Last week’s episode of The Walking Dead took us on a horse rescue that ended with a horrifying beef jerky buffet. We also learned a bit more about the Reapers as Maggie and Negan were forced into an inevitable team up.
This week, we check in to see what happened to Daryl and Dog after the Alexandria group was ambushed. As always, the recap portion of this review will contain plenty of spoilers.
Reunited at Last
The episode opens with everyone’s favorite duo utilizing some impressive stealth skills to evade the Reapers. When Daryl goes back to look for his friends, however, he ends up grappling with one of the masked crazies. The Reaper appears to have the upper hand when Dog finally decides to stop barking and start chomping.
Unfortunately, Daryl’s attacker is able to grab hold of Dog, causing the poor boy to whimper in pain as the Reaper twists and throws him down a shallow ravine. This causes Daryl (along with the rest of the audience) to scream. Before he can do anything, he’s surrounded by two more Reapers.
Daryl misses them with a knife throw, but uses the distraction to escape.
The next day, Daryl pauses his search for Dog to wipe himself down in walker guts. Afterward, he hears Dog barking and runs in his direction, where he finds his companion standing next to a Reaper. Before things can get ugly, she takes off her mask and reveals herself to be Leah.
Yes, the same Leah who Daryl had a torrid affair with until she ghosted him (and Dog) after he struggled to shake his obsession with finding Rick.
After expressing disbelief at seeing each other again, Leah asks Daryl if he was part of the Alexandria group they just tussled with. Daryl lies and says he wasn’t before calling Dog so they can leave. Sadly, Dog decides to stay with his original owner while leaving the person who’s taken care of him the last couple years to be surrounded by Reapers.
Those Aren’t Tears
The Reapers place a bag over Daryl’s head, drag him to their compound, and sit him down inside a dark shed. After the others leave, Leah removes his mask along with hers.
As she struggles to decide what to say, Daryl proclaims the he did come back to their cabin and looked everywhere for her. When he tries to apologize for her ending up with “these people,” Leah angrily replies that “these people” were/are her family (i.e. the ones she was with before)…and they never stopped looking for her.
*Side Note: Oof.
She then asks about Daryl’s family and if they’re the ones she saw him with recently. Once again he denies it, instead claiming that they were people he just happened to be helping in exchange for food. Leah responds to this by getting out a wash cloth to wipe away the walker guts on his face and neck. Just when things appear to be on the verge of taking a romantic turn, she shoves the washcloth in his mouth, which was actually soaked in chloroform.
Daryl wakes up to find himself being waterboarded by a couple unmasked Reapers (Brandon Carver and Paul Wells) under Leah’s command. When Daryl refuses to answer Carvers’s questions about the Alexandria group, the man begins to waterboard him again.
Leah eventually puts a stop to it (much to Carver’s chagrin) and tells Daryl that she needs him to cooperate. When he continues to play dumb, Leah tells him that the person she answers to will do much worse things to him. Once again, Daryl lies and says that he barely knew the people he was with.
This act of defiance results in him being dragged to another area of the compound and locked inside a cell. Carver tells Leah that she should’ve never brought Daryl back before he and Wells leave. Once they’re gone, she gives Daryl a lingering stare before leaving, as well.
While pondering his poor relationship choices, Daryl hears a man calling to him from another cell. It turns out to be a badly injured Frost (from Maggie’s group), who asks if the others are okay. With a Reaper guard wandering nearby, Daryl goes full method and claims he doesn’t know or care about him and his people. Frost quickly catches on and joins in, saying that they should have left Daryl and let him starve. He’s then taken away for more enhanced interrogation by the Reapers.
Later, Leah visits Daryl and once again asks for information about his group. Once again, he claims only to have traded with them for food and that he barely knows anything about them. He goes one step further this time and says he’d help if he could before asking her to give him Dog and let them leave. He also promises that she’ll never have to see them again.
Leah is just starting her “You’d like that, wouldn’t you?” response when Carver and Wells drag Frost back into his cell looking much worse than before. Carver then reveals that they found a missing Reaper (Bossie), but the other one who turned up with him (Turner) is dead. They leave the cell area and walk to another room, where Bossie is tearfully explaining to another man (Pope) that he tried to help Turner, but couldn’t.
Pope assures Bossie that he did the right thing bringing Turner’s body home to be laid to rest. On the other side of the room, a man prays over Turner’s body and begins speaking in tongues. A tearful Leah kneels down, solemnly bows her head, and places her hand on Turner’s forehead.
