those who aren't men and aren't entitled to being at the top of the pack.

Nothing against Norman Reedus, but his arc as loner rebel versus Rick's brother was stunted for a while. Where the episode was the most emotionally satisfying was Daryl's resilience to not give in. Daryl just doesn't hold out for himself but also for Abraham and Glenn. Through Dwight's twisted tactics, he was actually allowed to grieve, even if he never forgives himself. I just wish we could get to those places without all of the dude battles with their measuring sticks.

Additional Thoughts:
+ Just to note gifs and pictures are usually credited with a link by clicking on the image or a link to the image below it. :)

+ Does this season feel a lot like season three to them - the doctor telling Daryl Negan would take care of him just like the doctor at Woodbury to Michonne/Andrea?

+ "I get why you did it. Why you took it. You were thinking about someone else. It's why I can't." Who is Daryl referring to - who is this somebody - Carol, Maggie, Rosita?

+ Again: Now that Carl's arc is now Daryls, what's gonna happen to this kid?!?!

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