Last night on The Walking Dead, the battle between Maggie’s group and the Reapers came to a head as a combination of tactics between Whisper skins and Daryl infiltrating the enemy were employed to take them down. Well, mostly. Spoilers follow.
Last night also resulted in a very public breakup between a mostly fan-hated couple, Daryl and Leah, as Daryl chose his original group, as he was always going to, which was never really a question. But somewhat surprisingly, despite Leah executing her own commander, Daryl could not get her to betray the rest of her unit, and she takes command of the remaining forces for a cliffhanger that makes it look like Negan and Maggie may be about to be shredded by rocket arrows.
Thus, Daryl and Leah are done, ending a highly controversial coupling. Why was it such a big deal?
Daryl’s love life has been the subject of Walking Dead drama for a decade now. Daryl very, very obviously was a character without an actual love interest for 90% of the series, so much so that many fans began to believe he was either gay and closeted (an idea Norman Reedus said he was totally on board with at the time) or even asexual.
Many fans have paired of Daryl and Carol for years as a potential couple, and the two are even getting a spin-off together after The Walking Dead ends. But the show has never let that happen, and kept a brother-sister type relationship between them, for the most part.
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But things changed for Daryl when Connie arrived, the deaf survivor who appeared to steal Daryl’s heart, so much so that he went out of this way to start learning sign language to better communicate with her. The two haven’t been explicitly romantic, and yet…that’s very much the overall vibe.
Things then got weird. Connie was written off the show for a very long time, presumably so Lauren Ridloff could go film Eternals with Marvel. In the interim, there was a one-off episode where Daryl, wandering along the riverbed to find Rick in the interim between the past and present day, he meets Leah, a woman living alone in a cabin with a dog. In the course of that single episode, the two go from a gunpoint standoff to actually sleeping together, and Daryl’s first true relationship is suddenly here. It’s not clear exactly how long the two were together in this flashback, but eventually Leah leaves, and now we realize it’s because she met up with her original “family,” the ex-mercenary Reapers.
Daryl fans were generally not pleased with Leah’s arrival, whether they had been Daryl-Carol fans for years, or Daryl-Connie fans, a relationship the show seemed like it was definitely embracing. Who was this woman, out of nowhere, finally stripping Daryl out of his shell? (and clothes).
It always did feel weird. With the way this shook out, you can tell that Daryl feels something for Leah, and yet if asked to choose between his group and her, he’s going to choose them, which he did. And now, Connie has been reunited with the group, so presumably her and Daryl can go back to building their relationship again. Though how this plays out, given that this is the final season of the main show, and Daryl’s spin-off is with Carol, not Connie, is a little foreboding for her ultimate fate.
There is nothing wrong with Leah herself, nor the performance of her actress. But she stumbled into a relationship with a character fans had been shipping with others for ages, and felt wrath because of it. Now it’s over, and I think everyone is pretty happy to see that.