First, a moment of silence for all of us who have the song “Easy Street” running through our brains on an endless, infuriating loop. You heard it just now, didn’t you? I know, fam. I know. ME, TOO.
This week’s episode affords us a look into Daryl’s ordeal as a prisoner of the Saviors. Basically, it’s the very worst summer camp you can imagine. The food sucks, the counselors are brainwashed sadists, and the activities are fucking horrifying. At least no one is forced to make lanyards out of walker intestines. So far as we know.
In the opening montage, that song plays as we follow Dwight, the scarfaced douchebag. You remember Dwight. He and his girlfriend, Sherry, jacked Daryl for his weapons and his motorcycle after Daryl (against his better judgment) tried to help them – an exercise that ended in the death of Sherry’s sister. The background song, I assume, is to clarify Dwight’s douchiness for any of us who were still on the fence. Also, it’s a surreal counterpoint to the reality of the situation. We watch as Dwight cheerily watches wobbly videotapes of old “Who’s the Boss?” episodes, plays foosball and drinking games, whittles (really?), and then does his version of grocery shopping. This last means he makes his way around Camp Savior, cuts to the front of food lines, grabs what he wants, shakes down his fellow campers for things like pickles and mustard, and steals from the garden and chicken coop. From his cavalier attitude, we conclude that he must have status, because no one does a damn thing to stop him. He makes himself a fried egg sandwich with his stolen booty while watching a couple of workers drag a walker out into a fenced-off courtyard and chain him to said fence. The yard is littered with strategically chained or staked walkers. This is either for some kind of high stakes obstacle course, a security measure, or Negan’s weird idea of a zen garden.
Dwight makes another sandwich – this time, just two pieces of bread slathered with dog food – and takes it to Daryl, who is huddled on the floor in a tiny, windowless cell, filthy and naked. Daryl gobbles down the Alpo special as Dwight closes the door. This scene plays over and over, giving us a sense of the monotony of Daryl’s days. Every time he seems to be falling asleep, music blasts. If one of the Saviors showed up and started reading him Harry Potter, I’d think it was Guantanamo Bay.
Once, Dwight brings Daryl clothes and brings him to the camp doctor to get his wound checked. And there’s Sherry! She looks healthy and is wearing makeup and a pretty dress. She remembers Daryl and seems like she wants to say something to him, but Dwight cuts her off. Sherry informs Dwight that her pregnancy test is negative. Dr. Carson checks Daryl’s shoulder and tells him not to worry; Negan will take care of him.
Negan shows up (there’s this thing, btw, where everyone kneels whenever Negan appears – super NOT CRAZY) and wants a word with Dwight. While they talk, another savior, Fat Joey, holds a gun on Daryl. Through an open door, Daryl glimpses a furnished room with bookcases, a TV, carpet, a bed. Pret-ty swanky for around here. Then Dwight drags him off to show him the walker zen garden. Daryl is given a choice: sign up for Team Negan and live a life of post-apocalyptic luxury (which we assume entails fried egg sandwiches and studio apartments), or end up like one of those poor walker-wrangling schmucks out there in the yard.
Dwight returns him to his cell, and Daryl says he will never kneel. Dwight responds, “I said that, too.” He locks the door and the music plays. Daryl kicks at the door repeatedly, but to no avail.
Negan has a performance review with a deeply cowed Dwight, telling him he is doing great. Daryl is going to break. It just takes some time. If Dwight wants, he can sleep with one of Negan’s wives as a reward! Dwight declines, which pisses Negan off and makes him wonder what the hell is wrong with Dwight. But before he can perhaps go batty (see what I did there?) Negan gets a call that a worker is trying to escape and Dwight volunteers to handle it.
Fat Joey is on sandwich duty for Daryl, as Dwight is occupied, but when he closes the door to Daryl’s cell, we don’t hear a click. Daryl listens and then quietly opens the door, sneaking off down the hallway. Out of nowhere, Sherry appears in her polka dot dress and tells him to get back to his cell while he still can. Whatever he thinks he’s gone through, there is always worse, and they will catch him. Daryl continues on his way and makes it outside to where the motorcycles are. He’s about to steal one when suddenly a group of Saviors surrounds him, and then Negan is there. “Are we pissing our pants yet?” Negan asks gleefully. Yes. Yes, we are. Oh, he meant Daryl.
Turns out the whole thing was a test and Daryl failed. Negan proceeds to ask each of the Saviors, who have encircled Daryl, who they are. And each in turn responds, “Negan.” Negan informs Daryl that he is EVERYWHERE. Daryl has three choices: death, working for points (i.e. walker wrangling and basic slave work), or he can join the Negan management team and enjoy all its perks. Daryl does not answer so Negan swings Lucille at his head, stopping just short. Daryl doesn’t blink an eye and this impresses Negan mightily. Instead, he has the Saviors beat the bejeezus out of Daryl.
Dwight, meanwhile, finds the errant worker. It turns out to be a man named Gordon, who was once his friend. Gordon says he ain’t going back. Dwight is going to have to kill him. Dwight waves the gun menacingly, but seems desperate to persuade Gordon to return so he won’t have to shoot him. Gordon wants to know why, if there’s one of Negan and all of the rest of them, WHY do they live this way? Gordon has nothing left. He wants out or he wants to die. Dwight threatens to kill everyone Gordon has ever cared about. Gordon walks away and Dwight shoots him.
Later, Dwight and Sherry meet in a corridor. They share a cigarette. Dwight asks if Negan is good to her, and she says yes. Dwight says it’s a hell of lot better than being dead.
The next time Dwight visits the battered Daryl with food, Daryl refuses to eat. Dwight tapes a grisly Polaroid to the wall and tells him, “You got your friend killed.” He leaves. Seeing Glenn’s battered head, Daryl finally breaks down in tears. Outside, Dwight is listening. When he hears Daryl crying, he is satisfied and leaves.
Daryl is asleep when Dwight wakes him to bring him to the furnished apartment Daryl saw earlier. Negan is waiting there to make him an offer. All this can be his if he’ll just say the word. He tells Daryl the story of how Dwight climbed the ladder of Savior success. Dwight, Sherry and her sister Tina all worked for him. Tina was SUPER hot and Negan wanted to marry her (in exchange for helping her out with badly needed medication). Tina was not about it. Instead, Dwight, Sherry, and Tina stole the meds and ran from the camp. After Tina was killed, Dwight and Sherry returned (on Daryl’s motorcycle, if you’ll remember) and threw themselves on Negan’s mercy. Negan graciously agreed after burning Dwight’s face with an iron and deciding to marry Sherry. Now all is well. So. Does Daryl want in? He askes Daryl the important question. “Who are you?” Daryl responds, “Daryl.”
Dwight throws Daryl back in his cell. He’s an idiot for not taking the deal. Daryl says, “I get why you did it, why you took it. You were thinking about someone else. That’s why I can’t.”
Later, Daryl goes back out to the yard for walker watching and sees a couple of workers dragging out a new addition. It’s Gordon.
I’m not sure where all this is going to lead, but you guys, Daryl is still Daryl! For the moment! And that’s something. Next week, we head back to Alexandria. See you then.