[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 11 episode 4, “Rendition.”]
First, it was Woodbury. Then, it was the Saviors (and their dog food sandwiches, and “Easy Street” on repeat). And now Daryl (Norman Reedus) has been captured by yet another enemy group. But this time, there’s a twist.
After Maggie’s (Lauren Cohan) group was attacked, Daryl gets away on his own. He runs into a few Reapers, who go after him and Dog; surprisingly—or maybe not surprisingly, depending on how closely you watched the Season 11 trailer—one of them is Leah (Lynn Collins). She and her “family” take Daryl captive and waterboard him for information, which he isn’t willing to give: He insists he’s still alone out there, just as he was when Leah first met him, and that he only knew Maggie’s group because he trades with them. Throughout all of this, Leah is cold and calculating. Their initial reunion is utterly devoid of emotion, and she appears to care little about their history together or whatever feelings Daryl might still have for her.
That changes, though, when a group comes back with a dead Reaper. After seeing the body, and welcoming their leader, Pope (Ritchie Coster), Leah goes back to Daryl, who’s imprisoned. She says the dead man was like the “little brother [she] never had, but always wanted,” and she asks Daryl to tell her what he knows about the group that attacked them; otherwise, she’s afraid Pope will take his anger out on him. Reluctantly, Daryl gives non-specifics about the group — that its leader is a woman, that there was a priest and a tall, skinny guy — but he lies about their numbers, saying there are far more of them than there are Reapers.
Leah takes him at his word. She negotiates with Pope to get Daryl a place on the squad, which leads him to a wooden shed. Leah says Pope will be there soon, but before either of them can leave, the place is set on fire. Daryl gives Leah his bandana so she can breathe through the smoke, then he breaks through the window and gets them both out. Apparently, this was part of the plan: After he frees them both, he is inducted into the Reapers. Which seems only marginally better than having to wear that “A” jumpsuit the Saviors gave him.
Later, he sits and has a drink and a smoke with Pope. Leah told him earlier that she was a mercenary after she came back from Afghanistan, but Pope further explains and gives a little context for the religious aspect of the Reapers. He says he and his squad “saw God” every day on the battlefield, but they truly believed they were the chosen people after they took refuge in a church during the fall and found that nothing harmed them. Since then, they have stuck together as a family.
But sticking together as a family has its downsides. As the episode ends, Daryl joins the group by a fire for some food… and things take a dark turn. Pope questions one of the men who was on the mission where a Reaper died about his wounds — and specifically, why his wounds are all on his back. Clearly, Pope believes the man died because this guy ran away from him. “Never turn your back on your family,” Pope says, and then he shoves the man into the flames and holds him there. Leah and Daryl share a look, and just like that, Daryl Dixon’s gone out of the frying pan and into the fire.
- I’m not sure what the show intends to do with Leah, and the whole Leah-Daryl thing. I suspected she was going to be a Reaper from the Season 11 trailer, but it seems odd how they built her up, with Daryl leaving the note and saying he belongs with her, only for them to be so cold to each other this episode. She was literally torturing him.
- Seeing Dog choose Leah over Daryl made my heart sink. Don’t do that, Dog!
- At first, I didn’t understand why Leah didn’t offer Daryl more help during the shed-burning scene, but now I realize it was intended as a test of his strength and his alone. She was there so they could see if Daryl would treat her as “family” and rescue her, or just save himself.
- This episode drove home how much of a hypocrite Leah is, at least in my opinion. She got angry with Daryl for wanting to be with his family and search for Rick (Andrew Lincoln), but apparently the moment she learned her family was still alive and out there, she left him (and Dog, apparently, too?) for them. With that in mind, I really don’t see them getting back together.
- So… Pope mentioned a church the group holed up in, that sounded similar to where Alden’s currently taking refuge. Poor guy is almost certainly a goner, no?
- Rating: 2.5/5. Despite the Leah twist, this episode was slow. I found myself missing the Maggie-Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) plot, or anything involving the Commonwealth. Here’s hoping we get to see them again next week.