The Walking Dead has had a rough few years leading up to the arrival of its long goodbye of a three part, 24 episode finale season. Since the arrival of Negan in the show, with the introduction of Jeffrey Dean Morgan's villain in season six, the series has struggled to match the peak set by his debut episode. Having become a "soap opera with zombies", things started to pick up again with the Whisperers story line, and season 11A is certainly setting the pace for the final run to bring back some of what made The Walking Dead a good show a decade ago. With the final episode of part one of the farewell season having aired, we are now discovering that the last eight episodes have been leading up to the birth of a new villain, as Angela Kang explained in an interview with Deadline. Spoilers abound for the season finale.
In the season finale, Leah's loyalty to her family saw her turning on Daryl and waging war on him and Maggie for the death of her brothers-in-arms. Showrunner Kang talked to Deadline about the path leading to Leah's betrayal of Daryl after he told her the truth about his people. "I think for Daryl and Leah, that evolved over time as we were working on the season. We knew that we wanted to kind of do almost like this, I suppose, like a villain's origin story with Leah," Kang said. "I think with Daryl, it's really like there is this romantic aspect once, but we always felt that the story was more about what happens in grief when you cling to somebody, but that moment is gone, and you realize, looking in the rear-view mirror, that there was like always something that was broken or toxic about it."
Of course there has been a substantial time jump recently in the series, and Daryl and Leah were allowed to develop a relationship over the years, but this all quickly fell apart in the latest episode, but for Kang, it was about how to turn Leah from someone audiences have seen as an ally into the new enemy as we head to the end of the series.
"How do you navigate that when you also hope that somebody has something redeemable, and in some ways, the Maggie, Negan, Daryl, Leah stories bounces off of each other because Negan is our number one example of a villain who all of our people hated, who has come around to sort of be integral to our group in his own way," Kang said. "Leah is somebody that we started off as like maybe she's not a villain, but can she come back? So, we felt like that was an interesting way to touch on the questions of, is redemption really possible in this world? Are there foregone conclusions? Like if you cut somebody's story off at just the right place, do you just feel good about that and move on, or should you have given them a couple more turns to get somewhere else? So, that was just something that thematically we were thinking about a lot as we were building this first block."
Obviously, the cliffhanger ending of this part will be resolved when The Walking Dead returns early next year in the season 11B premiere. This news originated at Deadline.