Season 7 of The Walking Dead premiered with a deeply dark episode. Fan reaction was mixed. Many said the show had gone too far with the graphic violence and gore. Many even vowed to stop watching the show. In defense, writer Robert Kirkman said they wanted the first episode to be intense to drive home the point that Negan coming on the scene changes everything. We got a reprieve with the next episode as The Walking Dead took us inside a new world, The Kingdom, with a new leader, King Ezekiel, but last week we returned to the land of Negan. We learned a lot about Dwight and watched our beloved Daryl begin the journey through the darkness of his grief and his captivity. The Walking Dead has never been about zombies at its core. That’s the show on its superficial level. TWD is about more than that. It’s about who we are as humans and how that plays out in crisis mode – the good and the bad. Last week’s “The Cell” was a great example of this.
Season 7 of The Walking Dead could not have started any more darkly. It was crushing to watch (sorry, no pun intended) and left viewers exhausted and hurting for days. The next week took us to a brighter place – King Ezekiel and The Kingdom. Then last week we dove back into the darkness as Dwight, at the order of Negan, tried to break Daryl. We watched Daryl deal with the tragedy of Glenn and Abraham’s deaths and heard some of Dwight’s backstory that included submitting to Negan as part of a bargain made for the life of him and Sherry. But in the midst of the darkness of both men’s experiences, we also saw light, light that may very well end up playing a significant role in freeing everyone from Negan’s control.
I dare say that many people changed their minds, at least a little, about Dwight following the Walking Dead episode titled “The Cell.” In previous episodes we saw an angry, heartless man who seemed to have no problem hurting and killing people. He seemed like a blind follower. Last week, however, we learned that he is indeed human and has very human, and even touching, reasons for doing what he does. We got a glimpse at his pain as he reacted to Negan laying out the story of Sherry agreeing to marry the leader in exchange for him sparing Dwight’s life. His life was in danger because he, Sherry, and Tina had fled Sanctuary with meds Tina needed to live. (This is when he ran in to Daryl in Season 6 of The Walking Dead). A peek at what was going on in Daryl’s mind soon followed as he told Dwight that he understood that he had finally knelt to Negan because of someone else. He followed that by saying that he would never kneel, because he has no one else.
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Both men are in dark places, but both men have a spark of light in them. Daryl found his within the darkness. The fact that he is alone is the reason he won’t kneel. He feels he has nothing to lose. He hasn’t flinched at threats of the bat or anything else because he’s down so low that it doesn’t matter to him if he loses his life. Beyond that though, he cares deeply about Rick and the rest of his friends he’s been without throughout the seasons of The Walking Dead. He’s motivated to help them. You could say he’s making his way through the darkness with pride and love for the people he’s survived with all this time serving as his light. And Dwight sees some light when he sees Daryl. He’s afraid he’ll end up dead, but admires his stubbornness and hopes he survives. Moments with Sherry are also lights in his life. He’s a reluctant follower of Negan, and given the chance, he’d destroy him. There is speculation that word of this reluctant follower will make its way to Ezekiel and that he will find a way to work with Dwight to bring down Negan. It’s not too far fetched.
The Walking Dead has always been about the darkness and the light in humanity. It’s set in a zombie apocalypse, major crisis mode. And crisis brings out both the best and the worst in people. Even in the darkest times, we look for a source of light. Sometimes, like with Dwight right now, it’s really dark and finding a bright spot takes a while to find. The Walking Dead is about the circle we all travel that takes us in and out of darkness and light over and over. The light will eventually win in this Walking Dead scenario, but there’s bound to be plenty of darkness and pain along the way.
[Featured Image by AMC]