Ever since he was introduced in season 6, Dwight has been almost like Daryl’s mini-nemesis. The rivalry between Dwight and Daryl has been as obvious on The Walking Dead as it has been cartoony. Dwight has been less a character and more just a (very uninteresting) force that has represented the Saviors. This all changed with “The Cell,” in which The Walking Dead took another breather in season 7 and gave us an episode almost entirely from Dwight’s perspective. Here are 4 ways The Walking Dead improved Dwight in “The Cell.”
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Showing Us the Horror of Negan Through His Eyes
Dwight has been presented, for the most part, as an unfaltering and incredibly loyal member of the Saviors. It’s true that we were first introduced to Dwight as he was fleeing the Saviors and Negan’s control. Since that first episode, though, Dwight has been an enthusiastic and even gleeful participant in all the deplorable things that Negan wants accomplished. In “The Cell,” though, we were introduced to a new version of Dwight.
Dwight of “The Cell” still jumps at the chance to help Negan but it is less about enthusiasm for the work and more about a willingness to lose himself. Dwight wants to keep as busy as possible to forget everything he has done for Negan. The Dwight of “The Cell” is a sad and broken man who is just trying to survive under Negan’s brutal rule. Dwight isn’t so much loyal to Negan as he is deathly afraid of what an angry and vindictive Negan could do to him. Dwight was our chance to see that no matter who Negan is in charge of, the Saviors or another group, he rules them all with an iron fist.
Making Dwight Daryl’s Prison Warden
The Walking Dead has presented Daryl and Dwight’s relationship entirely through Daryl’s eyes. As a result, we have only seen Dwight as the sneering schemer who taunts Daryl and kills Denise. “The Cell” gave us a chance to view the relationship from Dwight’s side and for all his swagger, Dwight appears to have some actual compassion for Daryl.
Dwight’s big outburst after Daryl refused to join the Saviors might have been a little bit about Dwight himself. Dwight obviously doesn’t like seeing Daryl being a stronger person than himself. The anger, though, can also be attributed to Dwight not really wanting Daryl to turn into zombie chow for Negan. Dwight believes being alive is the most important thing in this world and deep down he doesn’t want Daryl to “give up” so easily.
Dwight changing the music from the grating “Easy Street” to a much more somber song halfway through the episode was an intimidation tactic. The close-up on Dwight’s face as the music changed, though, made it clear in that moment he was empathizing with Daryl. Dwight isn’t the monster he has been presented as before “The Cell.” He does care for others, even Daryl.
Making Him a Shade of Daryl
Speaking of Dwight’s relationship with Daryl, The Walking Dead finally gave us a thematic reason why these two have butted heads so much in the past. “The Cell” presented Dwight as an alternate version of Daryl. Dwight is a Daryl who is slightly less strong in his convictions and Dwight has the misfortune of having Negan as his leader, not Rick Grimes.
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Everything Dwight has done to land in him in his current situation has been for others. Dwight escaped the Saviors initially because he was trying to save his sister-in-law. Dwight became ensnared in Negan’s web of control trying to save his wife’s life. Daryl is easily one of the most selfless characters on The Walking Dead. Daryl has constantly sacrificed himself for other characters. Presenting Dwight as a slightly more selfish and cowardly Daryl does wonders to make their rivalry more interesting on the show. It could be argued after “The Cell” that Dwight’s stealing of Daryl’s iconic possessions (the crossbow, motorcycle, vest, etc.) is less about being greedy and more about an unconscious desire to be more like Daryl.
Dwight Is Actually Remorseful
By far the most interesting thing “The Cell” did with Dwight was have him show actual sympathy and remorse for his actions. Dwight has been such a caricature before “The Cell” because he appeared to be just as sadistic as Negan with none of Negan’s charm. As of “The Cell” Dwight’s previous attitude can be viewed as an act. Dwight does regret and maybe even hates everything he does for Negan but he enjoys living more.
“The Cell” had plenty of silent Dwight scenes where he was finally able to show some real emotion. Dwight tracking down another ex-member of the Saviors crystallized his journey up to that point. Dwight didn’t look particularly pleased to have to kill his old friend but did it to make Negan happy. The stairwell scene with Dwight and Sherry was the perfect move to justify Dwight’s actions. Both characters, who have been so abused, agreed that life might be hell under Negan’s rule but it is still a life. Dwight isn’t a monster. Dwight is just a coward who is determined to keep living no matter what happens.
But what do you think? Do you find Dwight more interesting after “The Cell?” Do you think Daryl might be able to turn Dwight to his side? Do you feel bad for Dwight? Do you think there is any redeeming Dwight?
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(Image courtesy of AMC)