After weeks of waiting, Daryl (Norman Reedus) fans finally got the "Walking Dead" episode they've been waiting for... Only to find that by the end of the hour, he had lost his signature crossbow and bike -- and maybe his will to help other people, as well. But before that, we got a semi-sequel to season two's classic "Chupacabra," as Daryl found himself lost in the woods, hunted by a mysterious group and torn between helping a trio of lost souls, and helping himself.
To find out more about what went on behind the scenes, MTV News talked to Reedus over the phone after the insanely hard working actor had been filming the season finale until 7 a.m. that morning. And not only did we find out about "Always Accountable," but a little bit about the new big villain joining the cast in the form of Jeffrey Dean Morgan... And whether we're about to finally get a romantic interest for our favorite squirrel-eater.
MTV News: Before we get into the meat of the episode, it must have been a unique experience filming the first half of this season given it’s mostly been one, two, three characters at a time.
Norman Reedus: Those are all stories that needed to be told, and [showrunner] Scott [Gimple] is such a mad genius, he has things plotted so far in the future that every little thing happens for a reason. There’s no wasted screen time on this show. Every little thing, every character arc, every story that they tell each other, everything they find comes back to play later in episodes.
A lot of that is setting up other things… [Episodes] one through five, I wasn’t on the show a lot, but I was there in spirit. My name is mentioned a lot, and things I’m doing are taking place, driving other people’s storylines. So I was kind of there, but kind of not.
When you’re not working on an episode, you’re still calling other cast members, saying, “Heeeey, what are you guys shooting today? Should I come? Should I hang out?” But I go to episodes I’m not in and I watch, because I’m a fan of those characters, and I’m a fan of the show. I’ll still check in.
It’s nice to come out with a big episode, and the episode itself really sets up a lot of future stuff happening. It’s like we’re running towards the edge of a cliff — and we just jumped.
MTV: We’ve had a few “Daryl alone” storylines, but this one was pretty unique, given his interaction with these three new characters… What was going through his mind when he met them - and then later they betrayed him?
Reedus: We had the storyline where I make the motorcycle, where I build it, and I’m gung-ho to go out and look for people… I make that decision, and I think it’s the right thing to do. Rick’s saying, “We shouldn’t go out there anymore. Screw it.” And then I say, “I disagree.” He comes back later and says, “You know what, you’re right. We should have hope. You should go out there.”
To meet those people, and to be in that circumstance, and then to find the insulin in the bag, and realize why they’re doing what they’re doing… I mean, that guy is digging a grave. He’s standing in a grave when I tell him the three questions and go through protocol. I can tell they’re not bad people, but good people do stupid things to survive.
When she throws the bandages on the ground and says, “We’re sorry,” and I say, “You’re gonna be,” that has two meanings. One, I’m gonna kill you when I find you. And the next one is, you’re probably going to die if I don’t find you. If that’s what you do, if this is still what you’re doing… There’s safety in numbers. Someone is going to find you, you’re going to die anyway.
I really tried to give those three questions in a way that it was hard for me to say them. This is the first time I’ve ever done this by myself. You’re risking all the people that you live with, and you care about by bringing anybody back, even just one person. It had to mean something.
Plus, knowing how that episode ends, it really had to hurt. So I had to creep those lines in there and say them with a level of maybe saying the wrong thing… And then they’re driving around with my motorcycle, and crossbow, and I’m thinking to myself, “I let everybody down. I let Rick down, I let the group down.”
It’s a heavy episode… And that scenario comes back in a big way.
MTV: The three questions moment was really interesting because it felt like - to me - that Daryl was almost trying out being Rick… Particularly as he’s spent most of the season deciding whether he’s Rick’s man, or his own. Is that how you see it?
Reedus: No, not really… I’ve asked those questions to strangers before. I will say, Daryl was his own man before he met Rick, he was just a bad, different man. He’s slowly becoming a different type. Someone who is respectable, someone people rely on. That’s a gift, and an awesome burden at the same time - especially in this world.
I don’t know if he’s trying to be Rick, or a day in Rick’s boots… We all ask those three questions, and several characters not he show have done that. It’s not really a Rick thing. I don’t think Rick came up with the three questions, I think we all came up with the three questions. There’s certain things we do through trial and error, and that’s one of the things we’ve learned.
