The Walking Dead: Is Daryl’s encounter with soldier walkers a season 11 clue?

Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon - The Walking Dead _ Season 10, Episode 17 - Photo Credit: Eli Ade/AMC
Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon - The Walking Dead _ Season 10, Episode 17 - Photo Credit: Eli Ade/AMC /

In the latest Walking Dead episode, “Diverged,” Daryl (Norman Reedus) found himself stuck out in the woods, with a broken bike and no tools to fix it, forcing him to scavenge for the equipment he needed to rescue himself and go back to Alexandria. Thankfully, he could locate what he needed in an abandoned car and the pouches of some walker soldiers. But did Daryl uncover more than his route home?

At the start of “Diverged,” Carol and Daryl go their separate ways when they reach a literal and figurative fork in the road. Struggling after their fight at the end of “Find Me,” the pair seem to need time apart and choose different paths. Carol heads straight home to Alexandria, accompanied by Dog, whilst Daryl intends to hunt for more supplies.

While Carol encounters her own batch of problems in Alexandria, Daryl’s journey is just as troublesome when his bike’s fuel line breaks. After locating a replacement from a walker-occupied car, Daryl is stymied when he realizes his trusty Swiss army knife (a multi-tool combining a screwdriver, bottle opener and mini-bar) is currently in the possession of Carol.

Without that multi-tool (which originally belonged to Leah, the woman Daryl befriended after Rick’s disappearance), Daryl resigns himself to wheeling his bike home. Still, as he struggles to cross a railway line, another solution hove into sight as he spots a soldier walker in the distance.

Daryl’s dalliance with two soldier walkers on the railway lines in “Diverged” continues the military theme running through the Walking Dead bonus episodes.

When the soldier walker suddenly disappears from view, Daryl follows it to find it has fallen into a ditch. After a slip and struggle, Daryl manages to slay the walker and sets about stripping him of any useful goods and locates just what he needs before he encounters a second soldier walker.

To some, it may just seem a handy bit of writer’s coincidence that a soldier – who would be equipped with tools just when Daryl needed it – is on the scene, but when you cast an eye back over these bonus episodes, you see there may be more to it than that.

In “Home Sweet Home,” Maggie’s journey back to her family was blighted by the group who had destroyed her community. The Reapers tracked Maggie and her people and killed several more before Maggie, Daryl and the others surrounded the lone Reaper on their tail.

The Reaper was dressed in military garb and appeared to be a skilled fighter with military tactics and weapons knowledge. He blew himself up with a hand grenade rather than talk, so behind “Pope” having marked Maggie, we didn’t learn much.

However, the military theme didn’t end there. In “One More,” Mays wears dog tags and appears to be a former soldier. It was confirmed on Talking Dead that Daryl’s friend Leah had been part of a “squad,” revealed to be a “specific military group” of some kind in “Find Me” by writer Nicole Mirante-Matthews.

It seems likely all of these people, and the walkers on the railway line, are connected and are possible all a part of the Reapers; all clues building to their full reveal in season 11. It’s also possible that the location Daryl encounters these soldier walkers is a clue. Railway lines are an obvious easy way to map around locations, and railway lines also inevitably lead to railway stations.

In one of the teases for season 11, we see what appears to be a railway station, or perhaps more accurately, a subway station. Could that be a clue to why the soldier walkers were found along a railway line? And could it also be why the Reapers have a habit of “appearing out of nowhere” – as mentioned by Maggie’s friend Cole in “Home Sweet Home”?

If the Reapers live in the subway and use the exits to appear and destroy their targets before vanishing underground again, it would give them a great advantage in traveling safely and surreptitiously. And the soldier walker Daryl encounters vanishing into a ravine that features a little tunnel could be a massive clue to where the Reapers come and go.

In a previous article, I put forth the notion that Leah might be part of the Reapers due to her military connection and the Swiss army knife she owned (now in Carol’s possession). The idea that Daryl and Leah’s relationship may not have been as clear-cut as first glance made it appear was backed up by interviews with Norman Reedus and show-runner Angela Kang.

Both explained that the flashbacks in “Find Me” were told from Daryl’s point of view, and as such, may be colored by his memories and are not giving the whole story. Reedus specifically said all might not be what it seems with Leah.

Is it possible then that Leah was lying to Daryl about having not seen another living soul since her son’s death? When Daryl tossed a fish at her door and got no response, was that because she had gone to see her “squad” in a subway station nearby? Could she have been with other Reapers, slipping underground and back again?

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Whatever the full story is with Leah, it’s clear the military connection weaving through these episodes is heading somewhere, and it looks like the railway lines may be the clues Daryl needs to follow to get some answers. No doubt those answers will come thrillingly in season 11, which begins airing in summer 2021. We can’t wait!