Daryl spies on Negan’s sanctuary

This week’s “Walking Dead” episode, “The Cell” finally takes us into the heart of Negan’s Sanctuary. And while you’d expect the barbed-wire bat-wielding psycho’s community to be living well off of the spoils they’re taking from the Hilltop, the Kingdom and everyone else they’re strong-arming, the Sanctuary is actually the most depressed-looking settlement we’ve seen on the show in some time.

Negan’s oppressed subjects are squatting practically on top of each other on cots divided by sheets in an old factory. There’s one main entrance, which is guarded by walkers anchored on spikes and chains. Those walkers are actually Saviors punished by Negan. Remember what King Ezekiel said about happy people being less violent and more productive? Well, Negan rules with fear, and we watch some of his people beat another guy to death. Nice, right?

Negan’s people — who kneel whenever they see him — work to earn points, which they trade for food, medicine and other supplies that they’ve scavenged or stolen from other communities. Or, they can get benefits by agreeing to have sex with Negan — or to give him your wife to have sex with.

That’s the sorry story we learn about Dwight, Daryl’s dark foil, who carries most of this episode. In case you’ve forgotten the running feud between these two, Daryl ran into Dwight, his wife Sherry and her sister Teri last season when they were running away from Negan. Turns out, Negan wanted to marry Teri in exchange for giving her the medicine she badly needed. Daryl helped them escape, but Teri was killed. And then Dwight and Sherry stole Daryl’s bike and his crossbow, and left Daryl in the woods. Our boy warned them that they were going to be sorry. And are they! We ran into Dwight again last season when he shot Dr. Denise in the eye with a bolt from said-crossbow, and nearly captured Daryl, Rosita and Eugene. But Eugene bit Dwight in the crotch, causing enough of a distraction for Daryl and company to escape. (Negan jokes about the injury this episode, asking Dwight if it still works. Dwight assures him that it does.)

But now Daryl is Negan’s prisoner and bargaining chip against Rick. And Dwight is walking tall in Daryl’s angel wing vest, riding Daryl’s motorcycle, and feeding our favorite redneck dog food sandwiches.

Daryl is being kept alone in a cell — cold, naked and bombarded with really loud, bad 80s songs in an attempt to break him. Please. Daryl Dixon has eaten worse than canine chow, and it will take more than blasting the “Who’s the Boss” theme song to make him crack.

But we learn this same sort of torture has been used successfully by Negan before. When Dwight returned from running away, he was to be tortured and killed – until Sherry volunteered to marry Negan, herself, so that the overlord would spare Dwight’s life. Negan now delights in dangling Dwight’s “hot wife … sorry, ex wife” before him. And Dwight was further punished by having the left side of his face branded with a hot iron.

“Make it easy on yourself,” Dwight tries to tell Daryl. He admits he once swore we wouldn’t kneel to Negan, either, but that all changed. And he predicts Daryl will change, too.

Dwight’s ex, Sherry, also tries talking some sense to Daryl through his cell door. “Whatever they say, just do it. Negan’ll take care of you, trust me,” she tells him.