This extended season 10 of The Walking Dead seems to be tying up some loose ends. The 18th episode, “Find Me,” chronicles the time that Daryl (Norman Reedus) spent living in the woods looking for Rick (Andrew Lincoln), befriending Dog, and finding something unexpected in the wilderness.
Last week, Maggie (Lauren Cohan) returned to Alexandria and brought some friends with her. They were chased out of their last community bya group called The Reapers. Maggie is afraid of something but she won’t say what that is. Alexandria is in shambles. The Whisperers knocked down the walls and destroyed property and food. Now Team Family has to rebuild the community and try to move forward.
There’s not a lot of talking going on in this episode. It starts with Carol (Melissa McBride) and Daryl riding out on a hunting adventure with Dog. (I’m pretty sure this is also setting up the spin-off series.) As they look for food, they also talk about how things have changed. Carol wonders if their luck has run out. She feels like they are losing Alexandria, the last standing community. Daryl doesn’t feel that way. He’s optimistic that they can rebuild and start over … until they are attacked again. Carol says they had a good run, but the dead will eventually catch up to them. Daryl says he won’t let that happen.
The day gets away from them and they have to find shelter. Dog starts barking and runs away. They chase him through the woods and to an abandoned cabin. Carol is happy to find the cabin, even though the front door is broken. Nothing a little patching up can’t fix. Daryl on the other hand, he gets very quiet. There’s nothing in the cabin, no sign that anyone lived there. But Daryl and Dog know better. As they look around the cabin, Daryl starts to remember.
SIX YEARS AGO
Daryl lived in the woods for a long time trying to find any sign of Rick. Two years into this tenure, he found a puppy … well the puppy found him, but then ran back into the woods after licking Daryl’s face. Daryl set up a shelter by the river. He made a map of the area so he could mark where he’s been and what he didn’t find.
Carol checked on him and gave him updates on the communities. This being two years after Rick’s disappearance, the Kingdom and Hilltop are still operating, but this is also after Michonne’s (Danai Gurira) incident with the children. So she’s closed off to the rest of the world. Maggie has just left with Georgie (Jayne Atkinson). So the communities aren’t really even communicating. Carol asks Daryl to come home and help, but he feels he needs to be out there looking for Rick. She understands and says if it weren’t for Ezekiel (Khary Peyton) and their son Henry (Matt Lintz) she’d be out there with him. She gives him some supplies and tells him to be careful.
Daryl continues to look for any sign of Rick, dead or alive. He found an overturned boat. There was a body underneath. The person had on a tan shirt. Daryl examined the body before deciding it wasn’t Rick, but he’s frustrated. Especially when a storm rolls in that night and ruins his map.
ONE YEAR LATER
Daryl is still living in the woods and still walks on the same trail back to his shelter by the river. One day he saw a knife stuck in a tree that wasn’t there before. He cautiously looked around and a dog ran out of the woods barking at him. Same dog, but bigger. The dog lets Daryl pet him and then runs back into the woods. This time Daryl follows him.
The dog leads Daryl to a cabin in the middle of the woods. There is a walker lurking outside the cabin, so Daryl goes inside to check for more. He sees one and immediately kills it with his crossbow. Someone bursts out of a room and throws something at his crossbow, knocking it out of his hands. It’s a woman (Lynn Collins) and she’s holding a shotgun to his head. She asks who he is and why he’s on her land. Daryl says he will leave, but she steps in front of the door and says he’s not going anywhere.
While Daryl reminisces, Dog starts digging at a loose board in the floor. Carol helps him and finds a box and a note. Daryl watches her from the doorway as she reads the note. She looks at him and asks if ‘she’ lived here. Daryl says it was a long time ago. He walks out to the porch and Carol follows him. He says he told her everything, but she knows he didn’t. She only wants to know whatever he wants to tell her.
The woman ties Daryl up in a chair while she gets rid of the body. He tries to loosen the ropes on his hands and she catches him. She cocks her shotgun again and asks for his name. He tells her his name and says he is on her land because he thought she needed some help. Obviously she doesn’t. She cuts the ropes and lets Daryl go. Before he leaves he asks for her name, but she doesn’t want to.
SIX MONTHS LATER
Daryl encounters the dog again and Daryl follows him back to the cabin. The woman is outside and thanks Daryl for bringing him back. It’s obvious that the dog likes Daryl, so he asks what’s his name. The woman just calls him Dog. They talk about how hard it is to live in the wild. Daryl says eventually the dead will catch up. The woman says they’ll be fine if they don’t let it happen. He turns to leave, knowing she’s not comfortable with him.
EIGHT MONTHS LATER
Daryl gathers wood when he encounters a group of walkers. There are too many for him to fight, but luckily, the woman from the cabin is in the woods at the same time. She shoots one shot and he turns to face her. She signals him to follow her and they run behind a large tree, face to face. They awkwardly try to avoid looking at each other as the walkers pass by. As soon as the walkers are gone, Daryl abruptly runs away. The woman follows him but he turns and tells her to stay away from his camp. She turns to walk away and says her name is Leah.
