Why The Walking Dead's Norman Reedus Was Afraid Daryl Would Kill Rick Off

daryl and rick on a motorcycle walking dead

Upon learning that Andrew Lincoln's Rick Grimes would be bowing out of The Walking Dead's narrative, one of the first questions people had was "How's it going to happen?" The thought process was a big harder for series star Norman Reedus, who spent the majority of the between-seasons hiatus afraid his character Daryl would be responsible for killing Rick off. It was all due to a last-second choice to add the actor to a Season 8 scene. In Reedus' words:

At the end of last season, that very last scene that we shot, it looks like Jesus, Maggie and Daryl are going to turn on Rick --- I wasn't in that scene [at first]. Maybe an hour before that, they're, 'We want to put you in this scene.' And I was, 'What are you talking about? I can't go against Rick. What are you talking about?' And they were, 'Trust us, it'll play out later.' And I was, 'Wait, wait, what?' So I spent my whole hiatus thinking, 'Oh my god, I'm going to kill Rick, or he's going to kill me.'

Anybody who watched the Season 8 finale remembers the shot that he's talking about, since it sparked quite a lot of chatter in its aftermath. In response to Rick's decision to keep Negan alive and imprisoned, Maggie made a vow to face Rick down at a point after the communities had rebuilt and flourished. Apparently, Daryl wasn't originally meant to be privy to Maggie's assertions, which meant Norman Reedus didn't initially have any particular worries.

TV productions are always-evolving processes, though. At some point later on in the scheme of things, the creative team decided to bring Daryl into Maggie's extremely patient coup. They also decided not to let Daryl in on all the fun, which appeared to inspire more apprehension and dread than smiling anticipation. (At least it didn't involve him eating dog food sandwiches...we assume.)

Norman Reedus already had questions about why Daryl would even be hearing Maggie out about any kind of anti-Rick agenda. So he would naturally then have even more questions about how that situation might affect Daryl's relationship with Rick further down the road. As Walking Dead fans know, most people who get in the way of Rick Grimes don't survive to bitch about it.

As such, Reedus was half-justified in being worried, even though it's hard to imagine showrunner Angela Kang or anyone else choosing to implement an event like that. Perhaps it's telling of The Walking Dead's evolution and new direction that Reedus had even an ounce of worry. Maybe these next few episodes truly will feature such radical actions.

maggie and daryl

Andrew Lincoln's departure from The Walking Dead probably played into Norman Reedus' worries, assuming news about Lincoln wasn't immediately followed by the reassurance that Daryl and Rick won't cause each other's demises. For all the good feelings we can have about Daryl probably not murdering the last (current) male in the Grimes bloodline, Maggie still fits into a suspect role. Her decisions at the end of "Warning Signs," among others, proved that.

After all, Negan was responsible for destroying so much of the stability that Rick & Co. had regained in Alexandria. Yet he's the biggest exception to the law of the land regarding justice being served to Rick's enemies.

By this point, Norman Reedus has gotten used to Daryl not necessarily seeing eye-to-eye with Rick on how things need to go. When speaking to The Wrap, the actor talked about the thought process behind Maggie and Daryl allowing the Oceanside women to culminate their revenge plan against the Saviors.

Both those characters have been in this world long enough where you can only follow someone so long when you don't agree with what they're doing. [Rick] is sort of blinded by grief and all these other things, and he has to make this work and for all these reasons but he's not really listening to the people around him anymore.

Norman Reedus also implied that Daryl and Maggie agreed that Cyndie and the others had "the right intentions" when taking out the Saviors who killed their family members. So if Maggie is letting other people do that kind of thing, after she'd already had Gregory hung in public view, then that doesn't bode well for Negan making it to the back half of Season 9. Stranger things have happened, of course, and he does have more comic story to get through, but then so did Carl.

Even if Norman Reedus didn't have a justified reason to worry about Daryl and Rick killing each other, his feelings are an extension of how he feels about Andrew Lincoln himself. He's going to miss the heck out of his longtime co-star, with whom he's shared much one-sided laughter over bizarre pranks.

In fact, Reedus' way of honoring Lincoln's absence is one of the most unique tributes possible. Not to mention it's extremely "Norman Reedus."

That was hard. I think I kinda knew before a lot of people knew. We kinda had a pact at one point where we weren't going to leave without each other, but I understood [Andrew Lincoln] leaving. The first day he was gone, he used to come to my trailer to eat lunch every day. So the day after he left, I went back to my trailer and just kinda sat there, I didn't know what to do. The last day he was in there, he was covered in blood and sat on one of my chairs, and I still won't let anyone clean the chair. It's really, really disgusting.

So will Maggie play a more villainous role in Rick's exit before potentially joining Georgie elsewhere in the country? If the Rick-Daryl-Maggie trifecta wasn't enough of a wildcard arc, how about the way The Walking Dead is developing the story around that mystery helicopter?

The Walking Dead airs Sunday nights on AMC at 9:00 p.m. ET. Fall TV is full of shows that won't have two BFF protagonists killing each other, so be sure to keep track of all the latest premieres.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.