Perhaps it’s the thought of Election Day looming in the very near future, but this week’s The Walking Dead was more unnerving than usual — the premiere episode aside.
We’ve met two kinds of rulers this season: King Ezekiel and Negan. One, though more unusually charismatic, rules his domain with kindness, love, and respect, and gets the same from his people in return. The other rules with fear, first preying on those facing uncertain futures with the promise of prosperity and then forcing his will upon them and ruling as a merciless tyrant.
After taking a peek inside The Kingdom, we turn our attention now to the Sanctuary, Negan’s home base that places the full extent of his leadership in a larger context.
It opens with Dwight, who’s listening to the theme song from Who’s the Boss? and taking ingredients from his underlings to make a sandwich. It’s a comical tune when compared to the harsh world he now lives in, but it’s also unsettling. As an image of the typical nuclear family, it’s a haunting reminder of what Dwight could’ve had if Negan hadn’t come along.
Of course, there’s another reason why the show’s presence causes concern: Who’s the boss? Negan. We’re reminded of that as Dwight, wearing Daryl’s angel vest, kneels as he walks by. Then the music picks back up and it’s business as usual, until the sound of walkers interrupts his flow. Negan uses walkers to protect the Sanctuary by lining its border with the dead. As Dwight tries to enjoy his sandwich, he observes two men struggling to stake another to the writhing collection.
Soon we find Daryl, now dirtied and naked and forced to remain in solitary confinement in a dark room. He’s regularly fed dog food sandwiches and forced to listen to “Easy Street” by The Collapsible Hearts Club, the kind of upbeat jingle that can take root in your mind and drive a man mad. As if training a dog, Dwight turns on the music when it’s time to feed his pet, and Daryl accepts the dehumanizing food without complaint every time.
A day comes when Dwight enters with Daryl’s crossbow in hand and tosses the prisoner matching grey sweatpants and sweatshirt. Dwight pushes him down an angling hall to a doctor’s office, where we see Carson (the physician) and Sherry, the women Dwight met in the forest of ash trying to escape from the Saviors with Dwight and her sister Tina.
She recognizes Daryl, having rode off with his gear and motorcycle, but she calls Dwight D. To his horror, D sees a pregnancy strip on the table, but Sherry says it’s negative. She tries to talk to Daryl, but is warned not to do so. She tries again, this time advising Daryl to do everything he’s asked, and D barks his orders again. When she leaves, the doctor promises things will get better if he let’s it — meaning if he submits to Negan.
After his check-up, Daryl runs into Negan in the hallway and is forced to sit in a chair to the side while D and his master have a meeting. Daryl peers behind an orange door and sees a room with a TV, lazy boy chair, and kitchen. He’s pulled away and back to his cell, but D advises to make things easy on himself. We see a glimpse of his former self when he admits he thought he’d never kneel, but then warns that Daryl eventually will.
NEXT: Escape plan.