SPOILER ALERT: This story contains details of tonight’s episode of The Walking Dead.
“Without a doubt, this whole season has been completely ballistic,” says The Walking Dead’s Norman Reedus of Season 6, especially tonight’s penultimate episode and next week’s “hard-core” finale, as he calls it. Certainly, if the AMC blockbuster wanted to begin wrapping up a fatality filled and unrelenting season with a bang, they achieved that goal with tonight’s episode.
New threats to Reedus’ Daryl Dixon, Rick Grimes and the other survivors, captures, disappearances, the looming arrival of uber-villain Negan and that one last bloody shot last night also cranked up the anticipation for next week’s 90-minute finale. After the multi-episode uncertainty surrounding the fate of Glenn Rhee, played by Steven Yeun, the arrival of the bloodthirsty Saviors and the death of Merritt Wever’s Dr. Denise Cloyd last week, tonight’s TWD ended with Savior member Dwight seemingly shooting his longtime nemesis Daryl at point-blank range and splaying blood everywhere.
Even with that last line of “you’ll be alright” from Dwight’s Austin Amelio heard over a black screen, the fate of fan fave Daryl did not look certain to say the least.
Heading toward next week’s finale, I talked with Reedus about tonight’s TWD, what happened to Daryl and the extended season ender on April 3. With TWD filming in Georgia, the Sky actor also had his own views on the Hollywood-opposed anti-gay bill that is sitting on the Georgia governor’s desk. Additionally, Reedus had some thoughts on one of his favorite TWD episodes and why the zombie apocalypse series based on Robert Kirkman’s comics continues to be the biggest show on all of TV among the vital 18-49 demo season after season.
DEADLINE: Right off the bat, I have to ask — does Daryl Dixon survive for the finale and will we see him in Season 7?
REEDUS: You know I can’t answer that. I know you have to ask but I cannot answer that.
DEADLINE: OK, but with the death of Denise last week with an arrow intended for Daryl, the “is Glenn dead?” plotline, the introduction of the Saviors, the walker invasion of Alexandria, and Carl’s face being shot, it feels like this is the season when the chickens really came home to roost for the survivors on The Walking Dead. Did things get cranked up from your perspective?
REEDUS: Without a doubt, this whole season has been just completely ballistic. I will say that the Season 6 finale is the most hard-core finale we’ve ever done, if not the best episode we’ve ever done. I mean I saw a rough rough rough cut of it way back when and I was speechless for at least an hour. So hold on for the rest of this, because it gets real crazy.
DEADLINE: Besides Walking Dead, you’ve had three movies in the past year in Air, with Robert Kirkman, Triple 9 and the upcoming Sky plus you’ve got this 6-episode motorcycle culture series Ride With Norman Reedus for AMC for later this year. You know this makes many think you are branching out because you are exiting Walking Dead, right? – especially with tonight’s gunshot scene at the very end of the episode.
REEDUS: Yeah, I’ve just been non-stop lately so I can see how it looks that way. Look, I can say that what you see tonight is exactly what happens. That’s definitely blood up against the camera and I’m definitely the one that gets shot.
DEADLINE: So the heavy non-Walking Dead schedule…
REEDUS: Well, Air I actually did last year, Triple 9, I got to do that film because we shot it in Atlanta. We were actually shooting an episode in Atlanta (TWD Season 5’s “Consumed”; aired November 16, 2014), so I literally would go from one set to next and back and forth.
That was an exception because a lot of times it is such an all-encompassing schedule on Walking Dead that you can’t really do anything other than the show, it’s such a 24/7 job. I got lucky with the Triple 9 one. I shot Sky on the last break from Walking Dead and I just now wrapped up the last episode of the motorcycle show about four days ago. And I have a couple of other things I’m doing that I can’t mention yet. Now I finally have a little bit of time to decompress.