Once the man’s prayer is complete, Pope walks in and announces that God is in the room with them. He also declares that both he and God are angry — and that they’ll make the people who killed Turner feel their wrath.
Leah walks back into the cell area and sits down next to Daryl. When he asks what happened, she tells him that one of her “brothers” is dead. Leah then reveals that she and Turner had fought all over the world together. They were originally in the military, but later became mercenaries. Pope brought them in after their last tour when he started his “company.”
Leah also reveals that she and Turner had been close due to neither one of them having a family. He was like the little brother she’d always wanted, which made his death hit her much harder than anyone she’d lost in a long time…except maybe for Daryl.
Daryl responds that Leah didn’t “lose” him; she left. Leah reminds Daryl that when she’d asked what he wanted, he was the one who walked out the door.
*Side Note: Point goes to Leah on that one.
Daryl replies that he was scared at the prospect of letting go. This leads to a tender pause that’s broken when Leah says that they wouldn’t have worked out, anyway — not in a world like this where love and happiness are more scarce than any other resource.
Daryl asks Leah if this nihilistic view of the world is really coming from her or her “family.” Leah angrily points out that Daryl has also had to do awful things to survive, which gives him no right to judge her. She also says that this is the person she’s always been, including the time they spent together.
Daryl claims not to believe that the woman he grew so close to is the same person sitting outside of his cell. Leah counters that there may not be anything she can do about that, but she can help him save himself. Despite everything that’s happened, she still cares about him and doesn’t want anything bad to happen. For that to happen, however, she needs him to to give her at least one small morsel of intel about the Alexandria group.
Daryl finally decides to reveal the barest of details mixed in with a bit of fiction.
- A woman (Maggie) is leading the group. TRUE
- The group includes a priest with a shotgun (Gabriel) and a tall skinny guy who never shuts up (Negan). TRUE
- The group spoke in code to keep information from Daryl since he was an outsider. FALSE
- They have a much larger number of skilled fighters than the Reapers. FALSE/DEBATABLE
Leah promises that she’ll have Daryl moved from his cell into more comfortable accommodations. She also says that he’ll get some face time with Pope soon.
Fire Walk With Me
Leah visits Pope and tells him that she finally “broke” Daryl. After relaying some of his intel, she makes a case for him staying and becoming part of their group. Pope responds by pointing out that they’ve lost an entire day tracking their new enemy because she wanted to interrogate an ex-boyfriend.
Leah holds firm, insisting that Daryl would be an asset to their group. Pope still doesn’t buy it, claiming that he can tell they both are carrying a torch for each other. Leah counters that her feelings for him ended the day Pope found her and she made a decision to become part of his family — a decision she has absolutely no regrets about.
After taking a moment to think things over, Pope says that he believes in Leah more than any of the other Reapers. When he asks if they can trust Daryl, she assures him they can. Pope decides that’s good enough to see for himself if it’s true.
Daryl is brought back to the first room he was held in to meet with Pope. He’s taunted by Carver, Bossie, and Wells for a bit before Leah comes in and tells them all to scram.
As she unties Daryl from his restraints, he asks if there’s anything about Pope that he needs to know. She responds by instructing him to follow her lead. Unfortunately, that ends up requiring Daryl to keep from burning to death when the shed is locked, doused in gasoline, and lit on fire. The pair work together to break free as the small wooden structure its overtaken by smoke and flames. Daryl also makes sure Leah makes it out before him.
Once the pair are both free from the building, they look up to see Pope and the rest of the Reavers watching. Things take an even weirder turn when Leah walks over and joins them. Turns out the whole thing was a test to see if Daryl could truly be trusted. After Pope proclaims the Reapers to be “forged by fire” and “ordained by God,” he orders the group to welcome Daryl, which they do with a shout of “Fortitudo Salutis!”
*Side Note: This Latin phrase roughly translates to “the strength of salvation,” which may also be a reference to Pslam 140:7. In the New International Version of the Bible (my preferred translation of the Good Book) the verse states “Sovereign Lord, my strong deliverer, you shield my head in the day of battle.” In the King James version, however, it reads “O God the Lord, the strength of my salvation, thou hast covered my head in the day of battle.
Well Done and Buried
Later (in a room that’s not on fire), Pope asks Daryl if he believes in God. Daryl replies that he no longer does, which doesn’t seem like a smart thing to say at this point in time with this group/person.
