For the second time this season, AMC’s zombie drama The Walking Dead is (maybe) killing a major character. The penultimate episode of Season 6, “East” is a meandering forty minutes of Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and other Alexandrians looking for Carol (Melissa McBride) and Daryl (Norman Reedus). It ended with a point-blank bullet to his face, splattering blood all over the camera… and then a strange reassurance that he’ll “be fine.”
Cue keyboard smashing, angry tweets, and confusion across America. Remember last fall when Glenn was presumed dead only to miraculously escape? Yeah. That was fun. Luckily we’ll only have to wait a week, but the shortcomings of The Walking Dead’s limited narrative tools are showing.
With Negan and his Saviors expected to arrive in Alexandria very soon, The Walking Dead thought it opportune to have all the important, capable players leave and scatter: Carol skips town, unable to justify all the human lives she’s taken, Daryl leaves to avenge Denise, and literally anyone important follows. Daryl and Carol, two fan favorites who claim the most rabid support, have unfortunately become superheroes, a result of overwriting once-great characters whose popularity overshadowed their merits. Why would Rick or Michonne (Danai Gurira), who have seen them be savage AF, think they need help?
The show even treats us to a comically absurd moment where Carol takes out several Saviors like she’s Jason Bourne, carrying a machine gun in the sleeve of her jacket. It’s totally awesome, but also, what?
I understand that Rick would panic because, without Carol, Alexandria is handicapped against Negan, and Carol is being totally selfish in abandonning the town. But it would help if any of the droning, plodding scenes with him and Morgan (Lennie James) felt actually urgent. She’s fine on her own, Rick.
Then there’s Daryl, who is immune because of his fan-favorite status and lucrative position as merchandise leader. It’s unbelievable The Walking Dead would kill off its biggest all star, let alone do it in such abrupt, anti-climactic fashion. The Walking Dead knows how to make au revoirs tasteful, fulfilling, and visually rich — hell, Glenn had wonderful slow motion and Bear McCreary crescendos, and that dude is still alive having hot showers with Maggie.
Is Daryl dead? Actor Norman Reedus has only said Daryl is “definitely” shot. “You should be very worried about Daryl,” he told THR. “When you let your guard down and don’t think things out and aggressively go after things out of passion, those are the things that can f— you up in the end.”
Daryl was shot like a Bond movie extra. You don’t do that to the guy who single-handedly brought in enough ratings to carry through the boring seasons (2-4, some of 5). I guessed wrong about Glenn a few months ago, and I won’t make that mistake again here: Daryl is alive, we know because The Walking Dead isn’t that ballsy. Negan is coming, so the only thing the show is killing is time.