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[Warning: This story contains spoilers from episode 615, “East,” of AMC’s The Walking Dead and the comic book series it is based on.]
“You’ll be all right.”
Those words from Dwight (Austin Amelio) on Sunday’s The Walking Dead are all that Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) die-hards have to ponder for the next week after the AMC zombie drama left the fate of the fan favorite in limbo heading into the April 3 season six finale.
The penultimate episode of the season left the group divided — and weak. Carol (Melissa McBride), who kills several (but not all) members of the Saviors she encounters after leaving Alexandria, is out on the road solo. Morgan (Lennie James), who left Alexandria with Rick (Andrew Lincoln), is out there alone and committed to finding her. Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Michonne (Danai Gurira) are being held hostage after trying to bring Daryl home when he left the community intent on killing Dwight. Feeling guilty over Denise’s (Merritt Wever) death, Daryl (who had Rosita with him) was about to open fire on the Saviors holding Glenn and Michonne. But Dwight — the same guy Daryl let go in the first half of the season who wound up returning to kill Denise — sneaks up behind him. The unseen encounter ends with the sound of a gunshot and blood splattered on the screen as Dwight says, “You’ll be all right.”
While Dwight definitely shot Daryl, star Reedus tells THR it’s unclear whether Daryl is alive or dead and, perhaps more important, to whom Dwight is speaking when he mutters those three key words.
Elsewhere, Rick returns to Alexandria — where Maggie (Lauren Cohan) seems to be on the verge of losing her unborn baby — and learns that Glenn, Michonne, Rosita (Christian Serratos) and Daryl have not yet returned. The hour sets the stage for next week’s season finale, where comic book villain Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is poised to make his debut as the lives of five key characters (including Maggie) hang in the balance.
Below, Reedus talks with THR about Daryl and Dwight’s encounter, why he wouldn’t be satisfied if this was the end of the road for the fan favorite and, yes, Negan’s arrival.
An episode after he narrowly missed killing Daryl, did Dwight really shoot him in the shoulder?
You don’t know where he shoots him, but that definitely is his blood right there. Dwight knows if Daryl spins around, he’s not spinning around to say something; he’s spinning around to attack. Dwight knows if Daryl turns around, Daryl is going to end him. But that’s definitely Daryl’s blood.
So is Daryl dead?
I can’t tell you that. But Dwight definitely shoots him.
How quickly will Daryl’s fate be resolved in the finale? Will we know if he survives?
I think somebody will mention it at some point. But he definitely gets shot. You’re definitely seeing exactly what happened.
If this really is Daryl’s death — and I hope it isn’t because he has so much more story to be told — would you be happy if this were the way he went out?
I don’t think I’m ever going to be happy with that decision ever. (Laughs.) Like every character on this show, there’s always more story to tell. We really in the last two, maybe three years paid attention to some of the characters more than others — and some of the characters haven’t had much screen time at all. I can’t say that I would be happy. I can’t say that I would not understand, but you see what happens — and he does get shot. It’s his blood that’s on the camera.
We see Glenn and Daryl’s interaction in this episode, and Glenn mentions that staying outside the walls could get Daryl killed — and at the end of the episode, Daryl’s blood is on the screen. How worried should viewers be about Dwight holding Daryl, Glenn, Michonne and Rosita?
You should be very worried about Daryl. At the end of the episode, there’s a comment that Dwight makes [“You’ll be all right”] — and we’re really good about throwing you off base. That comment might not even be to Daryl. It could be to Rosita — or to anybody there. Or it could be to [someone in] some scuffle that happens directly afterward. Do you trust that guy? Anyone automatically assuming that’s the obvious play is trusting words that come out of that guy’s mouth, and we’re really good at throwing you for a loop. So … food for thought.
Many die-hard fans of the show think Daryl will be the one Negan kills in the season finale — especially since he’s had the most exchanges with Dwight and killed off a whole group of Saviors with a rocket launcher. What do you think about that theory?
