Saying that the introduction of Daryl’s (Norman Reedus) only canon love interest, Leah (Lynn Collins), was a controversial moment in Walking Dead history would be a vast, vast understatement. The fact that it happened in a pandemic “bonus episode”? Baffling. How it undermined potential relationships with either Carol (Melissa McBride) or Connie (Lauren Ridloff)? Confusing. How Leah just disappeared by the end of the episode, and Daryl never mentioned her during the Whisperer conflict or at any other point in time? Mind-boggling.
But what if there was a point to the whole Leah storyline — one beyond putting a stop to the “who will be Daryl’s first love interest” speculation? In a few blink-and-you’d-miss-them moments from the Comic-Con trailer, it sure looks like she might be part of the latest group of bad guys: the Reapers. Here, we break down all the evidence and speculate what it might mean for Daryl.
Leah in a Mask
At several points in the trailer, we get a good glimpse of a Reaper. It’s the same person, twice, with a white stripe down the center of the mask. The eyes are feminine — and they sure do look like Leah’s.
But the real evidence that this is Leah, and not a random female Reaper, comes from her first appearance in the trailer. She’s seen standing next to Dog, Dog doesn’t seem to be pulling away, and Daryl is right there. Why else would he choose someone else over his owner, unless his first owner — the one who saved his life — was there?
Finally, there’s a moment in the trailer that really, really looks like Leah standing in front of Daryl outside the Alexandria gates, with Reapers standing behind her. Whoever this person is has her long hair, and they appear to be about the right height to be her, too.
There’s Evidence in the Script
Beyond the trailer, there’s been some foreshadowing that Leah was part of the Reapers all the way back in “Find Me.” When she talks to Daryl about her life before the apocalypse, she said she was part of a loyal “squad,” but she lost all of them and thought they were dead.
The group she was with sounded militaristic, which we know the Reapers are; and we know Leah was devoted to them and saw them as family. It’s possible that she knew the Reapers, or even their leader Pope before the world ended — and that she left Daryl when she found evidence that they were alive. But that doesn’t explain why she would’ve left Dog, too!
A Doomed Romance?
If Leah is, indeed, part of the Reapers, that undoubtedly spells trouble for the Daryl-Leah pairing. At the very least, the Reapers burned down Maggie’s (Lauren Cohan) home and killed a ton of her people, and Daryl’s known and been loyal to Maggie long before he ever knew Leah. But the Reapers also look to be going after Alexandria in the trailers, which makes it even less likely they’ll rekindle things once they’re reunited. It could happen — maybe she switches sides and becomes part of the group, as characters like Tara (Alanna Masterson) once did — but with this being the last season and with the Commonwealth arc still to go, Dead doesn’t have much time to explore her character the way it did for others who started out with the “bad guys.”
The other option this leaves is Leah dying, which isn’t pleasant. Dead has a history of killing off female characters to further male characters’ storylines; there’s Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies), Jessie (Alexandra Breckenridge), Beth (Emily Kinney) and Denise (Merritt Wever), just to name a few. Having Leah die, whether by Daryl’s hand or in his arms, repeats tired storylines from seasons past.
So really, maybe the best option for the Leah-Daryl thing is for her to vanish into the night after the Reapers are defeated. At that point, it should be clear that Daryl doesn’t have feelings for her anymore, and he’ll be free to pursue a relationship with Carol, or Connie, or neither of them. (In this ideal world, Dog also chooses Daryl over her, because Daryl losing Dog would be one of the most devastating losses on this show).
But whether Leah lives or dies, it’s hard to see Daryl with someone whose “family” would cause the kind of destruction the Reapers do — we know the importance Daryl places on his friends, and for him to continue a relationship with someone who has made them suffer would be totally out of character. We’ll have to wait and see.
The Walking Dead, Sundays, 9/8c, AMC