Daryl’s fate on The Walking Dead

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Think about it: Why do we care about Daryl so much?

Is it his good looks? I don’t know how this can be, especially to the female contingent of The Walking Dead fans out there. He’s usually dirty, disheveled and unkempt, complete with greasy hair obscuring his vision more often than not and with attitude by the bucketful. Trust me: I’ve been dirty, disheveled, unkempt, greasy-haired and attitudinal myself many times before and I don’t garner the same love and affection Daryl does. At least not in the same quantity.

Is it the rebel in him? I don’t know how this can be, either. Earlier in the show, he was very much the loose cannon. But over the course of the last few seasons he’s been Rick’s right hand man more so, calm, cool and collected and willing and able to take up a cause when a cause needs taking up. There’s still that knee-jerk reaction to him when called for but a lot of his brash rebelness has been greatly curtailed.

Is it his demeanor? The snappy quips and comebacks? “Yeah … people in hell want ice water, too.” (It’s one of the things that attracts me to Daryl as I often shoot verbal barbs with frequency. We’re compadres that way.)

How ’bout the blue eyes, the gruff voice, the facial hair, that flash of naked thigh?

Maybe it has nothing to do with the character of Daryl whatsoever. Maybe it has to do with the actor himself, Norman Reedus, who oozes that devil-may-care charm while casually and easily offering a highly attractive machismo. He’s 47 years old you know. To a lot of fans those those years can look pretty damned good.

I could go on and on about both the character and the actor. Whatever it is that draws and intrigues us to him, it’s something mesmerizing. Pretty good for a performer who was never in The Walking Dead source material.

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And, for my money, some of the best of Daryl is when he’s put in a plot device such as “The Cell” against contemplative one-on-ones with a handful of players (Dwight, Sherry, Negan) intertwined with an exclusive, focused character study (just he and his confines).

Now, personally, I don’t know the true consequences of being fed nothing but dog food sandwiches, being subject to solitary confinement and tortured with a single 3 minute ditty (“Easy Street”) ad nauseum. But I do know – regardless of a point of reference – it’s probably going to mimic what we saw Daryl go through Sunday evening: unrelenting mental and emotional torture, which is a pretty effective way to break down a person’s resolve in short order. In many ways, it’s just as horrific as what we saw Negan do to Abraham and Glenn in the season opener.

Do I really want to be witness to something like that as a general rule during my recreational television viewing? No. Why would anyone unless you have sadistic leanings? But, despite the subject matter, did it make for an edge-of-your-seat hour of television? You betcher bippy it did, for me at least. Because I’m often all about the examination of what makes a show’s character tick and how s/he reacts to a certain set of parameters. In other words, “The Cell” tripped my trigger.

Thus far, this season of The Walking Dead is methodically pacing us through various group or individual stories in the aftermath of what’s come before (something The Powers That Be regularly use as a story device to “change channels” if you catch my drift) and, often, effectively. Outside the way, way over the top season opener I didn’t care for, the last two chapters of the show have had a lot more positives than negatives going for them.

And this one with Daryl? It worked for me.

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Notes

  • Negan certainly works some diabolical, well thought out and nefarious methodologies for breaking the will of a person, doesn’t he? Incessant music, fear that demands obedience in the extreme, gruesome shock and awe tactics. Where did he acquire these? Will we find out down the line? Because as clownish and larger than life as he is, it takes a knowing, intelligent, calculating individual to employ such psychological tactics …
  • … which leads one to wonder how such a leadership can actually survive for any length of time … simply because it’s so clownish and larger than life. Don’t the residents and workers and members of Negan’s Sanctuary get tired of such demagoguery? Are they so mind-numbingly, mentally compromised they are unable to take any sort of stand against the man? They have the numbers to do so if they want. Or is it they are simply that in tune with Negan’s M.O. and personally relate to his approaches and practices? Are there no decent folk in the compound with ehtics and morals? Or are they all truly sheeple?
  • Daryl had to work through that “unlocked” door scenario right on through to its obvious end. Regardless of knowing it was a set-up, despite the fact he was warned. That’s just him being him.
  • Not only was “Easy Street” (the incessant, assaultive, pop-frothy tune Daryl was tortured with in his solitary confines) Behaviorism Breakdown 101, the lyrics to the song pulled double duty on the mind by continually flooding one with the “rewards” of the Sanctuary, home of the Saviors. “We’re inviting you to come and see why you should be on Easy Street, yeah we got a front row seat, oh to a life that can’t be beat …” Wicked, wicked stuff.
  • Speaking of music, I can think of no better number than Roy Orbison’s “Crying” to have gotten to Daryl after Dwight posted that Polaroid of Glenn. Ouch. And The Jam’s “Town Called Malice” playing over the episode’s intro while showcasing a day in the life of Dwight? Perfect yet again.

On the next episode of The Walking Dead

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What did you think of The Cell? Is that song stuck in your head? Tell us in the comments below. We want to hear from you!

 

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