Daryl had a secret lover in the woods, once upon a time. Find out all about Leah.

The six episodes added to The Walking Dead season 10 feel strictly like fan service. Sometimes they move the plot along (the first mention of the Reapers), but a lot of times they feel more like vignettes (Maggie unpacking her life after Hilltop). Each one is like someone took a small factoid or story found in the back of a Walking Dead TV show companion book and adapted it for the screen. It's a reward for those who've spent the last decade following these characters and still have a few questions about the gaps in the mythology.

"Find Me" is more like that. It tells of Daryl in the time jump after Rick supposedly died in that bridge explosion and his life searching for him along the river. I'm choosing to look at these episodes this way. Otherwise, my cynicism jumps out. Otherwise, I'm gonna start in on how maybe all this dialogue between Daryl and Carol applies to the show itself. "Has [the show's] luck run out?" The Walking Dead had a "good, long run, longer than most." "Friends don't have the same conversation over and over again," so therefore the show isn't our friend for recycling the same ideas over and... you know what? I'm stopping myself. Let's enjoy nice things, like how Daryl met Dog and the two became best friends.

In the present, Carol accompanies Daryl and Dog into the woods for a hunt. The deer are scarce so they head down to the river, where Daryl spent all those years looking for Rick. Carol's beginner's luck with spearing fish reminds Daryl of someone, a woman named Leah, who was — and this is where the hearts of Caryl shippers everywhere shattered — Daryl's lover. Dog was actually Leah's pet, and the fact that Daryl now has him isn't a good sign for Leah. Dog gets a whiff of Leah, perhaps, or maybe he just recognizes his surroundings and leads Carol and Daryl back to Leah's cottage, which is now abandoned and falling apart. Daryl begins to have flashes of his time with her and recounts those memories to Carol.

Dog was the one who found Daryl first, five years ago when he was just a puppy. Daryl built a shelter for himself by the water, a home base where he could sketch out a map and keep track all the areas he scouted for Rick. Carol would occasionally visit him to check in. At first, Dog just popped in with an enthusiastic puppy hello before running back to Leah. Daryl didn't see him again for a couple years, after enduring some tough times. A storm shook his shelter and ruined pieces of his map, pouring some of that years-long work down the drain. Three years after that first encounter, Dog finds Daryl again, and this time he brings him back to Leah's cottage. Daryl thinks he's helping get rid of walkers on the property, but Leah thinks he's an intruder. She ties him up but lets him go later that night once she can size him up.

It's like that, on and off, for Daryl, Leah, and Dog over the years. Every few months or so, sometimes a full year, Dog and Leah would pop into his life. She'd save him from walkers, he'd throw a fish on her doorstep. You know, flirting. One year, while Daryl is suffering from frost bite, Leah brings him to stay at her house. She opens up about how her close friend died and she took in her newborn son, Matthew, as her own. Leah calls this woman "sister," the same way Daryl refers to Rick as "brother." That night is the anniversary of Matthew's death, who died the same day Dog was born.

The pair bond over their shared losses and start spending most of their time together. They soon fall in love, but 10 months later, the relationship hits a pothole. Leah is frustrated because she doesn't know if Daryl believes he belongs with her, out on the river searching for Rick, or back at Alexandria with the family he left behind. (Could Leah go with Daryl back to Alexandria? Seems like a compromise, but the episode never addresses that.) Daryl is out preparing to move his shelter by the river away from dead-infested territory when he gets a visit from Carol. She says she's going to live at the Kingdom and be with Ezekiel and Henry. She hopes he can try to find some peace, too.

Daryl decides he does want to be with Leah, but when he arrives back at the cottage, she's gone. The place has been ransacked. It's unclear if she was attacked by walkers or kidnapped or killed, but Dog stayed behind and has been with Daryl ever since. Hoping she's still alive, Daryl leaves a note in their secret compartment beneath the floorboards that reads, "I belong with you. Find me."

In the present, the note is still in the floorboards. Daryl blames himself for not being there, and the discussion puts a wedge between him and Carol. She once told Daryl he doesn't know when to stop, and he throws that back at her over her actions with the Whisperers. She takes responsibility for Connie, but doesn't regret what she did with Negan and the horde. Daryl is now tired of repeating these same conversations with her over and over. He promises that if she wants to keep running away from her guilt, he won't stop her this time. Since we know the Carol-Daryl spin-off show is in the works, it feels safe to say he'll change his mind at some point.

Related content:

Comments have been disabled on this post