Daryl definitely sees in Rick a person that he admires, and Rick’s taught him a lot. He was the only man from the beginning who stood up and took charge of this group. We’ve followed him into palaces, and we’ve followed him into burning lakes of fire.
He wants Rick to respect him, and he does respect him… It ran through his mind when they drove off that, “Man, I let him down.” Not just him, but Rick in particular. I don’t even think if Daryl makes it back that he’d tell Rick about this! [Laughs] I don’t think he wants anyone to know about how he just f—ked up.
MTV: Daryl loses his bike, he loses his crossbow… Those are two key elements of who he is, so what does he do, what does he become without them?
Reedus: It completely strips him naked for a minute. He’s good with other weapons, and he uses other weapons quite a bit, and he can build another motorcycle… But it’s the embarrassment, it’s the shame, the regret in doing that.
I don’t know if he felt stripped away just by physical objects, but Daryl put himself out there, and made a judgement call, and maybe he’s not good at it like he thought he was.
MTV: Throughout the episode we get our first tease of the Saviors, and of course this week we found out Jeffrey Dean Morgan is going to be Negan. What was it like to encounter those elements for the first time in this episode, and how terrifying are they going to get.
Reedus: I wish that the news didn’t break. I wish that secret would have stayed a secret. I’m kind of mad at whoever leaked that. It could have been bigger. I can’t tell you about Negan, but I can say I’ve known Jeffrey Dean Morgan for about fifteen years and he’s such a good actor, and so talented, and he has his own style. And Negan has a style.
So I’m excited to see what happens with all of that.
One thing about casting characters on the show is they have to fit, they can’t just be good actors, they have to fit in this machine, and that’s on-camera, that’s off-camera… You have to be committed one hundred percent in this job. And he’s that guy. He’s going to fit in perfectly, and I think he’s going to blow Negan out of the park.
We shot until 7 a.m. this morning, and everyone’s exhausted, and the sun’s coming up… We have a large crew of people on the show, and they’ve been working on the show for six years. It’s an hour after wrap, and people are still talking about what we shot that day. If that’s the kind of level of enthusiasm that’s here in Georgia while we’re filming it, I can’t wait for people to see what we’re doing.
We’re on the highest plateau right now. We can see the other end of the planet. It’s kind of exciting.
MTV: There’s that famous comic book moment where Negan bashes in Glenn’s head… With that character momentarily out of the picture, a lot of fans have been speculating Daryl could take his place. I know you often differ from the comic, but should be worried for Daryl?
Reedus: You should always be worried about Daryl! [Laughs] Daryl’s always in trouble. You should always be worried about all of the characters on this show at all times, to be honest. Just like we saw in that episode with Glenn. We do differ from the comic book… I can’t tell you, but anyone can go at any time.
MTV: Let’s talk about Glenn… There’s one word at the end of the episode, “Help.” So what are we going to see next? Are they headed straight for him? Is there going to be another detour?
Reedus: I don’t know that’s Glenn on the [walkie-talkie]. I think maybe you should go back and listen to that voice again. I was in that episode when all that happened on the dumpster. I’m in it. And when that episode ended, I turned off the TV, I stomped around the house, I was like, “I can’t believe that just happened.”
You see what you see, and he’s such a beloved character, people hope things. You hope that you heard Glenn on the walkie-talkie. But you should probably listen to it again.
MTV: In this episode you also had Abraham and Sasha sparking up a romance of sorts — and it’s the second one on the show for both. So when are we going to finally get a romantic relationship for Daryl?
Reedus: Right? [Laughs] I love them in this episode, I have to say, they’re super cute together. They’re playing with it, it’s fun to watch. Daryl’s hopeful that somebody may be that close. I don’t think he’s waiting for it, or maybe he’s already found it and has to realize it. It’s a touchy situation. But when it happens, it happens. It only happens once… It’s interesting storyline to be a part of. I’m looking forward to all of this.
MTV: You’ve got two more episodes left until the break, so what’s the rest of Daryl’s journey like in this half season?
Reedus: Everything that happened in this episode, a lot of that comes back and bites people on the ass. There’s a lot of regret. There’s a lot of guilt. There’s a lot of mixed feelings coming from Daryl… He goes to a very dark place, and that place just gets darker, and darker, and darker.
He may have given up on the outside world, and outside people. He may have shut down, totally. Which is an unfortunate thing to see, because you’re seeing this guy go from that, to opening up slowly but surely through trial and error.