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Spoilers for The Walking Dead are below.
Sunday night’s The Walking Dead took viewers through some familiar motions. Characters reacted to something terrible that happened at the end of the previous episode, all while expressing their thoughts explicitly, and then some other big terrible thing happened, starting the hyper-dramatic cycle anew. Only, “East” ended with that most sacrilegious of all cliffhangers, in which Daryl is injured in a potentially fatal fashion. The Internet reacted accordingly, basically threatening to exile the show’s creative team from the universe, but star Norman Reedus says one person is to blame for Daryl’s current predicament: Daryl.
Speaking on how his vengeful character denied a safe (in theory only) return to Alexandria in the interest of facing the central threat head-on, Norman Reedus explained to Deadline:
I think he’s not thinking rationally. I think with a lot of things that when you think from the heart and passionately you don’t weigh all the options and make the best decisions. I mean, I think it is the same reason why Dwight got the jump on him in the end – you know, he’s an expert tracker and that sort of thing usually doesn’t happen to him, so I think he was just thinking from the heart about Denise’s death and the guilt he felt and he made a mistake. And in the world of The Walking Dead, you can’t slip up and make a mistake because they come back to bite you on the butt like it did him.
Everybody makes mistakes, sure, but much like how Rick didn’t give participation trophies for Alexandrians who survived without having to live in the wild, The Walking Dead doesn’t often allow a grace period for a character’s lapse in judgment, and Daryl learned that the hard way. He didn’t necessarily pay the ultimate price, as he’ll presumably live at least long enough to make it to Negan’s lineup in the finale, where he might meet his maker for real. But now he hopefully learned at last that no matter what emotional approach he brings to any situation involving Dwight, it’s going to be the wrong one.
Of course, grudge-fueled people are going to hear that and still blame showrunner Scott Gimple and creator Robert Kirkman, since they’re the ones who write what Daryl does. But I don’t think anyone out there can look at Daryl’s impulsive and irrational actions and claim that it goes against his character type in any way. Sure, Gimple wrote Dwight standing behind Daryl in that moment, but one could argue that he was successfully completing Dwight’s version of Chekov’s Gun, in which he finally delivered on the threat first hinted at when he’d held Daryl at gunpoint when they met. If Daryl would have accidentally cut his throat open with a pen he's using to write out a peace treaty, then it would be more justifiable to crap all over this incident.
Aaron trusted the people who held him at gunpoint and it worked out okay for him, but Daryl doesn’t get that kind of luck. Especially not when he’s the one making his own luck. For social media’s sake, here’s hoping Daryl makes it to Season 7.
The Walking Dead Season 6 finale airs Sunday, April 3, on AMC.