"Hands down, he'd be dead."
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Distraction may have been what saved Negan on Sunday's episode of The Walking Dead, "Archeron Part II." After leaving Maggie for dead instead of helping her escape flesh-eating zombies, and then lying to the group about what happened, Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) got caught doing the unthinkable when Maggie (Lauren Cohan) returned unharmed. Just when it looked like Negan's traveling companions might take him out for his duplicity, another problem in the form of a returning Gage (Jackson Pace) and a train car full of walkers emerged to distract the others from the wolf in their midst.

But what if Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) had been around in that moment when they learned that Negan — the man who once took delight in torturing Daryl — had left one of his apocalyptic BFFs to die? We asked Reedus what Daryl would have done, and the actor did not hesitate with his response. "He would have slit his throat," says Reedus. "Hands down, he'd be dead."

But Daryl wasn't there. He was off on his own subterranean journey in which he came across the remnants of a group that lived down in the subway tunnels — finding a heartbreaking note written on money from a separated son to his missing father. Thankfully, Daryl found his way back to the group just in time, helping them clear out subway cars of walkers from both ends.

We spoke to Reedus about Daryl's underground discovery, what's coming up with the Reapers, and the biggest question of all: whether Daryl Dixon will ever find true peace and be comfortable in his own skin.

The Walking Dead
Norman Reedus on 'The Walking Dead'
| Credit: Josh Stringer/AMC

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Tell me about Daryl's journey here where he comes across this new world in this underground metro where people were living, and there's this chewed-off arm handcuffed to a briefcase, and artwork of people with crowns on their heads later getting attacked, and then he comes across this note from a kid to his dad written on some money.

NORMAN REEDUS: He finds that note and at first is going to take it with him. And then he's like, nah, maybe they're still out there. Maybe there's hope there. If there's a possibility that those kids will be reunited with their dad, he was going to leave the note. Why take that away?

I think it really hits home that you get wrapped up in all these story lines and you forget all the other story lines that are happening in the world. And that's just another story line. Like, that could be a show. And there's so many of them in so many different directions. And then you see that mural and there's a hierarchy of the rich running the world and living in fancy places. And the people that don't have money are down in the sewers. And then it flips. It's like eat the rich — they're eating the rich, taking their stock. So I don't know that Daryl would be anti-eat-the-rich. I think he would probably wear that T-shirt.

I do know that there's a whole bunch of social injustices that are being referenced this season. Equality, class warfare, there's just a whole bunch of things that were addressed in season. And that's really interesting to see how maybe at this stage in the zombie apocalypse, I'm sure that would be happening.

I've said this to you before how Andy [Lincoln] and I used to be in our trailers and we'd read The Road, and if you ever told us back then that the show would go 10 seasons, we would bet money that we would all be bone-thin, have three teeth, hair down to our ass, and be completely feral people that we would just be savages. And I think that's kind of where we thought we were headed. I know I did. I know Andy did, so I could see that mural coming true.

First off, you know I love it when you're dropping Motörhead references during an interview.

Yeah, I know.

But it's interesting because it ties into what you said to me before about Daryl: He's always worried about someone else and other people. Most people would see that note and be like, whatever, but it really impacts him. And he's already sort of putting himself into the place of these kids and wondering what happened to them. And he's clearly thinking way too much about it.

Daryl has always been that guy looking after somebody else before himself. Since Sophia got lost, he's always been that character on the show that puts himself second. People keep asking me, "How do you want to see Daryl at the end? How do you see his story end on the show?" I just want him to find peace. I want him to be comfortable in his own skin. Maybe someplace where he doesn't have to do that over and over again.

What does it take for that to happen? Is he capable of that?

It's just like to take a breath, to take a big long nap, to look around and see everything's going to be okay. I think that would be a nice place for him to be in. I don't think he trusts people or in human nature in general that much where he would think that would be an everlasting thing. More so than I think any of the other characters, he's very selfless. He's always been selfless. He's never gone off on a mission for personal gain. He's never put any of the characters on the show in danger for personal reasons, which almost every character on the show has done. All of them. Rick did it. Carol's done it. Negan's done it. They've all done it, except maybe Glenn. Even Shane did it. Glenn never did it. Maybe that's one of the things Daryl learned from Glenn and Hershel.

The Walking Dead
Norman Reedus on 'The Walking Dead'
| Credit: Josh Stringer/AMC

It's funny coming from a character who also has felt so uncomfortable around other people before. Especially when you first got to Alexandria, and other times as well. Tell me about filming that big action sequence in the subway cars where you're both coming from different directions, killing walkers, and you stuff that grenade in the walker's mouth. What was filming that like?

That was really cool. I kept hearing Matrix music in my head. I remember that shot and I remember shooting it going, "This is going to look so cool." I liked those scenes because you go from where they're both taking place in the train cars but one is very talky and everyone's kind of worried in that scene, and Maggie gives the big speech and Negan's looking around, and there's all those moments where everyone's full of panic. And then you have the Daryl side of things where it's just action, action, action, action. I liked having those two start differently and come together in one big kaboom! I thought it was really cool the way they put that together.

So the episode ends right as the arrows start flying and the Reapers are walking down the street in their Jason hockey masks and what have you. What can you tease about what's coming up for Darryl and company after that?

Well, there's that group, the Reapers. There's a very Blackwater sort of vibe to that group. They're very professional. They know how to kill. They know how to take care of themselves. They have a certain tactical skill set that we've never come across before. So they're used to pain, they're used to fighting through it.

There's a leader of that group, a guy named Pope who was mentioned in the little mini-episodes we did during COVID. And that guy is a really good character. And that actor, Ritchie Coster, that played him is really good. So there's an intensity that's almost like the hand of God has put into him. It's very Boondock Saints, to be honest. You just can't stop him. And the group that he has is very good at what they do.

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The Walking Dead

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

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