The Walking Dead boss explains why Daryl has never been in a relationship
Warning: This article contains spoilers about Sunday’s episode of The Walking Dead, “Bonds.”
Many men and women have taken a knee before Negan, but the tables were turned at the end of Sunday’s episode of The Walking Dead, “Bonds,” when the former Saviors leader passed Beta’s life-or-death test in dramatic fashion and then pledged his loyalty to Alpha by dropping to one knee in front of the Whisperers leader.
That was just one of the many stories that unfurled in Sunday’s episode. We also saw Carol attempt to sneak out on a solo mission, only to be joined by Daryl, leading to a heart-to-heart chat about Daryl’s love life, or lack thereof. Meanwhile, the sickness is spreading in Alexandria, and Eugene may have just made contact with the next big community from the comic book (named the Commonwealth). We spoke to showrunner Angela Kang to get the inside scoop on all that and more.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s start with the Negan and Beta pairing because we knew this was going to be intense when these two encountered each other. But you then unexpectedly added a comedic element to that with a montage showing Beta one-upping him in a few scenarios. Tell me about the idea to have some fun with that.
ANGELA KANG: Our inspiration came from the comic book way that Negan and Beta interacted where Negan was just constantly poking fun at Beta. And so I thought that was just a fun dynamic and the room really latched onto that. So we were like, “Well what would be a fun way to do this?” And just in thinking about those characters, they’re both these big, strong, formidable guys, and I think Beta would immediately see this guy come in and go like, “Yeah, he’s trouble. I don’t like him. I don’t trust him. F— this guy.” And then Negan, for his part, he’s in there with a goal. He’s like, “Well, who’s this guy?” And he wants to cut him down.
So there’s a way that that could play that’s all just entirely intense, but we thought that there’s something a little bit ridiculous about it, and it was just a fun and fresh way to go at it. It’s dealing with both of their respective insecurities, but also the ways that they jockey. It’s a pissing contest in the apocalypse. Jeffrey [Dean Morgan] and Ryan [Hurst] really had a fun time playing it. They just thought it was such a hoot.
We also see Beta and Alpha get into an argument about Negan, and she says he’s been questioning her judgment a lot, but it ends with Beta kneeling down. Is there ever a breaking point for these two, or is Beta too loyal?
That’s part of the story we’re trying to tell for the season, is those two have this very close and yet complex relationship, and the introduction of first Gamma into that trio, and then Negan, definitely shakes things up. Part of the way that we’re tracking the story of the Whisperers is what is happening in that core relationship between Alpha and Beta, and certainly I think the fact that Alpha feels some doubt coming from Beta is also changing her tactics. That’s partly why she brings Gamma into her fold and why she’s interested in the presence of Negan, and all of that has a lot of implications for what happens with the Whisperers as the season goes on.
I love the scene at the end where they think Negan is dead, and he shows up and is bragging about how big his balls are. But then he does take a knee before Alpha, who responds by making the shushing noise. So does that mean he’s been now accepted into the group?
Yeah, I think it’s certainly the fact that he came back and impressed her, and so there’s more to come between Alpha and Negan, for sure. He has that swagger and he’s been suppressing that for a while, but you put them out in the wild and this is how he knows how to survive, is with this sense of confidence and badassery, and certainly it makes an impression. But she also thinks he talks too much. [Laughs]
Let’s switch gears and talk about some of the other things that were going on. We see all these people getting sick in Alexandria. Is this linked to Gamma slicing up on those guardians into the water supply?
Maybe, maybe not. That’s part of what our people are grappling with, is why are people getting sick? And it’s this building problem for them while they’re dealing with every other thing that’s going on with the Whisperers. And that’ll be a story that continues to unfold and we’ll learn more about in the next episode.
I want to get into this Carol and Daryl scene where she asks him about Connie and he says it’s not like that, and she’s sort of trying to nudge him along in that direction. Instead of asking you if Daryl and Connie are going to get together, what I want to know is, what is it that makes Daryl so reluctant to be in a relationship? It’s been around eight years in show time and he’s never even been close to one. There’s clearly something there. We see it, Kelly is seeing it, Carol’s seeing it, and Daryl almost is refusing to see it. So what is this saying about him and the reason why he doesn’t want to go there?
Daryl’s such an interesting character that way because in some ways, when it comes to romantic relationships, he’s not a person that I think trusts easily, and a lot of that has to do with his backstory, which is filled with so much trauma. He was physically abused, as well as in other ways. There’s sensitivity there for him. And I think he’s also just a person who it’s hard for him to trust anybody enough to connect with them really, really deeply. It’s a long, slow process for him in a lot of ways to get into any kind of a romantic thing, whereas I think most people these days think of it as just like, “Oh, you could have fun with somebody, and you can have sex with them and then it doesn’t have to mean anything.”
Daryl’s just not wired that way, and that tracks with conversations that Norman [Reedus] and I have had. He doesn’t attach to people lightly enough that he can give it a chance easily, you know? So I think that that’s really a big part of it. But certainly from Carol’s perspective, she cares about him so deeply and people certainly see that relationship in all kinds of different ways. But what felt real for us is they had this whole conversation about we’re best friends and she’s in this mode where she just wants revenge. And there’s an aspect of her that wants to make sure that no matter what happens in all of this and what happens to her, that Darryl has other people to lean on and rely on besides her because what if something happens to her?
There’s a lot of friendship psychology and love, the care that they have for each other, and she she sees that Connie’s a good person, he seems to connect to her and he doesn’t connect to very many people at all. It’s like she wants to make sure that he’s not going to just kind of drift off and lose that community like he has before. She was the one thing that kept him tethered to the group when he was off as a mountain man in the years that we jumped.
So what was Carol’s plan in crossing the border? Was it always to take a prisoner?
I think that was always sort of her plan. I think she, in her kind of lone wolf way, wanted to do that by herself. Daryl saw like, “Oh hey, she’s going out. What might that be about?” He knows her, and you see that he’s a little suspicious of her from the beginning. “She was just laid up after everything that happened and she’s just going to randomly go out now? Maybe I should go with her.” And he gets entangled in this whole thing. But she had the zip ties, she was always panning on crossing that border, so I absolutely think she was going to get a prisoner or some other thing. I think it’s partly opportunistic, but she was ready to take a prisoner as needed.
Let me ask you about Eugene and the radio. He comes into contact with a woman on the other end of the radio. How much of him talking to her is the prospect of getting another community into their network, and how much is just him being lonely?
I think Eugene’s not really thinking about getting a new community. Emotionally, he’s lonely, and there’s something that I really loved in the comic book that he was the one that was calling out, because here’s this character that has made some questionable decisions in the past, but grew to be a trusted person. But he’s not always connected with people as deeply as everybody craves to connect.
There’s a deep element of he just wants a human connection and he doesn’t exactly know what that might wind up being, but he feels, for a moment, he’s found a like-minded soul out there. Because what are the chances that somebody else is just out on the open wave, hoping to find somebody? And, of course, all the communities and the pragmatic things that come with that become a consideration, but he’s starting from very human place of “I just wish there was somebody out there for me.”
Well, I’ll just be direct and ask you: This woman on the other line, might her name be Stephanie and could this be the first introduction to a another community from the comic book named the Commonwealth?
It certainly seems like that might be the case, right? So I would just say that we also twist things a lot of times, so there may be surprises along the way.
What can you say about what’s coming up next?
We will find out more about what’s happening with this sickness that’s starting to spread. The story’s largely about Alexandria and what’s happening. I will say that it’s a very important episode for us and I really hope that people tune in because there are some major moves happening leading up to the finale.
For more Walking Dead scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.