Warning: This article contains massive spoilers from Season 7 of The Walking Dead.
The Walking Dead's seventh season premiere was television's most anticipated moment of the year following Negan's arrival in the Season 6 finale. After months of speculation about which member of the group got Lucille'd, viewers were forced to watch as Negan brutally killed both Glenn and Abraham. Although the deaths of these two beloved characters mark the end of a chapter for The Walking Dead, the real storyline is just beginning as the group learns to cope with Negan's reign of terror.
Check out a scene from tonight's episode of The Walking Dead:
Last week's episode allowed viewers to catch up with Carol and Morgan as they discovered the Kingdom — run by King Ezekiel and his pet tiger, Shiva. As the folks at The Kingdom begin a new journey together, the Alexandrians remain frightened to death by the threat of Negan. Tonight's episode took viewers into Negan's settlement and we discovered exactly what it's like for the Saviors as they live under the tyrannical control of Jeffrey Dean Morgan's sadistic character. Perhaps more importantly we finally got to see how Daryl is coping and unfortunately, he's not doing so well.
Daryl Is Being Treated Like A Prisoner
After Daryl was kidnapped by Negan and his people during the Season 7 premiere, he was taken to the Savior's settlement — a place where there is no doubt about who is in charge. Tonight's episode opened with Daryl living in horrible conditions, completely naked and eating dog food — if that isn't torture then I don't know what is. Afterward, he was given clothing resembling a prison uniform, which is a distinct sign that he doesn't belong among the Saviors. As a result, he is treated like a prisoner — because that is exactly what he is. He is isolated from the others in the settlement both literally and figuratively.
Whether or not this will change over the course of the season has yet to be seen. From what we know about the comics, Negan's tyrannical reign will continue for quite some time and Jeffrey Dean Morgan is credited as a series regular, meaning he isn't going anywhere anytime soon. Perhaps Daryl will be integrated into the community or perhaps he will be tortured first. I guess we'll find out soon enough.
Daryl's Isolation Is Only Just Beginning
Negan kidnapped Daryl in the season premiere so that he has something to control Rick and the other Alexandrians with. As we suspected, Daryl is being held like a prisoner, isolated from civilization. In general, this isolation couldn't be good for a human being but unfortunately Daryl's circumstances make it so much worse. Daryl has been left alone with his thoughts and that's only intensifying his isolation — remember, it was after Daryl attacked Negan that Negan retaliated by killing Glenn. Without Daryl's interference Glenn would have likely survived the whole situation.
It only makes matters worse that Glenn's wife, Maggie, is pregnant so now she has to raise the baby all on her own and the baby will have to grow up without a father. Daryl doesn't cope well with loss, as we'd seen previously when he lost his brother Merle, but carrying the responsibility of Glenn's death is making matters a lot worse. Being trapped like a caged animal with those thoughts of self-reproach is only going to damage Daryl further and at this stage in the game I'm not sure if he'll ever be able to recover.
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Will Daryl Choose Isolation Or Will He Comply With Negan's Rules?
Daryl may be more isolated than ever at the moment but I guess the real question is what he's going to do next? Negan has a loyal group of followers but will Daryl comply with his rules and become one of the flock? We saw in tonight's episode that the Saviors get to their knees and bow when Negan approaches, treating him like a God. We know that Negan is extremely territorial so this is likely his way of making sure that his followers know exactly who is in charge.
Dwight almost looked a little terrified when on his knees, leading me to believe that his relationship with Negan isn't one of mutual respect, but fear. Daryl and Dwight aren't much different — the main difference is that Dwight knows his place, something he will no doubt try and teach to Daryl in the coming episodes. We also saw Dwight forcing Daryl to kneel as Negan walked by, so it appears that the training is already in session.
As we saw in tonight's episode, the dynamic between Daryl and Dwight is certainly interesting and, if anything, both characters definitely seem to share some traits. We've seen in the past that the pair were almost friends, so I wonder if that opportunity for friendship will arise again. If not, then Daryl could find himself isolated for many years to come. Dwight will teach Daryl how to adapt and survive in this brave new world but Daryl will have to make a choice whether or not to abide by these new rules.
What Is Negan Going To Do With Daryl?
Negan confronted Daryl over his lack of fear and while it is admirable that Daryl isn't scared that's not going to bode well for him on the Saviors' playground. I imagine that Daryl won't take too kindly to the fact that Negan now practically owns him and, knowing Negan, he is going to take every opportunity to lord that ownership over him. If a small part of Daryl actually wants to survive then he'll need to remember that he watched Negan "beat the holy hell" out of his friends, murdering them in the process. If Daryl isn't careful, he'll be next.
Again, Daryl looks like a prisoner, clearly segregated from the others in the settlement. Negan will, without a doubt, take advantage of his prisoner and put Daryl to work in some way. I have a feeling that Negan knows just how valuable Daryl is to Rick and the gang so killing him won't do anyone any favors — remember, Daryl is the Saviors' bargaining chip. If the Alexandrians don't comply, Daryl will be killed.
With #TheWalkingDeadSeason7 well underway it's becoming clear that Negan will continue to rule for a very long time. It's up to Daryl to decide how he will cope with this brave new world. If he's smart then he will play along, at least until he can be rescued or escape. With Negan setting his sights on Alexandria in an extended episode next week, who knows what lies in store for Rick and the gang?
The Walking Dead airs Sunday on AMC. What do you think Daryl will do next? Tell me in the comment section below.