The Walking Dead 1104 – Rendition

Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon – The Walking Dead _ Season 11, Episode 4 – Photo Credit: Josh Stringer/AMC

The Walking Dead 1104 – Rendition

Warning: This review contains spoilers!

There were a lot of unanswered questions at the conclusion of Hunted, last week’s episode of The Walking Dead. The one that stood out for me was what happened to Daryl?  Well, that question gets answered this week in Rendition. While Daryl’s prospects don’t look good initially, we are treated to a familiar face from The Walking Dead universe raising the emotional stakes early on.

Using some of the same footage used in Hunted, Rendition begins with the Reaper assault in the woods and Daryl and Dog heading into the darkness. Daryl’s eventually tracked down by one of the Reapers and after a brief but intense fight, he is surrounded by more of them. Dog valiantly trying to protect Daryl, gets injured and thrown deeper into the woods.  Alone and running out of options, Daryl makes his escape.

His freedom doesn’t last long though. The Reapers continue to track him and when Dog reappears and seems quite cozy with one of them, it becomes evident that there is more going on than we know. Surprisingly, Leah, yes Leah Daryl’s long-lost love and Dog’s former owner is a Reaper. It can be hard enough running into an ex but when they are part of a homicidal group bent on killing that complicates matters even further. Looking back on it now, Leah’s introduction in Find Me needed some resolution and the payoff begins in Rendition.  Leah, like Daryl is the ultimate loner, and seeing her run so tightly with a group like the Reapers makes you wonder what she experienced after walking away from him.

Rendition touches on a lot of themes including love, betrayal and belonging. One of the forces driving Leah when Daryl first met her was her desire to be alone after a great deal of loss. Daryl broke down the walls she’d surrounded herself with and when he didn’t return in time, she felt abandoned. That feeling of family has been restored by the Reapers and judging by her words while Daryl is held captive, she still holds a grudge against him for letting her down.

The Reapers are intimidating with their masks on and don’t get any cuddlier without them. Using torture tactics like waterboarding to get intel out of Daryl doesn’t yield any results and their frustration only grows. Luckily for Daryl, Leah has some feelings for him, and she spares him any more pain. Daryl would rather die than compromise Maggie, Carol, and the others.  Leah knows he’s holding back and decides to lock him up rather than continue torturing him.

The backstory surrounding the Reapers becomes a little clearer including Leah’s connection to them.  The Reapers are ex-mercenaries, led by a charming dude named Pope. If that name rings a bell, we first heard it whispered by the Reaper who was seconds from blowing himself up in Season 10’s Home Sweet Home.  “Pope marked you,” now makes a lot more sense considering the religious bent he seems to be on. A mercenary and a zealot, it makes you wonder why he’s so hell bent on eliminating Maggie and anyone associated with her.

Daryl’s cat and mouse game buys him some time and a potential inroad into the group but it causes some friction between Leah and Pope. Leah is a lost soul, looking for someplace to belong. Her military days behind her, she clings to Pope and the Reapers not just to survive but to give her life purpose.  That’s why she’s so easily played by Daryl and Pope, although he gives her the benefit of the doubt, sees it too.  Daryl’s baptism of fire, Pope’s over the top test of his loyalty, is the first in a series of curious moves. After watching Pope’s chat with Daryl, it strikes me that he comes across as a mash up of Negan and Walter White’s alter ego, Heisenberg.

Pope’s tales of Afghanistan and being hired by governments and politicians to kill once society collapsed makes me wonder if there will be a link between them and the CRM at some point. Disgruntled and discarded military are common tropes but tying them to any of the last vestiges of civilization would make their narrative more appealing.  Otherwise, they risk being just another in a long line of menaces for Maggie, Carol, Ezekiel, and the others to combat.

Rendition fills in some of the gaps created after Acheron Part 2 and Hunted. It brings back a familiar face and fleshes out her backstory in a way that stays true to her first appearance. We’re getting to know Leah in real time, just like Daryl is and even though she’s a Reaper she comes across as a sympathetic character. Pope, on the other hand, does his best to be unlikeable. He appears to be a terrible judge of character particularly after barbecuing one of his men while welcoming Daryl into the group. Daryl may be an exceptional liar and adept at escaping burning buildings, but I’m not sold on Pope buying into his story so quickly.  That being said, the Reapers, with their military grade weapons and training will be a formidable opponent.