It’s been a rough go for the citizens of Alexandria. Ever since they came across that lunatic with the barbed wire-covered baseball bat, their idyllic post-apocalyptic community has been ravaged, looted, and now bombed to high hell. The survivors are currently hiding in a sewer as they wait for the latest assault by Negan and the Saviors to cease.

But the war cannot last forever. In fact, it finally will be winding down when The Walking Dead returns with the second half of season 8 on Feb. 25. And that means we will finally get answers, and, according to star Norman Reedus, closure.

“It’s all resolution,” says Reedus about the final eight episodes of the season. “It’s all the tying up of these ends of what’s laid out in front of us in all these different directions. There’s a lot of closure coming in the back eight, which is great. There’s been all this action and all the fighting and all these different factions that have been splitting off in these different directions, and it all kind of comes together in the end with closure in several different avenues. Some wrap up the way you think. Some wrap up not the way you think. It’s all kind of a surprise where it all comes from.”

Reedus’ comments match what showrunner Scott M. Gimple told us last summer, that the war would end in season 8, but it’s interesting to note that Reedus hints there may be a little misdirection in the mix in terms of how that ending comes about. Does that mean the show will continue to make big changes from the comics — like the impending death of Carl? Could there be other additional casualties we may not be expecting? Only time will tell. We also spoke to Reedus about the evolution of Daryl Dixon and what else to expect when TWD returns.

Credit: Gene Page/AMC

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I noticed Daryl and Rick were in every episode in the first half of the season. Does that continue in the second half? Are they keeping you busy?
NORMAN REEDUS: I think in some of those episodes I’m in it for five seconds. Andy’s all over it. It’s a lot of Andy’s story this year — it’s probably 80 percent Rick Grimes’ story, to be honest. There’s still a lot more with that to come. A lot of things he’s dealing with certain characters and stuff. It’s a lot of Rick Grimes and Maggie.

But that seemed to be a pretty conscious decision to put a lot of the old school characters like Daryl back front and center in season 8.
Yeah, there’s a lot of Daryl stuff. There’s some really good Daryl stuff coming up with some of the characters he’s been going toe to toe with. I love the way some of those stories get wrapped in the end. There’s a real beauty to it. It’s not exactly the way that you think, and then it kind of is at the same time. It wraps up in a very poetic way. There are several different stories happening and everyone has their nemesis, but we don’t have the same storyline. They all kind of end differently, which is really refreshing.

We talked about how Daryl was going rogue all over the place in the first half of the season. What about in the back half? Is he going to rein that in a bit now that the Saviors have escaped and bombed the hell out of Alexandria, or is he still on his own mission?
Well, a little bit of both. If you watch Daryl’s progression, he’s gone from a complete hothead to getting smarter every season. He makes better decisions. You see him do some things this season and you’re like, “Oh, man, don’t do that. Did he mess up a plan?” As a person, he’s becoming wiser. He’s not gentler — that’s definitely not the word, but he’s been sitting in the back paying attention to everything going on for so long, and he’s his own man and he can make his own decisions. While it seems like he may have gone rogue a couple times this season, which he did, he learns a lot from every time something goes south.

What you end up with is a very wise leader instead of just a soldier that’s willing to do anything. He’s learning from his mistakes. He’s learning from other people’s mistakes, and the common goal is, how do we go forward? How do we live together and how do we go forward? Sometimes you need to take an outsider, like a Daryl, and he ends up being the one that inherits all the traits of somebody that can lead.

Does he blame himself for the Saviors getting out of the Sanctuary?
No, I don’t think he blames himself. I think there are a couple of moments when we find out what happened with Carl and he asks about it. He’s like, “Did this happen because of what I did?” I think if that would’ve turned out to be his fault he probably would’ve lost his mind, but it wasn’t his fault. That happened in a totally different area at a totally different time, so I think he was very concerned about that in particular — especially after what happened with Glenn and what happened with Abraham.

Does he regret it right now? No. I think they’re all going towards the same mission right now. We’ve had a lot of hotheads on the show. We had Sasha running in there trying to take them out herself. We had Michonne do it. We had pretty much every woman in our cast try to do it themselves all by themselves. If you think about, lots of last year was the boys sitting around crying and the girls were all kicking ass, so it’s not like that hasn’t happened before — somebody has an idea and they’re like, “We need to do this now.”

I think, as a person, Daryl is growing into a wiser leadership role. He’s got the experience. There are some things that you learn with experience. He’s got street smarts in a zombie apocalypse, and I think having those smarts sometimes will make you the leader. In a dirty fight, you want somebody with street sense.

As we go ahead, it looks like one of the questions that the characters are asking themselves a lot is: at what cost? What are the lines we should not cross to achieve victory? Where does Daryl fall in that now, especially after shooting that Savior Rick had promised to let go? Is there a line for him now where he thinks, “I won’t cross this.”
I think his main goal is to protect the people in his camp. Shooting a stranger in the face to get that goal, he thinks it’s worth it. I think that’s some of that dirty fighting street knowledge that he’s throwing around. Rick wants his people to survive, but he also wants to save everyone else. He’s like, “The stranger over there, that’s a worker. He’s got to be part of it.”

Daryl’s more like, “No, no. This is our group and we need to keep these people safe.” He’s almost more loyal in a way to what’s around him because these people kind of turned him into something they need to be proud of. I think that’s his family. I don’t think he has a messiah complex; he’s just doing what he needs to do. That’s part of that street stuff.

If they weren’t in a big war, I don’t think he’d just go around shooting people in the face, but they’re out there, there’s a war going on, and war’s dirty. You have to have that dirty fighting street sense to get through something like that. I think sometimes Rick, his desire to save everyone sometimes can be seen as weak to Daryl. When Daryl and Rick come to blows fist to fist, that’s what that is. He doesn’t love him any less, but he’s like, “You’re being weak. You need to step up.” They’re both right.

For more Walking Dead scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

Episode Recaps

The Walking Dead

AMC's zombie thriller, based on the classic comic book serial created by Robert Kirkman.

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