Review: The Walking Dead, “The Cell” is the First Time I’ve Cared About Daryl Dixon in Years

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The Cell Plot Summary:

Daryl (Norman Reedus) is imprisoned at The Saviors’ Compound – where Dwight (Austin Amelio) tries to convince him to follow Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan).

Remember when Daryl Dixon was, like, the coolest character on television? He had this Clint Eastwood-esque soft talking, bad ass persona, but was loaded with depth, emotion, and a subtle and dry sense of humor. Remember when he held little Judith and called her “Little Ass Kicker” and everyone melted in a truly genuine “awww” moment?

The Walking Dead The Cell
Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Somewhere along the way, and I believe it was on the road to Alexandria, the series made its most beloved character completely irrelevant. The cast ballooned up — adding Abraham, Rosita, Eugene, Morgan, Father Gabriel, and everyone from Alexandria coming along for the ride. Someone had to lose screen time, and Daryl was the unfortunate victim. While Daryl did get some moments in the seasons these cast members were added, his usual screen time and opportunities for both action and comedy were eaten up. Then he got all angsty, and started working with Aaron as a recruiter, and that’s when I just stopped caring.

Honestly, like the series, the Daryl character became predictable, stale, and honestly I didn’t care if he met the business side of Lucille in this season’s premiere. Obviously, I knew it wouldn’t happen since he’s still a beloved character, but man, would it have really mattered at that point? What was Daryl really adding to this series outside of being Daryl? It’s like when the Yankees had A-Rod on their team this year — he didn’t do much for the team outside of just being A-Rod.

And that is why the third episode of this series, “The Cell” was awesome. It reminded the audience of why we love this character. It showed his toughness, his uncompromising sense of loyalty, and the fact this bad bad ass biker has some serious feels. Most importantly, the episode puts him in peril multiple times. Finally, there’s some sort of stakes with Daryl, there’s a doubt he’ll make it out alive. It’s not just “oh he’ll live because he’s Daryl” — we now have to fear what will happen to him. The Walking Dead is back to its “everything’s on the table” mode, so we can’t rule out that any one character (maybe outside of Rick) is safe this season.

Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC
Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

It feels good to actually have emotions during an episode of The Walking Dead, and not just watch  it like its a homework assignment.

I’d be remiss in not mentioning how great the portrayal of Dwight was. I absolutely loved his backstory, and that this guy, who was just a pure piece of garbage last season, actually has some real depth to him…and there’s seeds planted that he might actually end up a good guy at the end of the day. I like that. I like that’s intrigue here, and that there’s narrative options for these characters, and not just one bottleneck of a storyline.

Season 7 is three episode in, and is better than Season 5 and 6 combined so far, can’t wait till Negan comes to Alexandria next week.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Bill Bodkin is the gray bearded owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, he is lucky husband, and proud father to a beautiful daughter named Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site's podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites