SEASON 10; EPISODE 18
Maggie was the focus of last week's episode – and this week we had about as much Daryl as we've had for a very long. This of course is a good thing. One of the reasons the show lost its way it because it had built up a bloated cast and then seemed intent on killing off some of its strongest characters. It then compounded the issue by dedicating as much time and attention to the less interesting characters as it did the big guns. Well, showrunner Angela Kang has addressed that issue to some degree and Daryl Dixon is probably the biggest (and most popular) star the show has left. Episodes dedicated to one or two characters can have their drawbacks. Critics will point out that they tend to be a little light on the action and a bit too ponderous. And whilst 'Find Me' was both of those things, it still made for interesting viewing and helped fill in some of the blanks of the past few years.
Starting off in the present day, the episode began with Carol insisting on accompanying Daryl as he went hunting for food. As clung onto him as he sped off, with Dog running on ahead, it felt like a little sneak preview of their upcoming spin-off series, where I assume we will see a lot of them two on that bike together. However the relationship between the two WD veterans is as strained as it has ever been. Considering there was once genuine hope that these two loners would get together a few years back (Caryl I think that potential partnership was labelled), it almost seems absurd that even their friendship might fizzle out to nothing. But it was clear from the get go that there something wrong with their interactions. They felt awkward and uncomfortable.
Part of this was undoubtedly down to Daryl revisiting some of his old haunts from a few years back. We get multiple flashbacks, with some lovely fuzzy old school transitional fades for good measure. In fact, most of the running time is dedicated to recounting Daryl's sabbatical in the woods that he took after Rick went missing. He literally spent years of his life mapping out the region in the desperate hope of finding out what happened to his brother from another mother. He has no real reason to believe that Rick is still alive but until he has proof that he is dead, he refuses to accept it. Even if basically everyone else has. Carol visits him every now and then and begs him to return to the group. But Daryl is unwavering in his determination to be alone. However his quest is interrupted one day by the discovery of a puppy. A puppy that obviously grows up to be Dog. I tell you, if they ever kill Dog off, I will stop watching the show. Glenn was tough, Rick even harder – but no harm can come to that animal. Anyway, Dog leads him to a cabin in the woods (no, Chris Hemsworth isn't there) where he meets Leah. Despite initially tying him up and appearing hostile, Leah soon softens a little. Well, when I say 'soon', I mean over a period of about a year or something. Squabbling turns into talking which turns into fishing which turns into laying around with each other giggling. Which inevitably leads to some lovin'. We don't actually really see anything but we don't need to (unless you love Norman Reedus, in which case you might disagree. Daryl's sexuality – or lack of any focus on it – has been a hot topic for years amongst the WF fans. It's been refreshing that they haven't felt the need to address it until now to be honest. Why does a character's sexuality always have to be paramount to their story? Leah and Daryl feel a bit like kindred spirits, with both used to surviving by themselves and having trust issues – as well as experiencing severe trauma in their past (although who hasn't in this world eh?) Despite making this connection someone, Daryl struggles to commit to this new way of life, with both his desire to be alone and his pursuit of Rick still simmering away inside. Leah asks him to make a choice and he does. A choice he regrets pretty quickly, but by the time he returns to make amends, Leah has vanished. He leaves her a hand drawn map and a note; 'I belong with you. Find me'. Will we ever see her again? Maybe, but potentially not in The Walking Dead. She may be a story thread that is picked up in the spin-off perhaps.
In terms of Carol and Daryl, their time together is juxtapositioned nicely against his time with Leah. However Daryl's mood and outlook couldn't be different. The episode ends with Daryl lifting the lid off of a lot of angst and he lays the disappearance of Connie at Carol's feet. She doesn't shirk it but insists that she did what had to be done to defeat Alpha. 'I don't need a saviour or a martyr', she tells him. 'I need a friend'. At this point it looks as though, for now at least, those days are gone.