THREE MONTHS LATER
Daryl stands in front of the cabin and throws a fish at the door. Leah doesn’t answer. Even Dog doesn’t react, so Daryl returns to his shelter. It’s getting colder outside, so Daryl sits by the fire trying to stay warm when something hits him in the head. He doesn’t turn around to see who it is because Leah is already yelling at him. She says she can catch her own fish and doesn’t need his help. Daryl was trying to be nice, but Leah says she just wants to be left alone. He says he won’t bother her again and she promises not to come around anymore. “FINE! FINE! BYE!”
Daryl turns around and Leah is still standing there. They talk about how hard it is to be alone in the wild, but Daryl is actually okay with it. Leah notices that his fingers have a bit of frost on them. He says he had it before, it’s not a big deal. Leah invites him back to the cabin where it’s warm.
Daryl is asleep when he hears a glass break. Leah dropped a picture frame. The picture is of her and her son Matthew. She’s sad because it’s his birthday. She tells Daryl about the boy and how he died. That was the same day Dog was born and the day she shut the world out of her life. Daryl is the first person she let in. Leah asks Daryl who he lost. He says he lost his brother in an accident, but they never found the body. He’s not sure if his brother is still out there, but he’s not going to stop until he finds out.
In the next few weeks, they fish together, watch eclipses together and eventually spend the night together. They were close for ten months before Daryl told her he had to return to Alexandria. Leah was quiet, but upset that he wanted to leave. He says he’s only going to be gone a few days, but Leah wants to know where he belongs. Living by the river, with his family in Alexandria, or with her. He says he doesn’t know but she knows. Leah tells him to choose where he wants to be.
Daryl goes back to the shelter and Carol appears. He’s packing things up, so she assumes he’s coming home, but Daryl says he’s just moving. She gives him a new parka but he knows there’s another reason she showed up.
Carol says it may be awhile before she will see him again. The Kingdom is falling apart. Daryl says she doesn’t need his permission to move on with her life. Carol says that’s not what this is about so Daryl assumes she wants him to move on with his life. Carol wants him to find some peace. She’s afraid to lose him because he can’t figure out when to stop. He says he’s happy that she found her peace and she won’t lose him. He’s got stuff to do … you know … thangs!
Daryl treks through the woods, looking for signs of something. He stops in the middle of the woods and realizes where he wants to be. He turns and rushes to the cabin, but Leah is gone. Dog is still there though. Daryl puts some food in a box and writes a note for Leah. “I belong with you. Find Me.” The note is written on part of the map he carries. He leaves the box under the floorboard. Daryl and Dog go in search of Leah, but they obviously never found her.
Daryl feels bad for leaving Leah. He thinks he could have helped her. He’s not sure what happened to her, and he feels guilty for walking away. Carol says Daryl has to stop thinking that everytime he loses someone it’s because of him or something he did. Losing Leah is not his fault … neither is Rick … or Connie (Lauren Ridloff). Daryl agrees with her about one thing … he didn’t lose Connie because of him. He lost Connie because of Carol, because she never knows when to stop. Carol apologizes for losing Connie, but she’s not sorry for going after the horde or making Alpha (Samantha Morton) pay for killing Henry. She thinks she was right. And to Daryl, being right is all that matters to Carol.
Carol realizes they aren’t talking about Leah or Connie, they are talking about her. Daryl says she runs away so she doesn’t have to deal with her guilt. She went hunting with him to run away from what the Whisperers did to Alexandria, making it his problem. According to Carol, Daryl’s only problem is thinking he has to save everybody. Carol doesn’t need a savior or a martyr, she needs a friend.
Daryl is tired of having the same conversation with her and getting nowhere. Carol says he should have let her get back on that boat and he agrees. He shouldn’t have stopped her from running. So if Carol wants to run, then run. He knows where he belongs now and he’s not going to stop her this time. Carol says she was right; their luck has run out. She leaves to fix the door before it gets dark.
When Daryl reflects back on his time with Leah, you can see that he is genuinely sad that he missed out on a chance to live his own life. This is the first time we’ve seen Daryl have other options on The Walking Dead. He’s always been about Team Family and putting their needs above his own. It’s so normal for us to see him thinking of others, that we don’t ask what he is giving up. Now we know.
I liked this little story. It was a chance to show another side of Daryl’s character that we’ve never seen before. Norman Reedus is a good actor and we actually got to see more of his range this past Walking Dead season. It would have been nice to see more of the romantic side. That part only lasted about five minutes. But that’s also not how we view Daryl. Does this affect how we see him in future episodes? Probably not.
Even during the regular season episodes, you can tell there is a lot that Carol and Daryl need to work out. And they will because we know about The Walking Dead spin-off series. And the fact that they’ve been friends for so long, it would be tragic to give each other up. Daryl may be the only person who can see Carol for who she is and know when she’s not okay. She needs him just as much as he needs her. And that’s a beautiful friendship.