The Walking Dead: Is Anyone Happy on Easy Street?

By  · Published on November 7th, 2016

“The Cell” fills in the blanks and sows the seeds of discontent.

If tonight’s episode of The Walking Dead gave us anything, aside from getting The Collapsable Hearts Club’s infectious “Easy Street” stuck in our heads, it’s a whole lot of foreshadowing. Life inside The Saviors compound isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and heavy is the head that wears the crown, especially when it’s weighed down by a lot of disgruntled lip service.

Our insight into Negan’s world came via Dwight, who has now risen to right-hand man for Negan but at a cost. Initially, it seems simple enough. Kick back with a beer and old copies of Who’s The Boss?, confiscate some illegal goods and make yourself a boss egg sandwich, slop together some dog food surprise and shove it in front of your prisoner. Easy Street. But cracks begin surfacing in Dwight’s flame-scorched veneer quite quickly.

Dwight has been charged with the responsibility of breaking Daryl, keeping him locked in the dark, sleep deprived and isolated. But on a trip to the doctor, Dwight runs into Sherry, his now ex-wife, who has taken a pregnancy test. The mood between them is tense; Sherry quickly points out that the test is negative but it is hardly consolation for Dwight. For now, what is unspoken between them speaks volumes about the sacrifices they made to get where they both are. Dwight’s sacrifices are further elaborated after he chats with Negan, who is pleased with his progress with Daryl and offers him his choice of a consenting female for the evening. But Dwight isn’t interested since Sherry is off the table and possibly because Eugene nearly bit off his penis last season. The good fortune he’s ranked up has come at too high a cost and he heads out to do scut work instead.

Dwight is called away to chase after a friend who is trying to desert the group. Dwight’s friend pleads with him, begging to either be killed or to be let free. Life with The Saviors just isn’t worth it, why should they all cower in fear of one man when they are so many? It’s clear his words strike a chord with Dwight, especially after his run in with Sherry and his exchange with Negan, but the truth is too cheap of a consolation prize after losing so much. Instead, Dwight shoots his friend in the back, allowing him to turn and chaining him to the fence inside of Negan’s twisted walker obstacle course.

Daryl faces his own test while Dwight is away, as the door to his cell is left open and he scuttles out, trying his luck at freedom. Sherry intercepts him and urged him to go back and pass the test, proving his loyalty to Negan but Daryl ignores her and runs outside. It’s a trap of course and Negan is disappointed but not surprised. Daryl is surrounded by members of The Saviors who, on cue, say they are Negan, thereby proving his hold over the group and establishing that he is everywhere. But even after being threatened by Lucille and beaten to a pulp, Daryl refuses to capitulate. And so, Dwight turns to the last resort, a weapon he knows best: guilt.

Roy Orbison’s “Crying” swells as Daryl turns over a sinister Polaroid of Glenn’s splattered remains and is forced to reckon with his role in his friend’s death. It’s enough to push him over the edge. He is finally dragged, swollen and bloody, to Negan to offer his services at last. But then, as villains are wont to do when the odds are finally stacked in their favor, Negan makes a stupid decision, he decides to tell a story.

Once upon a time, Dwight earned his keep but began falling behind because of the high cost of medical supplies for his sister-in-law. Negan decided marriage would be the best compromise, he would take on the sick sister, after all, he’d pledge to take care of her in sickness and in heath. Instead, Dwight stole medical supplies and ran away with both women, forcing Negan to hunt them down. Although her sister had died as result, Sherry offered herself as substitute wife for Negan in exchange for Dwight’s life. It suddenly becomes quite clear, to both us and Daryl, that while they are both still alive, Dwight and Sherry’s sacrifices weren’t worth it.

In the end, Daryl refuses to bend once again but instead of stubbornness, we see the nobility in what might be a futile effort on his part. While Negan’s power seemed terrifying and limitless when we swung Lucille and shoved Rick into a swarm of zombies, his hands are slick with the blood of everyone he has scorned. If Dwight, Negan’s self-described right-hand man, can harbor such deep resentment, how many others feel the same and how long until there is mutiny on Easy Street?

Jamie Righetti is an author and freelance film critic from New York City. She loves horror movies, Keanu Reeves, BioShock and her Siberian Husky, Nugget.