“The Cell” is the third episode of the seventh season of the post-apocalyptichorrortelevision seriesThe Walking Dead, which aired on AMC on November 6, 2016. The episode was written by Angela Kang and directed by Alrick Riley.
The episode focuses on the Saviors living in an impressive community, the Sanctuary, that seems to have it all. Concurrently, Daryl (Norman Reedus) is held prisoner and psychologically tortured by Dwight (Austin Amelio), a ruthless but reluctant member of the Saviors and one of Negan‘s (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) top lieutenants, who forms a hostile rivalry with Daryl.
Under Negan‘s (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) orders, Daryl (Norman Reedus) is taken to the Saviors’ home, the Sanctuary, and locked in a dark cell, to be converted to join the Saviors by Dwight (Austin Amelio). Dwight feeds Daryl only dog food sandwiches and forces him to listen to the song “Easy Street” played through the walls. Dwight shows that if Daryl refuses to join the Saviors, he could end up like other prisoners, who have become walkers wandering in a fenced off area. Daryl attempts an escape one day when he finds his cell unlocked, but this is revealed to be a test by Negan of his loyalty. Negan threatens to smash Daryl’s head with “Lucille”, his bat, but Daryl doesn’t flinch. Negan is impressed and leaves him be, though the other Saviors beat him up and return him to his cell.
Later, Negan taunts Dwight about his relationship with Sherry (Christine Evangelista) and his loyalty. To try to get into good favor with Negan, Dwight sets off to capture a Savior who has decided to leave. He finds the man, Gordon (Michael Scialabba), who begs to be killed rather than returned to Sanctuary. Dwight, after some thought, kills Gordon, and returns to Sanctuary to spend time with Sherry. He later visits Daryl and tapes a gruesome Polaroid photo of Glenn‘s mutilated body on the wall, blaming Daryl for his friend’s death. Daryl breaks down into tears.
Dwight believes he has broken Daryl’s spirit and takes him to meet Negan. Negan explains to Daryl how Dwight became one of his top men. Dwight, Sherry and her sister Tina used to be part of the Sanctuary workforce, earning “points” for goods. However, Tina suffered from diabetes and fell behind on points. Tina agreed to marry Negan to keep her supply of medicine, but she, Dwight and Sherry stole the medicine and ran away. Following Tina’s death, Dwight and Sherry returned, asking Negan for forgiveness and sparing their lives, with Sherry offering herself in marriage to Negan. Negan agreed, but only after using a hot iron to burn half of Dwight’s face in punishment.
Negan then explains to Daryl that he too can become one of his men if he answers one question: “Who are you?” Daryl refuses to answer with “Negan” and instead provides his own name, defying Negan. Negan orders Dwight to return him to his cell. Dwight yells at Daryl for jeopardizing his life, but Daryl responds that, like Dwight, he was thinking of someone else at the time that he decided whether or not to obey Negan.