The Walking Dead series final season
3) Leah Shaw
Of all the hostiles seen in the final season of The Walking Dead, Leah was easily the most tragic because, of all of them, she was the least shady and seemed like the most grounded and normal person of the bunch.
A member of the Reapers, Leah, like the rest of her comrades, served under Pope in Afghanistan and again in his mercenary company, sticking with him and her brothers-in-arms after the outbreak began. Sadly, at some point, she lost her adopted son, Matthew, to a walker bite, being forced to put him down rather than let him turn.
After this, she separated from the Reapers (If Pope’s behavior at that point was anything like he was by the time we get introduced to him, it’s no wonder), and opted to live alone in a cabin in the Virginia wilderness before eventually meeting Daryl, who himself was figuratively and literally in the wilderness following Rick’s disappearance. The two eventually formed a relationship.
This, too, however, was not meant to last, as she returned to her former comrades following an argument with Daryl.
By the time we are reintroduced to her, she seems to be serving as Pope’s second-in-command, acting as the closest thing to a conscience the Reapers have, seemingly the only one who can calm or temper her commander in any noticeable way.
As she explained to Daryl, the Reapers are the closest thing to family that she had, and she had been relying on them for much of her adult life, which is why her first foray into becoming legitimately hostile makes sense.
Realizing that Pope had gone off the deep end, she killed him to stop him from firing their hwacha and potentially killing several of her “brothers”. However, upon seeing Daryl kill Ancheta, one of her comrades, Leah tells the rest of the Reapers that he was the one who killed Pope and orders them to pull back so she can launch the hwacha safely, protecting them, but make sure to try to kill Maggie, Negan, and Elijah.
Her time as leader of the Reapers, like so much else in her life, was also short-lived. With their ultimate weapon failing to kill Maggie’s team and Father Gabriel picking off several Reapers on his own, she was eventually whittled down to just herself, Carver, Washington, and Boone. While she insisted that she would take her team and never return, Maggie, realizing that leaving them alive gave them a chance to seek revenge, refused the offer (Plus, after everything he’d done, Carver’s execution was never going to be negotiable…), killing Carver before chasing down the remaining Reapers, and killing all but Leah.
After that, we didn’t see much of her, that was until Lance Hornsby came along with his aims of conquering the Virginia communities (More on all of that later). With Maggie being an increasing thorn in his side, Hornsby sought a problem-solver, and Leah fit the bill.
When Leah finally captures Maggie, she explains that she intends to kill everything Maggie loves, likely meaning killing everyone at Hilltop (And maybe Alexandria for good measure), doing a good job of emulating her old commander, Pope, in the process, trying to destroy Maggie and everyone associated with her.
This was a huge departure from where Leah was when we were reintroduced to her at the beginning of the season, but it is not one that was unexpected. Think back to everything Leah had lost by this point — She’d lost Matthew, she’d lost Daryl, and she’d lost the Reapers, the closest thing to family that she had — after losing that much, she snapped, wanting brutal revenge against the woman who killed her family.
This is why I described Leah as “tragic” in my opening statement. The Leah we met in season ten, and the beginning of this season, not only would not be this brutal, but actively tried to convince her commander not to be either (She didn’t succeed, of course, but she tried). But, after having lost so much, to have the last thing holding her together destroyed in front of her pushed her over the edge. She wasn’t like Carver, who just seemed like a heartless killer, or Pope, who seemed to be increasingly spiraling out of control, she was just a normal person who’d finally had too much.