by Transmute Jun
Warning: this review contains multiple spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 10, Episode 18.
While the first episode of this season extension was lacking in heart and cohesion, this week’s episode brought in some badly needed character development, filling in the story gaps that were not addressed over the course of the Whisperer war plotline.
The stated purpose of these six Season 10C (10A and 10B were the first parts released in 2019 and 2020) episodes was to expand upon various characters and what they went through during the other portions of Season 10. This episode explores what happened to Daryl during the time when he was living along by the river, spending his days looking for Rick. In a world where a dead body can literally get up and walk away, this isn’t a simple task, and not finding a body does not give Daryl any insight into Rick’s fate. Rick’s sudden disappearance is emotionally devastating for Daryl, a person who normally resists personal attachments and has difficulty letting others in. This was brought home when Daryl admitted that he lost his brother… yet he was talking about Rick, not Merle.
Into all of this comes Dog. While Daryl is closed off toward people, he was instantly open to Dog, and it was Dog who brought him to Leah. It took him a while to warm up to Leah, yet even so, their connection was only made possible by Dog. Leah was also hurting, having survived in the apocalyptic world for years with her ‘family’, and then losing them all, including her son, in one fell swoop. It was a situation to which Daryl could relate, and that was what allowed them to connect.
Of course, Leah understood that Daryl had not truly given up on his other relationships, which was why she demanded to know where he wanted to be: in the past, looking for Rick, with his friends in Alexandria, or with her. While it apparently took a little time for Daryl to come to his decision, he ultimately decided to be with Leah. While that was not possible, and Daryl carries that burden with him, it is interesting to see how afterward, he was able to open up to Connie more easily. Despite losing Leah, it seems that she had an impact on Daryl, showing him that it was worthwhile being with other people, and that he shouldn’t completely close himself off from others.
While it wasn’t the primary focus of the episode, the relationship between Carol and Daryl was also better explained in this episode. Carol’s behavior over the course of seasons 9 and 10 was erratic (to say the least) and she made some poor, reckless choices that led to some very bad outcomes, not the least of which was the cave-in that caused Connie’s disappearance. Previously, it felt as if Daryl was quick to forgive Carol… perhaps too quick. And now, we can see that deep down, it still bothered him, and the issue still festered. Daryl’s and Carol’s fight at the end of the episode was necessary, in that it brought forth Daryl’s hidden feelings (both for the character and to the viewers), explaining that he really does blame Carol for Connie’s disappearance, and that has driven a wedge between them. When Daryl said that he should have let Carol stay on the boat and go away again, he meant it, and that issue was not resolved by the end of the episode. It appears that it might be some time before Daryl and Carol reclaim the friendship they had before, if they ever do (this may, or may not, carry over to their upcoming spinoff series).
Another interesting aspect of this episode is that Leah’s whereabouts are currently unknown. Rather than Leah being dead (which was what I expected when the episode began), she is simply missing, thereby adding onto the emotional burden that Daryl feels knowing that Rick’s fate is indeterminable. There are clues: the disarray in the cabin, the fact that Dog came running for Daryl, yet the missing photo suggests that Leah left in a hurry, but may have left voluntarily. Even more, it is evident from this episode that she has not returned (since she did not take the note that Daryl left for her). From a storyline perspective, this almost guarantees Leah’s return at some point, if not in The Walking Dead, then in the upcoming spinoff series. Yet clearly, that may not be for some time.
While most of this episode was emotional and dramatic, I had to laugh at the scene where Daryl crudely courted Leah, throwing a fish at her doorstep, only to have her throw it back at him later! It was a perfect example of Daryl’s unsophisticated approach to relationships, given that he hasn’t really had to opportunity to develop such skills over the past decade.
For those who play the AMC Walking Dead mobile games, this week’s Walking Dead: No Man’s Land season episode shows Daryl and Carol fighting walkers as they make their way to Leah’s abandoned cabin. Walking Dead: Our World is holding a Find Me event, where players can use Daryl at Whisperer encounters to earn the playable character Dog.
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