Pope points out the same, explaining that his near death experience was not the end of his test to become part of the Reapers. He then pours them both a drink, asks Daryl to sit down, and tells him how the Reapers came to be.
The group originally met in the “Valley of Death,” which is actually the Korangal Valley in Afghanistan. They watched their fellow soldiers die while politicians used them as props for their next campaign. They also talked about God on the campaign trail despite never truly knowing or seeing him. Meanwhile, Pope and his crew saw God everywhere, guiding and protecting them.
When Pope and his soldiers came home, they were too damaged to find work or create lives in the regular world. Instead they became mercenaries, paid a living wage to handle the dirty work no else wanted to do. The real “dirty work,” however, began after the dead started to rise. The awful things they saw and did nearly caused Pope to lose his faith in God.
Then one day, some remaining political leaders decided to bomb the location his team was still in. Some of them died, but most were able to escape and hole up inside a church. Despite everything being burned and destroyed around them, Pope and his surviving teammates emerged without a scratch.
That’s when he knew that they were the Chosen Ones.
In an effort to prove his point, Pope points out that Daryl also emerged from a fire without a single burn or scratch. When Daryl counters that he’s actually been through worse, Pope oddly replies by asking if he’s hungry.
He then takes Daryl outside, where the Reapers are enjoying a barbecue. Pope announces that Leah was right about their new family member and demands that one of them give up his food to him. He then praises Bossie for walking 10 miles to their compound with his dead brother (Turner) on his back. Bossie replies that he simply did what any of them would have done for each other.
Upon hearing this, Pope changes his tone and asks why the wounds Bossie returned with were on his back instead of his front. Leah encourages Pope to leave him alone on account of all they’d been through recently. Pope obliges before starting in on a speech about how it’s human nature to run from danger. Daryl, on the other hand, showed divine strength by doing everything he could to help get Leah out of the burning shed. As far as he’s concerned, this constituted a literal baptism by fire.
Pope goes on to proclaim that God can also use fire for His wrath, which is what any man who would turn their back on his brother deserves. He then grabs Bossie and throws him face down into the fire in front of them, holding the man’s head in place with his boot as he screams in pain. The rest of the Reapers gasp, but don’t make any moves to save their teammate from an excruciating death, either.
Once Bossie is cooked and killed, Pope reminds his team (and Daryl) that they are God’s Chosen Ones…and they will always run into the fire.
I feel like the possibility of Bossie being attacked from behind should have at least been considered before murder was decided upon as the best course of action.
Other than that, I have to admit that the Reapers were a lot better than I was expecting. I still think The Walking Dead‘s parade of psychotic cults is painfully played out, but this one was still menacing/scary enough to intrigue me. A big part of that was due to actor Ritchie Coster, who gave Pope a truly unnerving onscreen presence.
Unfortunately, the moment when he threw Bossie into the fire felt like a Savior-era Negan remix. In this instance, however, he appeared even more impulsive by killing someone who’d been in the trenches with him for years. On top of that, he welcomed an outsider into their family all because Daryl helped Leah — who he’s clearly still got a thing for — escape from a burning building.
Before that bit of craziness, Pope looked like he was going to be a much more pragmatic antagonist than the Governor, Alpha, Negan, etc. He still might be, but I’m not terribly optimistic.
And yes, it was a bit contrived that the Reapers ended up being Leah’s group (and that she ended up finding/capturing Daryl). That being said, Norman Reedus and Lynn Collins are so good together that it’s mostly forgivable. Their reunion also sets up a potential future showdown between Leah and Connie, who we all actually want to see Daryl end up with anyway.
But before that or any other big showdown can occur, it looks like we’re going to get The Walking Dead‘s annual “Good Guy Pretends to Join the Bad Guys” plotline. Thankfully, Daryl’s presence makes this well worn narrative feel a bit more interesting (or a lot better than the one with Eugene and the Saviors, at least).
As far as Dog’s betrayal is concerned, that one was tough to watch. When my wife and I first starting dating, my rescue dog Half Pint gave her the cold shoulder. A few months later, she would run right by me to greet her at the door.
Trust me when I say that it stings.
Hopefully Dog gets a chance to redeem himself–much like The Walking Dead did this evening after last week’s disastrous outing. If the show can be this good using a recycled plotline, then next week’s trip into Commonwealth has the potential to be great.
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