I hear that about everyone, all the time. I hear, “Rick is going to get it!” “Steven is going to get it!” “Lauren is going to get it!” I hear so much of it in all different directions that they all suck! (Laughs.) There’s not a good decision. But don’t put it past anybody on the show to do something unexpected. There’s so many people who watch this show, so someone is going to get it right. One of these theories is going to be right.
Dwight knows if Daryl spins around, that Daryl will kill him. That said, why doesn’t Dwight kill Daryl?
That’s a question for [showrunner] Scott [Gimple]. We’re telling a larger story, and it’s interesting with those two characters — they don’t mirror each other, but one character has some good in him and is forced to be bad. When we met on the train tracks and Denise gets shot with the arrow, Daryl is the first person Dwight acknowledges and talks to. There’s almost an apologetic thing in his voice for having to do this. You see what happened to his face, and you know who did that [Negan, who does it as punishment for trying to escape his community]. I don’t think Daryl is that guy who you can break. Maybe there’s something in Dwight that Daryl sees that he thinks he can rehabilitate somehow or put out of his misery. And Dwight sees somebody [in Daryl] that he had that long conversation with in episode six: “This is who you want to be? You want to be somebody that gets down on your knees and doesn’t feel safe?” I think that might have struck something in Dwight. Why didn’t Daryl bind their hands before he decided to take them to Alexandria? He made a mistake, and that came back to bite him on the ass. In this world, you can’t make mistakes like that because a bite on the ass is your death.
Thematically, season six has been about what this group does with their responsibility in surviving: to kill or not to kill. Daryl’s journey with Dwight has come full circle here. If Daryl can escape this alive, will he still believe that the Saviors need to die? Which side of that fence does Daryl fall on right now?
Daryl definitely falls on the side with his group. If he could rewind everything, Daryl thinks he should have just killed everybody. I don’t believe that now, after everything that has happened, Daryl thinks it should have gone any other way. For him to trust some people and bring them into his group and then get screwed over — that doesn’t stop eating away at him ever. You see the consequences of that — he’s thinking straight; he’s thinking with his heart and running full steam to kill someone and he gets snuck up on. When you let your guard down and don’t think things out and aggressively go after things out of passion, those are the things that can f— you up in the end.
At this point, everyone in Rick’s group has killed members of the Saviors. Will that come back to hurt them?
I imagine that’s going to come back and there’s going to be a price to pay for that.
Had they not, would things be different in the finale with Negan’s arrival?
No, I don’t think Negan cares. “You kill my men, I take it personally.” He doesn’t give a shit about them. Scott said it the best when he said that Negan is the star of his own movie. I think besides your women, he doesn’t really care.
Carol and Morgan — neither of whom believe in killing — are both out there. How might they handle discovering Dwight holding four key members of their group hostage?
I don’t know, they’re both totally different characters. We’ve seen so much of Carol in the last couple years and how she doesn’t want to kill anymore, and that’s the battle she’s still fighting. And then you have Morgan, who is doing that the opposite way. He’s coming to terms with the fact that you have to kill. Those two characters are dealing with the same issues, just differently. So they may approach that problem in a different way.
Rick is back at Alexandria, where Maggie seems to be losing the baby. Will another group venture out to the Hilltop to take care of Maggie and at the same time look for their loved ones who haven’t returned yet?
I know in the comics, there’s several different groups. I don’t know when or how that would play out. That’s something for season seven; I don’t even know what’s going on in season seven about that yet.
Negan is coming in the season six finale. How would you describe his first entrance?
That episode is the most hard-core episode you’ve ever seen on the show. Ever. And it’s so well directed [by exec producer Greg Nicotero] and it’s so well played out. And so terrifying. It’s so good. A lot of effort went into making that the best episode we’ve ever shot on this show.
Does the season finale pick up immediately where this episode leaves off?
All the episodes do, until we end [this season]. It’s super shocking and it’s pretty hard-core. Andy said he was late for work because he read it all night; Josh said he threw the script; Lauren threw up. It’s gnarly. I was instantly curious. I had ideas about what would happen and it made you feel sick and it was painful.
Do you think Daryl is dead? Sound off in the comments with your finale theories. For more Walking Dead coverage, go to THR.com/WalkingDead.