“Where do you belong, Daryl?”
As I wrote last week, the COVID restrictions placed on TV and film production have had a noticeable affect on certain productions. From storyline changes in TV shows to films having release dates pushed back multiple times, the industry has almost universally suffered. The Walking Dead on the other hand, has found the positive in the situation more than most. It has extended it’s original 16 episode run to 22 episodes and ‘Find Me‘ is the second of these six extra episodes. Like last week’s episode, we only see a few characters – this week it’s Daryl, Carol and newcomer Leah. Due to COVID restrictions, there’s no shots of giant walker hordes or all of the Alexandria residents together. Even here, in the apocalypse, everyone is social distancing. This works in the episode’s favour however and ‘Find Me’ is a great little self-contained story that fills out some gaps in Daryl’s backstory. The writing really flows and it’s got some great dialogue; Daryl is the most talkative he’s been in years. Another COVID precaution is that the show is now being shot on digital, rather than The Walking Dead’s much celebrated 16mm film style – which gave the show it’s trademark grainy horror look. But even this works in the shows honour, allowing for some fantastic cinematography – perhaps the best the show has ever had.
The episode begins with Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Carol (Melissa McBride) heading out to hunt. It’s good to see the characters just hanging out again, without any overarching threat from Alpha and her whisperers. It feels like ages since these characters just had space to breathe. Things get a bit more complicated however, when the two of them stumble across a deserted cabin in the woods. Both seem to have some knowledge about the place as we jump back into a flashback of five years earlier. The Walking Dead timeline got a little vague around the time Rick Grimes left but as far as I can work out, this flash back is taking place roughly 2 years after Rick died/went missing. Daryl is still out on the river looking for a sign of Rick and has isolated himself from the rest of the group. Somewhere along his travels he stumbles across that same cabin and the woman who then lived inside; Leah, played by Lynn Collins. She’s a cool character and Collin’s plays her perfectly as both bad-ass survivor and in her more vulnerable moments. The flashback jumps forward a few times as her and Daryl’s relationship develops. It starts as them seemingly not liking each other but it slowly becomes something else. The scene where Daryl tries to win her affection by throwing a dead fish at her door is peak Daryl. Reedus gives a performance that’s up there with his best performances in the show’s history (the scene of him screaming in the rain is a standout). Daryl and Leah’s relationship develops into something romantic, which may anger some fans who thought he was destined to end up with Carol, or Connie, or even that he was asexual. I enjoyed the development though, and it feels like a natural moment for Daryl’s character.
The production of this episode is noticeably impressive. I’ve always appreciated the cinematography of TWD but it’s never been the shows main strength. Here however, the show is absolutely beautiful. I can only assume it’s the switch to digital that has allowed for this but we get beautifully framed shots that hark back to the southern gothic drama of True Detective season 1 and some great crane/drone shots. Knowing the show has an end now, I’m hopeful the show runners and AMC will continue this level of production quality. The show seems to be increasingly aware of the character’s flaws too, as seen in the closing argument between Daryl and Carol. She says he has got to stop blaming himself for every death or disappearance. But he rips into her and blames her for Connie’s disappearance, saying she doesn’t know when to stop – mirroring the audiences frequent criticisms of the characters. This development is a step in the right direction for the show and hopefully is a sign we will no longer being going round in circles with these characters; they might actually move on.
Next week looks like another interesting episode, although I reckon your enjoyment of it will depend on how much you like the characters of Aaron and Father Gabriel. I personally love them, I think they are two of the most consistently interesting characters on the show, especially Gabriel. It see’s the introduction of Robert Patrick’s new character too, who may or may not have something to do with the Reapers from last week. I always love The Walking Dead but these two extra episodes have so far been a treat. And it’s all leading up to that big Negan-centric episode in week 6 and into the much anticipated final season beyond. Long live The Walking Dead.