In “The Cell”, the latest episode of The Walking Dead, we see what happens to Daryl when he was taken by Negan and his Saviors back to their community. Negan has Daryl placed in a cell and subjected to a number of torments, assigning one of his top lieutenants, Dwight, to help break him. The idea is not just to tear down his individuality and his dignity, but then to rebuild Daryl into a tool, Negan can use as one of his own.

Spoilers follow.

To make a long story short, Negan fails to break Daryl, which makes the prisoner one of the most remarkable men in the zombie apocalypse.

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Negan finds a new found respect for his prisoner, to the extent that he doesn’t kill him. Of course, he will still be subjected to isolation, bad food, and all of the other techniques governments use to break rebellious human beings to their will.

Dwight, who has a large number of privileges as a Negan underling, with good food, a comfortable existence, and no freedom or dignity whatsoever, starts to cause him to envy Daryl. Daryl has the strength to tell Negan no and even though he is dirty, emaciated, and in pain, is still free inside his head if not in fact.

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Dwight gave up everything, including his wife and apparently his manhood, for a little bit of comfort and safety as a member of the Saviors.

Human civilization has seen Negan before. Tyrants who can give our favors and punishments with the same hand to keep their people in line have been around since the dawn of time. As Gordon says, just before Dwight shoots him in the back. Just a few of the people banding together would end Negan. But the Saviors are more afraid of living without Negan than living with him.

What Daryl’s ultimate fate might be is something that is unknown. As capricious as Negan is, the tyrant could kill the rebellious prisoner at any time. On the other hand, he might see something of himself in Daryl, a wolf among the sheep. If Negan were to kill Daryl, he would have lost something that is rare in the world he finds himself in and would find the loss hard to take.  

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