DEADLINE: You mentioned shooting some of The Walking Dead in Atlanta and the series has long been filmed in Georgia. What do you think of this anti-gay bill that the governor has in front of him to sign and that Disney, AMC, Time Warner, Netflix, Tyler Perry and almost everyone in the industry has come out against?
REEDUS: I definitely think he shouldn’t sign it. I support the network and I support all the other companies that are against it. My fingers are crossed and I’m hoping for the best that he won’t sign it.
DEADLINE: Daryl is one of the few main characters on Walking Dead who isn’t featured in the comics. Fans know the show often differs from the comics but how is that for you lacking the reference point that other actors like Andrew Lincoln have and does it leave his fate more precarious?
REEDUS: With Daryl, like all the characters on this show, any one could go at any time. Rick could go at any time and Andrew knows it. All of the actors went into this job knowing that. I take it with a grain of salt and I appreciate the attention. We follow the comic to a certain extent sometimes and other time we don’t. There are characters in the comic that aren’t alive on the show anymore.
DEADLINE: OK, but why does Daryl not listen to Steven Yeun’s Glenn in the episode and return to the relative safety of Alexandria? It’s like he asking for what happens with Dwight and the Saviors to happen by going after them, no?
REEDUS: I think he’s not thinking rationally. I think with a lot of things that when you think from the heart and passionately you don’t weigh all the options and make the best decisions.
I mean, I think it is the same reason why Dwight got the jump on him in the end – you know, he’s an expert tracker and that sort of thing usually doesn’t happen to him, so I think he was just thinking from the heart about Denise’s death and the guilt he felt and he made a mistake. And in the world of The Walking Dead, you can’t slip up and make a mistake because they come back to bite you on the butt like it did him.
DEADLINE: We’ve had the Saviors around for a few episodes now, we had the first confrontation between Dwight and Daryl where the latter let the former live, which obviously really came back to bite him with the killing of Denise last week and now the shot tonight. But with Savior leader Negan, played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, showing up in the finale next week, how will that change things –because in the comics, main characters like Glenn are killed…
REEDUS: There are new worlds now. Like others have said, it used to be a man vs. monster type of thing and a morality war going on. Now that’s morality war is changing. It’s becoming a fine line between who are the good guys and who are the bad guys, which I think is very interesting. Everyone in our group is killing people and that’s something we didn’t really do before. So, that fine line between good and evil is getting blurred.
DEADLINE: You talked about how hardcore, this year’s finale is, but what has been your favorite Daryl centric episode of The Walking Dead?
REEDUS: I really like “The Next World” one that was not too long ago with Andrew where we first meet the Jesus character. That was a really fun episode to shot and it was such a different kind of Walking Dead episode, it kind of had a Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid vibe to it. Andy’s kind of my BFF on set and we hadn’t really worked like that in a while. We went to my house, we watched Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid before we shot it. It also had a comedic aspect to it, which we rarely, if ever have on the show, so that made it fun as well. Seeing those two guys out on the road, f**king with each other was fun.
DEADLINE: What must also be fun is that year after year, Walking Dead continues to be the top rated show on all of TV, cable and broadcast and you have tens of millions of total viewers every week. Why do you think the show is and remains such a blockbuster?
REEDUS: I think those characters of Rick, Daryl, Carol, Glenn and Maggie and more really resonate with people. I think we’ve built relationships naturally and by being on the show together that people feel when they watch. It’s interesting for me to watch episodes like the one we’re talking about today and see how Steven and Norman talking has become very similar to Glenn and Daryl talking. You know, there are certain key words that Steven says like “home” in that scene and it really hits me hard just as a person because he is like a family member to me.
I think watching these characters interact with each other has always been the basis of what makes this a good show in the first place and what you are willing to fight for and who you are willing to fight for, the relationships you make and the ones you trust and the ones you don’t trust. So, I think seeing that play out almost in real time over this long of a series’ run is really interesting and I think fans feel that too.