This review contains spoilers.
A slow-motion Dog and Daryl reunion is always the best way to start an episode of The Walking Dead, if you ask me! As Daryl said, “This is what I’m talking about!”
Daryl, Carol and Dog hit the road on a hunt and it’s about time that we got some alone time with these two that isn’t a painful and emotional heart-to-heart. Just get back to woods, tracking some food and killing Walkers! Let’s get back to basics for the next hour! These two have such a great dynamic, so I was already geared up for a good episode!
In the woods, and on the trail of some deer, Dog suddenly bolts and Carol and Daryl take off after him. At this point my heart is in my mouth because we need to protect Dog at all costs! When the pair finally catch up to him they arrive at a rundown shack. In a flashback we see Daryl looking at a woman hugging Dog. We are now five years in the past… Looks like we are going to get the Daryl the hermit story in this episode!
We see Daryl walking through the woods before running into a younger version of Dog. He also meets Carol, who talks about Maggie having been gone for two years and at least having Henry Ezekiel around… awkward!
Daryl is in his shelter, trying to battle the elements, for the heavy rain storm wins, breaking down parts of the roof and walls. Daryl then pulls a reverse Shawshank, but rather than happiness he screams out in a fit of rage, frustration and sorrow, it was a great little scene!
Fast forward to only a year before the present day, and Daryl and Dog are out on the trail again, but this time encounter the shack we saw in the present day. He kills a Walker but is soon rushed by the woman we saw a glimpse of in the first flashback. She takes Daryl prisoner, with a shotgun, and once she feels satisfied that he is not a threat, she allows him to leave. This was Dog’s owner, this was Dog’s home. But clearly there is little love between the two and Dog is free to wander as he pleases, obviously favouring Daryl’s company. Fast forward six months and Dog returns to Daryl and leads him back to the shack. We then learn the origin of Dog’s name! Now, we have always assumed that Daryl called him Dog, because that is the kind of thing Daryl would probably do! BUT it turns out Leah called him Dog and even Daryl thinks he should have a more fitting name! This was a nice little twist. She’s very much like Daryl in a way, a hunter, a survivalist, you can see they would have a lot in common.
Fast forward another 8 months, and Daryl is fighting off some Walkers, before Leah appears to help. The two get very close together in a tree, trying to hide. You can see a genuine connection between them, but there is that reluctance you sometimes get, where they both try to push each other away. Cut to another 3 months later and Daryl throws a fish at her door, a post-zombie apocalypse version of UberEats I guess? Back at Daryl’s camp, Leah returns the fish and Daryl complains that she is always throwing things at him. She says she wants to be left alone, like Daryl wants to be left alone. Yet they also don’t, and it has clearly taken them both a long time to get to this point where they actually don’t want to be alone despite appearances. We learn about her past, her son, and all the loss she has suffered. You can see why she wants to be left alone. This was a tough watch, but an incredible performance by Lynn Collins. Daryl opens up as to why he’s out here. Searching for ‘his brother’ and that he won’t stop until he finds out what happened. Sorry, but they HAVE to reunite Daryl and Rick, hopefully in the films they have planned. I need it. I need that moment! Anyway, guess what happened next?
Ten months later… Daryl has been living on and off with Leah and the two have clearly stuck up a relationship, of sorts. There is a tension that lingers, and Leah gives Daryl an ultimatum. Give up on Rick or lose her. As great as Collins’ performance has been, and as interesting of a character Leah is, this is a no-brainer. Rick and Daryl for life! Daryl returns to cabin and finds Dog alone, Leah, presumably gone. I’m over her, she left Dog behind. No forgiveness from me!
Remember I spoke at the beginning about how good it was to see Carol and Daryl having interactions that weren’t emotional and intense? Well that didn’t last. Back in the present, Carol offers her condolences but refuses to apologise for going after the horde and Alpha, because that, in her mind, was the right thing to do and she stands by her actions. Daryl hits deep by replying with “and that’s all that matters, you being right?” Ouch. Daryl is sick of having the same argument over and over again about Carol wanting to be on her own. But this time Daryl says he won’t stop her. This entire scene was incredible and heart-breaking in equal measure. Well done Norman and Melissa, bravo! – Then I remember they have their own spin-off, so the moment passes! Haha. Want a downer of an ending.
I’m very much enjoying the format of these last six episodes, single and self-contained stories padding out the gaps of the time jump. It’s an information dump but in a fun and easy to consume manner. I said this in many, many Walking Dead reviews over the years, but what an incredible performance from Norman Reedus Melissa McBride! They never disappoint, and while it is painful for the audience to go through, their very strange relationship is just so watchable. A big shout out to Lynn Collins too, as her, seemingly, one-shot character brought so much to this episode. All three performers were outstanding.
I joked earlier about the Carol and Daryl spin-off, but if you still needed convincing that these two can easily lead an interesting and emotionally deep show, this episode should hopefully have removed any remaining doubts. Incredible.
What did make of the latest episode The Walking Dead? Let us know in the comments below.