It wasn’t a long wait, but The Walking Dead has finally unmasked the Reapers. Episode four, “Rendition”, begins with the night attack from Daryl’s (Norman Reedus) point of view. The knife whizzes by his head. He calls “Dog” and they flee into the dark woods. Daryl jumps a wall to a decrepit building. A Reaper lurks around the corner. Daryl tosses a rock to distract him. He’s attacked again in the woods. Daryl throws his crossbow, then tumbles down with his attacker. Dog bites the Reaper, and is tossed viciously away. Daryl is surrounded. He throws a knife at three of them, and then runs away by himself. A female Reaper looks ahead in alarm.
The next morning, Daryl covers himself with the blood and guts from a dead walker. The female Reaper has been tracking him. She sees Dog sniffing around near grass. Daryl hears Dog barking. He races to the sound. He’s stunned to see Dog sitting quietly by the woman. “Let him go,” Daryl says as he pulls out his knife. The Reaper takes off her mask to reveal Leah (Lynn Collins). Daryl can’t believe his eyes. “I never thought I’d see you again,” Leah also asks if he’s alone. Daryl replies that he’s not one of them. He calls Dog, but the animal stays with Leah. Other Reapers arrive and corner Daryl.
A hooded Daryl is dragged into Meridian. A body hangs over the entrance. Dog trots happily along with Leah. Daryl is taken to a metal shed. He’s tied to a chair. Leah takes off the hood. “I came back for you. I looked everywhere…I’m sorry you ended up with these people,” Daryl laments. “These people are my family,” Leah corrects him. She starts to clean his face with a wet rag. Then smothers him until he passes out.
Daryl is waterboarded by two Reapers as Leah watches. They ask if “others” are “still out there.” Daryl claims ignorance, “I ain’t one of them.” They drown him repeatedly until Leah orders them to stop. She pleads with him to cooperate, “The one we answer to isn’t nice.” Daryl lies again and says he only traded for food. He’s hooded again and carried into a fenced holding pen with a bucket.
In the pen, another prisoner, one of Maggie’s captured men, recognizes Daryl. He asks if the “others are okay.” Daryl pretends not to know him and says “he has no beef with these people.” He ends with the message, “Do you understand?” The prisoner catches on. He yells loudly, “We should have let you starve.” Before they drag him away to be tortured.
Leah visits Daryl. She calls him “stubborn” and wants to know the truth. Daryl responds he never “lied to her.” He asks for Dog and promises “they will never see him again.” The prisoner is brought back badly beaten. The Reapers have also taken casualties.
Leah follows Carver (Alex Meraz) to a room where Bossie (Michael Shenefelt) kneels before their leader, Pope (Ritchie Coster). Another Reaper, Mancea (Dikran Tulaine), speaks in tongues as he prays over their dead comrade. Leah weeps as the fierce Pope enters, “God is angry. I am angry.”
Daryl tries to loosen his ropes. Leah returns and sits outside his cage. Her “brother”, Michael Turner, is dead. She admits they were all elite soldiers in the same unit that became mercenaries. She hadn’t “lost” someone since Daryl. He disagrees. Daryl “came back” for her, but she was gone. Leah whispers they would “never have worked” in “this world.” She doesn’t want anything “bad to happen to him.” She warns him that her “commander is angry.”
Daryl tells her of a “woman” that’s their leader. They “spoke in code” because he was “an outsider.” He also recounts “a tall skinny guy” and “a priest with a shotgun.” He warns they have “three dozen fighters”, more than “the fifteen you got down here.” Leah realizes that Daryl has been taking stock. She promises to “get him out of there.” Daryl wants to meet Pope.
Leah relays Daryl’s message of “their numbers” to Pope. She thinks Daryl would fit in here. Pope yells at her for a “fishing expedition for an old boyfriend.” Leah swears that Daryl will be useful, “Pain and death does not scare him.” Pope knows she loves Daryl. She “could have ended him” and didn’t. Leah admits he “meant something to her”, but she doesn’t regret joining Pope again. Leah swears “they can trust him.”
Daryl is brought back to the shed as other Reapers taunt him. Leah unties him as they prepare to meet Pope. Suddenly the door is locked. Gasoline is poured into the room and set on fire. Smoke billows as flames surround them. Leah falls down coughing. Daryl knocks over a panel and frees a metal bar. He rips out the boards covering the window, punches through the glass, and pushes Leah through. They collapse on the ground coughing. Daryl stands up to see the entire Reaper unit. Leah stands with them. The shed burns to the ground behind him. A steely Pope speaks, “Forged by fire. Ordained by God. Welcome him!” The Reapers chant in militaristic unison, “Fortitudo Saludis (Strength of Salvation)!”
Daryl has a drink with Pope, “Did I pass your little test?” Pope wants him to “understand.” Daryl doesn’t believe in their God. Pope goes on a long diatribe of carrying dead soldiers off the field in Afghanistan. He curses politicians, but “saw God everywhere.” Pope offers a cigarette and they both start smoking. He continues they did “ugly work” as mercenaries, and were paid “handsomely.” But when the apocalypse came, they “saw death day after day.” He was about to lose faith. But “when the bombs came and fast”, they “holed up in a little church” and were spared. “Not even a scratch,” Pope glowers. He knew “they were the chosen ones.” Pope tells Daryl that God chose him tonight. He emerged from the fire “unscathed.”
The Reapers eat together around a large bonfire. Pope in his tactical vest, glasses, and skull cap brings Daryl. “You were right about this one,” he nods to Leah. Daryl is given food from Bossie as “family now.” Pope congratulates Bossie for the “strength” it took to carry Turner’s body “ten miles.” But changes his tone when he brings up that all of Bossie’s wounds “are on his back.” Leah begs him to stop. Bossie swears he “was facing the enemy.” Pope congratulates Daryl for the courage to save Leah, “How far would he go to keep you safe? It takes divine strength. God baptized you in that fire. Never turn your back on a brother.” He then savagely throws Bossie into the bonfire. Stepping on his back until his flesh is burnt to a crisp. Daryl and Leah stare at each other horrified.
Leah’s return as a Reaper was truly surprising, but not out of the blue. In last season’s “Find Me”, Leah’s military background was brought up in her romance with Daryl. Including the term “Fortitudo Saludis.” It’ll be fascinating to see where her loyalty truly lies when Daryl turns on the Reapers. The Walking Dead returns every Sunday night on AMC. The following week’s episode is available immediately after on AMC+.
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