“Find Me” delves into Daryl’s time spent living in the woods, and a tragic love story begins to emerge.
This recap of The Walking Dead season 10, episode 18, “Find Me”, contains spoilers.
After last week’s 10C premiere, there were plenty of questions about what purpose The Walking Dead might put these additional episodes to. Were they going to set up the eleventh and final season? Were they going to do their own thing and kill a bit of time? Or were they designed to essentially bridge the gap between seasons by filling in some blanks and rounding out some character details that were left unaddressed or at least underexplored by the time jump? “Find Me” suggests it might be the latter, since it neglects to flesh out the enigmatic Reapers, who were introduced last week, and instead hones in on fan-favourites Daryl and Carol, the former particularly, in a sombre episode that works as a backdoor pilot for their upcoming spin-off but also introduces a completely new character who just might have won Daryl’s stony heart while he was out living in the woods for the few years after Rick’s disappearance.
The present-day framing device finds Daryl and Carol out hunting, and their relationship is clearly strained. Carol, despite Alexandria’s success in the Whisperer War, feels their luck is due to run out, and Daryl, who isn’t exactly chatty at the best of times, does little to assuage her fears. When they happen on an isolated, dilapidated cabin, it’s a good excuse for The Walking Dead season 10, episode 18 to delve into Daryl’s present headspace, and indeed his state of mind during his years of isolation – not to mention explain how he met his dog, Dog. It feels very much like fan-service, honestly, but it’s handled in a mature enough way to have some value by the episode’s end.
It also gives “Find Me” an excuse to deploy The Walking Dead’s all-time favourite narrative device – flashbacks! They comprise the bulk of this episode but are better justified than usual. Beginning shortly after Rick’s “death”, which we know was really him and Jadis being taken away by the Civic Republic Military, Dog finds Daryl and leads him back to the cabin, where he meets a woman who thanks him for intervening in a little dispute she was having with some walkers by tying him up at gunpoint. When she establishes he doesn’t mean her harm she lets him go, but still, it’s hardly a romantic meet-cute. We will get there.
Of course, Daryl and this woman continue to cross paths over the coming months, with Dog acting as a kind of Hitch-like figure, luring Daryl back to the cabin or luring the woman, whose name is Leah (Lynn Collins), out to Daryl’s makeshift camp. This stuff runs the risk of being unintentionally amusing – they are both living nomadic, isolated lifestyles, but seem to be only a stone’s throw away from each other at any given time. The flashbacks claiming that many months have passed since their last meeting are designed to lessen this feeling, but Daryl’s immutable hair and beard argue against the time-lapse. It also turns out that he’d chat with Carol semi-frequently, exchanging clipped pleasantries across a river that serves as an obvious metaphor for the physical and emotional distance between them.
It’s obvious that Daryl and Leah have both retreated from others in the hopes that their trauma won’t follow them. Both are scared of being hurt again and too stubborn to accept help when it’s offered to them. Leah’s backstory is typically tragic – as she tearfully explains to Daryl after taking him back to the cabin to tend to his frostbitten fingers, her son died with the rest of the world, as did the military unit she had always found belonging in. Dog was born the day her son died. Now Dog is all she has. This all rings a particular bell for Daryl since Leah’s son was biologically her “sister’s”, and, as Daryl explains, he’s looking for his “brother”. He means Rick, not his actual brother, and I assume Leah meant one of her comrades-in-arms and not a real sibling. They have a lot in common, they realize and spend several months bonding in romantic montages. But Daryl never loses sight of his quest to find Rick, and his excursions, which sometimes take days at a time, put a strain on his relationship with Leah, who asks him to choose between her or the people of Alexandria he still feels responsible for – Rick in particular.
Daryl leaves for his trip, but when he returns, Leah is gone. The fact she left Dog behind suggests she didn’t leave of her own free will, but there’s no confirmation about what happened to her. Daryl leaves her a note reading: “I belong with you. Find me.” Carol finding this in the present day is how The Walking Dead season 10, episode 18 links the flashbacks back up to the framing device. Will Leah show up in subsequent episodes or next season? It seems likely. But in the meantime, Daryl’s relationship with Carol continues to suffer. The same cold shoulder he showed her during the flashbacks he continues to turn her way now, though he also blames her for what happened to Connie, which makes matters worse. As Carol puts it, their luck is running out, and their relationship is breaking down. Luckily, there’s plenty of time to repair it before they have to spend a whole spin-off with one another.