“I belong with you. Find me,” reads the note Daryl (Norman Reedus) leaves behind for Leah (Lynn Collins), his old flame who disappears in Season 10 of The Walking Dead — only to be found in Season 11. It’s Daryl’s six-year search for the missing Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) that turns up Dog and his cabin-dwelling original owner Leah in “Find Me,” where a romantic relationship between Daryl and Leah culminates with an ultimatum: choose where you belong. Daryl leaves, and later returns, only to find Leah’s cabin empty except for Dog. When The Walking Dead unmasks the Reapers in “Rendition,” a familiar face returns. And hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.
In “Find Me,” Leah tells Daryl she found family in the “squad” she fought with side-by-side for years. “When the world went to hell,” she says, “we swore to stay together, to fight together.” But she was separated from her family, her son got bit on the same day Dog was born, and she holed up in the cabin without sight of another soul. Until Daryl.
“Rendition” reveals what happened after Daryl lost Leah: her family, the “Chosen Ones” and their commander Pope (Ritchie Coster), never stopped looking for her. “When they found me, I came home,” Leah tells Daryl when he’s captured by the Reapers and taken to Meridian.
Pope wants intel on the leader of the group Daryl was with on the road — “marked” woman Maggie (Lauren Cohan) — but Daryl pretends to be a loner to protect his family of survivors on a mission to take back Meridian from the Chosen Ones. If Leah lets him go with Dog, Daryl says she’ll never see him again.
The death of one of Leah’s soldier brothers is “the first time I’ve lost someone close to me in a long time,” she tells a caged Daryl. “Except maybe for you.”
Daryl reveals the truth: “You didn’t lose me. I came back and you were gone.”
“You left me. I asked you what you wanted. You left.”
He got scared.
“Letting go,” admits Daryl.
Leah can help Daryl save himself if he gives up intel on the group he claims not to know. “Because despite everything, I still care about you. And I don’t want anything bad to happen to you.”
Daryl has his baptism by fire when the Chosen Ones lock Leah and her ex-boyfriend in a shed and set it ablaze. They help each other escape, surviving Pope’s test of being forged by fire like all the Chosen Ones, who initiate their newest brother in arms with “Fortitudo Saludis!”
“We had always planned for that to be the story. This is not a story we came up with after that first episode with Daryl and Leah aired [in Season 10],” explained showrunner Angela Kang of the Daryl and Leah reunion on The Walking Dead: Episode Insider. “A lot of time has passed, so there’s obviously a story that has happened in the interim, and when they kind of crash into each other [in ‘Rendition’], there’s a whole lot that’s going on through Daryl’s head.”
Kang noted there are “a lot of complicated emotions that are running through the whole thing,” teasing more to come about Daryl and Leah’s place among the Chosen Ones.
“I think Leah is a character that she can’t be seen to be showing any softness towards anybody. She is part of this group and she answers to somebody else,” said Kang of Pope’s people torturing Daryl. “So, she may be the one, at least in name, in charge of the situation, but I think that that question sits out there like, ‘Is she really in charge of the situation or has she been asked to carry out orders and she feels that she needs to?'”
Follow the author @CameronBonomolo on Twitter for all things TWD. The Walking Dead Season 11 airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.