‘The Walking Dead’: Daryl’s in Love — And It’s Not With Who You Think (RECAP)
[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 10, Episode 18, “Find Me.”]
Throughout 10 seasons of The Walking Dead, one question has resurfaced again and again: When will Daryl (Norman Reedus) end up in a relationship? The show often plays up his lack of romantic attachments and the chemistry he has with both Carol (Melissa McBride) and Connie (Lauren Ridloff).
So, if you’re a “Caryl” or “Donnie” ‘shipper, “Find Me” might feel out of left field.
The episode takes place at an old cabin Daryl has gone to with Carol, and its previous occupant brings back a flood of memories. They center on a woman named Leah (Lynn Collins), who he met over the six-year time jump. She was Dog’s previous owner and, yep, she’s The One.
When Daryl Met Leah
Carol accompanies Daryl on a hunting trip, and all seems fine until Dog takes off into the woods, barking. The duo trail after him and find he’s gone to a rickety old cabin, one which Daryl is not pleased about entering. Carol’s none the wiser about his history with the place until she finds a box hidden under the floorboards with a note inside and asks him, “She lived here?” Carol, it seems, knows something we don’t.
We then learn how they met in flashback: Daryl is following the river to search for Rick (Andrew Lincoln) when Dog — who he’s meeting for the first time — leads him to the cabin. He barges in and comes face-to-face with Leah. She points a gun at him and demands to know who he is. “I’m leaving,” Daryl says. She responds, “No, you’re not.” After some back-and-forth about whether she should kill him, she decides to let him go.
Always the Hero
Six months later, they run into each other when Dog enters Daryl’s camp. He brings him back to Leah. They chat for a bit about not letting the dead world “catch up” to them, and that’s that. Except they run into each other again, eight months after that, when they find themselves running from the same group of walkers on the outskirts of his makeshift home in the woods. They wind up in awkwardly close proximity — a classic rom-com trope — and once they’re safe, Daryl tells her to stay away from his camp. They bicker about staying away from each other — another classic trope — and end up staying in the same cabin.
There, we get Leah’s tragic backstory. She didn’t have a good family life before the apocalypse, and she lost the only people she cared about when the world ended. And then she lost her sister, and her sister’s child, and every year on that child’s birthday, she’s utterly broken. She asks Daryl who he lost. He tells her he lost his brother, and says he won’t stop looking until he finds out what happened to him. “You’re always the hero, huh?” she says. Over time, they form an intimate emotional and physical relationship.
Ten months later, though, things aren’t so rosy. Leah’s not happy that Daryl spends so much time looking for Rick, and she doesn’t want him to split his time between the search, his family in Alexandria, and her. She asks him where he belongs, and he says he doesn’t know. “Yeah, you do,” she says. “Now choose.”
He goes to see Carol, and she tells him she won’t be able to visit him anymore (at this point, she’s too busy with the Kingdom and Ezekiel [Khary Payton]). “I don’t want to lose you out here,” she says. “I don’t want to lose you because you don’t know when to stop.”
Our Luck’s Run Out
Daryl goes back to the cabin, but Leah’s gone. Dog’s there, though, and he’s happy to see his friend. When Leah doesn’t come back, Daryl leaves her a note in a box: “I belong with you,” it reads, “find me.” With that, he takes Dog and tries to find Leah, but he can’t.
In the present, Carol tries to tell Daryl that what happened to Leah wasn’t his fault and that he didn’t “walk away” from her. She consoles him by saying none of the losses he’s suffered are his fault: not Rick’s, not Connie’s. That strikes a nerve with Daryl, who lashes out by blaming her for what happened to Connie.
“No, that’s on you, because you never know when to stop,” he says, throwing her words back at her. They both get angry. He says he’s tired of having “the same conversation” with her. She says he should’ve let her leave. “You want to run, run,” he says. “I know where I’m supposed to be. I won’t stop you this time.” Carol can’t hold back tears, and she says their luck has run out.
- This episode is confusing. The whole “Daryl’s love life” topic has been built up for years, and TWD addresses it not only in a single episode, but as a flashback?!
- On that subject, how are we meant to perceive Leah’s ultimatum? It’s hard to see it as anything but manipulative, given how deeply we know Daryl cares for his family. If they’ve been in a relationship all this time, she should know that, too — but she still basically demands he pick her instead of them. Was there not a way to compromise? If this show wants me to root for Daryl and Leah, it’s going about it wrong.
- Also weird: Hadn’t Daryl gotten over the cave and Carol’s connection to Connie’s disappearance? In the season finale, they were back to hugging each other and comforting each other and talking about New Mexico. This feels like manufactured drama for the sake of drama.
The Walking Dead, Sundays, 9/8c, AMC