While The Walking Dead‘s creator Robert Kirkman and his writers bring Daryl Dixon to life, Norman Reedus’ acting chops have made Daryl a staple in the pop culture zeitgeist.

Some feel that The Walking Dead is merely a horror show, but true fans know that the story underneath is based on real life human drama. The show is barbaric and honest at the same time, with zombies in between safe zones.

Daryl is perhaps the fan favorite and Season 7 has put him in a place where fans are unsure of what will happen next. This is the first time someone has completely gotten the best of Daryl and it’s not pretty.

The Walking Dead | Photo Credit AMCThe Walking Dead | Photo Credit AMC

Daryl the Prisoner

A captive, Daryl has been nude or in some mangy sweats the past few episodes of The Walking Dead. In “The Cell,” Daryl has been Negan’s prisoner, where he has been tortured and beaten repeatedly.

“I walked in, and wardrobe was like, “Do you want to wear a sock over your junk?” and I was like, “Nope.” I just went in, naked. It’s funny, though, it’s kind of like watching a tennis match. I sat down naked in front of the whole camera crew, and everyone’s head just moved to the right. It was like they were watching Wimbledon.”

Much like the first episode, the rest of the cast was rather somber during filming this season. For Daryl, Reedus describes the experience as “spiritually draining.” Reedus admits, “[The Cell was] physically, and spiritually draining. I don’t know that it would be as easy to get there emotionally and run with that for so long. I don’t know that you could do that with a crew that you didn’t have as strong of a bond with, and you feel safe with.”

The Walking Dead | Photo Credit AMCThe Walking Dead | Photo Credit AMC

Daryl’s Sense of Freedom

In the episode, Negan’s right-hand man Dwight is trying to break Daryl through various methods of torture. Overall, for Daryl to find a sense of freedom, all he has to do is say, “I am Negan” when prompted. Daryl, however, can’t deny his name.

“No, Daryl’s a fighter. He fights to the end, but in saying out loud his name instead of Negan’s name — it’s the last shred of himself that he has and for his friends. I assume he thinks he’s going to get killed right there when he says he’s not Negan. He’s signing up for more torture, but he’s doing it for the love of his friend.”

Daryl Dixon can’t deny his identity, despite what that means to his physical body. He will not give into this brutal murderer, even if it means losing his life. “[Daryl Dixon] can’t say that he’s Negan. He’ll never do that. He’ll fight, but matters of the heart to Daryl are hard. They mean more. Hit him in the face with the bat. String him up. Feed him dog food. Whatever. He can handle that, but when it comes to matters of the heart, they’re hard for him, and he’s learning, and those are the things that give him faith and hope, and he can’t let go of that because that’s the last thing he has.”