So with this week's episode of AMC's The Walking Dead, viewers go to check in to see where Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Dog wandered off to when everything went to Hell after the Reapears attacked. Heading into tonight's episode "Rendition" (from "Hunted" director Frederick E.O. Toye and S10E18 "Find Me" writer Nicole Mirante-Matthews), we learned that Daryl and Dog end up reuniting with a certain someone from "Find Me" (which we won't mention yet but you can pretty much connect the dots). Unfortunately, their reunion with that certain someone gets really awkward really fast when it's clear she's a member of the Reapers. And now that we're all caught up, we're going to throw on the "MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!" sign and throw down the spoiler image buffer before a bit of a spoiler deep-dive into "Rendition."
Okay, let's get the obvious out of the way. That "certain someone" that Daryl and Dog reunite with was Leah (Lynn Collins), which isn't that big of a surprise if you're either up on the series (which we're assuming most of you are) or if you checked out the preview images that AMC put out that listed her return (don't blame us). The scenes between Reedus and Collins are as intimate and heartbreaking as they were when we first had the chance to see their relationship blossom. And we know that when we see Ritchie Coster (Happy!) on the scene, we're going to get quality acting and so far, his Pope doesn't disappoint. And since we're talking about Pope, let me also say that I've enjoyed how the series has been touching upon time periods that haven't been addressed in the past. From the wall paintings that Daryl discovered earlier in the season to Pope describing to Daryl what it was like from the military & government's perspective when it all went to shit, we're hitting upon some topics that would be ripe for further exploration (maybe in Tales of the Walking Dead?) and we're expecting that what Daryl has been learning will influence his approach to the Commonwealth (assuming that's his destination).
So at this point, if you're feeling like I'm softening an upcoming critical blow with some positives about "Rendition then clearly I've been doing my job because this episode did not work for me at all. Up until now, the series had done a nice job of blending intel from those Season 10 "extra episodes" into the Season 11 storylines in a way that didn't make the viewer feel like they needed to go back and rewatch the entire earlier episode. That wasn't the case this time, and I found myself checking my "cheat sheet" at least twice. Also, maybe it has to do with this being the final season but I'm just not buying the Reapers as real big bads. Don't get me wrong, I like the concept of mercenaries and survivalist types teaming up into these roaming clans. But there's nothing about them that screams "serious long-term threat."
First, there aren't many of them from the start and it sounded like they lost three from their tussle with our weary survivors. Second, for a world-weary bunch of killers? They sure are easily trusting, with Daryl becoming a member in less time than I'm sure it would take to become a Savior under Negan's (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) watch. Third, the only interesting members are Pope, Leah, and the dude Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) killed in the last episode. The rest come across as generic, exchangeable extras from The Expendables. Finally, this is Daryl we're talking about, folks. Is there any TWD fan out there thinking Daryl won't start taking them down one-by-one the moment the next fight goes down?
Oh, and before we forget? Dog is a f*****g a*****e. There. I said it. Because it needed to be said. Seriously, how many times has Dog proven to be the worst "wing-dog" by going off on his own, which forces Daryl to run off to some very shady places? And even worse, Dog won't waste a second to sell him out by staying without whoever he doesn't want him t stay with and then always ignoring Daryl's commands for him to follow him. And before any of you hit me up with, "yeah, but Dog saved Judith"? Nope. All that Dog did was double the number of living things that needed to be rescued by Negan (in a snowstorm, no less).
So while the 11th & final season of AMC's The Walking Dead has been a strong one overall, "Rendition" was a big-but-survivable bump in the road. While Reedus, Collins, Coster did their best to elevate the episode with some fine performances, a big bad that isn't convincing as a long-term threat and an overall story not quite deserving of its own hour was a combination too painful for them to be able to completely overcome. But there is some good news for next week, with the focus shifting back to two winning storylines- the Commonwealth and Negan & Maggie's (Lauren Cohan) continued journey into the heart of darkness in the Greg Nicotero-directed, LaToya Morgan-written "Out of the Ashes."