Spoilers below for anyone who hasn't yet watched The Walking Dead's latest flashback-filled episode.
For anyone who might have thought The Walking Dead didn't have a lot of new tricks up its sleeve, the episode "Find Me" upended fan expectations by giving Daryl an honest-to-Dog romantic partner in the form of Lynn Collins' Leah, even though there wasn't actually a whole lot of visible romance to be seen. But was the lack of physical intimacy detrimental to Daryl and Leah's vibe? Definitely not, according to Collins, who thought the characters' situation was still really sexy regardless.
Now, by this point, Walking Dead fans know better than to actually expect the sometimes hermitic and introspective Daryl to turn into a lip-locking Casanova the first time he got together with another woman on the show. As such, it actually felt pretty natural for his relationship with Leah to grow and evolve without passionate kisses. And though pandemic safety protocols were the key reasoning why nobody got to first base, it might surprise viewers to know that the writers weren't too high on making that happen anyway. When CinemaBlend spoke with Lynn Collins ahead of the episode's airing, here's what she said about Leah, Daryl and the latter's 'sacred bubble.'
Well, you know, it's interesting. Because we were shooting under COVID circumstances, we weren't allowed to kiss. But then when I was talking to some of the writers, they were like, 'Oh, I don't think we would have put the kiss in anyway.' It's just interesting, because there's this sacred bubble of energy around the Daryl character, and as a fan, I'm with it, I get it. . . . So yes, it's as as much romance as you could think of like, you know, caveman times. [Laughs.] How much romance do you have, can you have, when dinosaurs are chasing after you, or like when zombies are chasing after you? You really have to work really hard to create that, I think, in these extreme worlds. But also, I have to say, there's something really sexy about it, too, when the stakes are so high in life circumstances like that. I mean, that's what they say; in 2020, with all this COVID stuff happening, there's so many babies being born right now. Because everybody was like, 'Oh, we all may die. Okay, let's make love, you know. Let's make life. When life is threatened, let's make new life.' So, I mean, I think it's sexy. I think it's romantic.
Obviously, The Walking Dead doesn't allow for a ton of situations where characters are allowed to enjoy long-term, semi-traditional romances, what with the looming danger always at arm's length. But at the same time that Carol and Ezekiel were in the midst of raising Henry, Daryl and Leah's mutually exclusive solitude provided something of an ideal situation for sparks to fly. They could be themselves without worrying about others, and they (presumably) had each other's backs when things got dangerous.
In that same vein, being in the middle of a zombie apocalypse – even this many years after it started – makes any circumstance ten times more heightened. So combine that nervous energy with that of a new relationship, and it can definitely create a sexual and alluring intimacy that could potentially be strengthened by the lack of touch. You'd think that trying to outlive monsters would completely kill the mood, but sometimes that tension is exactly what can create such a mood.
The Walking Dead viewers got to see both Daryl and Leah receive way more up close and personal love from Dog as opposed to each other. But in Lynn Collins' mind, leaving the characters' more illicit acts off of the screen, and solely in the imaginations of viewers everywhere, it's a more fulfilling experience for audiences. In her words:
It's interesting, right? As an actress, I've done a lot of different levels of intimacy in my work, and yet, I think at the end of the day, the more the audience has to ruminate, to imagine, the more really fulfilling it is for an audience. That idea of seeing somebody in lingerie is sexier than seeing somebody just totally buck-ass naked. It's that idea that what is left to the imagination is always the most pleasurable, fulfilling part, whether that's storytelling or sex or whatever.
Of course, it's not like Daryl and Leah (or any other couple in the world) need to kiss or have sex in order to prove their pairing is justified. And in fact, Lynn Collins pointed out how the characters' less-than-perfect issues actually made them feel even more realistic.
But I also think it's pretty right on the money as far as relationships go in general. It's not ideal. They're on the same page, and then they're not on the same page. And then who knows what happens now?
Lynn Collins herself doesn't appear to be 100% certain herself where Leah's story will go from here, but her disappearance definitely ties into the TV trope of "if you didn't see a character's dead body, then that character probably isn't dead." (Could Maggie's nemeses The Reapers have had something to do with it?) Here's hoping she's not only safe, but is also able to return to Daryl's life in the future to learn that he did intend to choose staying with her instead of going out to look for Rick.
The Walking Dead has four episodes left in its extended Season 10 on AMC, with Season 11 set to kick off at some point in the summer.