Warning: more detailed spoilers ahead for the Season 7 premiere of The Walking Dead.
The Walking Dead Season 7 got off to a devastating start as Glenn and Abraham were both brutally beaten to death by new bad guy Negan. Daryl fans could breathe a slight sigh of relief to discover that AMC's hints about his death had been misleading, but he's not exactly in a good place. After punching Negan in the face (and getting Glenn killed), Daryl was kidnapped and hauled away by the Saviors. Jeffrey Dean Morgan has some thoughts about why his character took Daryl away from Rick and Co., saying this:
Negan admires that Daryl hit him and sees him as someone that could be a good right-hand man. His intention is to break Daryl and have him become one of his guys, which makes sense. After what Negan does in that lineup, he knows where he's got Rick at a certain point. But he sees something in Daryl and is going to take advantage of that. It's a chess game and Negan is going to do anything he can to get the advantage. Negan having Daryl makes Rick think, too. Negan is playing a couple of cards, and you can look at it a couple different ways. Negan always has a couple balls in the air and Daryl is one of them.
Given Daryl's history throughout the years on The Walking Dead, Negan may have picked the perfect person to try and twist into an ally. Everybody's favorite zombie apocalypse redneck is undeniably one of the good guys, but he has had to struggle to stay on the straight and narrow from time to time, and he has a habit of taking on the qualities of whoever he spends most of his time with. Daryl started out the show as a mini-Merle, then slowly began to become a leader as he bonded with Rick. He grew more hopeful and open with Beth in Season 4, then came around to the plans for bringing new people into Alexandria after hanging out with Aaron for a while. Negan could rub off on Daryl, especially if he's in as bad a place emotionally as Norman Reedus has hinted.
Of course, it's hard to imagine a Daryl who changes so much that he switches from Rick's right hand man to Negan's right hand man. He never fell entirely in line with the Claimers at the end of Season 4 because they were clearly shady, and none of them had beaten any of his pals to death with a baseball bat. Jeffrey Dean Morgan's reveal to THR about Negan's plans for Daryl means that Negan will have to get pretty creative if he wants Daryl to see his side of the story.
If Daryl truly is replacing Carl in the Walking Dead comic story that had Carl forming a bizarrely respectful dynamic with Negan, we should be in for something that we've never seen before on The Walking Dead. Dwight might want to start worrying now that Negan has taken Daryl and is apparently looking to groom him. It's not hard to see why Negan might consider Daryl more valuable as a potential attack dog than Dwight. He'd have a hard time breaking Daryl enough to sway him, but Daryl tends to be very loyal to the people who win him over. We'll have to wait and see if his role in Glenn's death will take him to a dark enough place that he's vulnerable to Negan's manipulations.
No matter whether or not Negan succeeds in conditioning Daryl, he definitely made the right call in choosing him as a hostage. Daryl was a valuable resource thanks to his survival skills, and he had grown into Rick's righthand man and brother. His absence will likely be keenly felt in Alexandria, and he has enough friends there that they might not want to risk moving against Negan too soon. Only time will tell. Tune in to The Walking Dead on Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on AMC to see what's next for Daryl in the zombie apocalypse.