Your loyalty has been forged in the baptism of fire.
The episode begins right where “Hunted” started, but this time we stick with Daryl and Dog on the run from the Reapers. They encounter and battle one in the woods, but the Reaper grabs and throws Dog down a hill. As more Reapers approach, Daryl throws a blade to scatter them, giving him time to escape.
As day breaks, Daryl cuts open a walker and covers his hands in walker guts. He follows Dog’s barking and soon finds Dog next to one of the Reapers. Daryl demands that the Reaper let Dog go, but the Reaper instead unmasks themselves.
Or should I say, herself, as it turns out to be Leah. As Leah raises her gun, she asks Daryl about the people he was on the road with and asks if he’s one of them, but of course he isn’t.
Daryl beckons Dog to come with him, but he remains next to Leah, who figured that Dog always liked Daryl more. However, Daryl won’t be going anywhere, as he’s soon surrounded by other Reapers.
The Reapers literally drag Daryl to their base, where we hear one man remark about whether Leah is right. When Daryl is left alone with Leah, she pulls the sack off of his head. He tells Leah that he went back for her and searched everywhere he could, but he’s sorry that she ended up with these people. These aren’t just any people, though. They are Leah’s family and unlike Daryl, they never stopped looking for her.
When they found Leah, she came home. Daryl’s family picked the wrong fight with the wrong people a long time ago. Which time was that, Daryl? The Saviors? The Whisperers? Daryl just moves on. Noting Daryl’s filth, Leah begins to wipe him down…and then puts the wet rag over his face.
That’s just a precursor to the waterboarding that Daryl later endures until Leah tells the Reapers to bring him up. The Reapers asks if Daryl’s friends are out there and who the leader is. Daryl maintains that he’s not one of them, but the Reapers don’t believe him. Okay. More waterboarding it is, until Leah calls it off. The Reapers maintain that Daryl will crack with enough time, but Leah decides to take it from here.
Well, at least Daryl’s face is clean. Leah tells him to cooperate, as the person that the Reapers answer to won’t be as nice as she is. Daryl comes clean about the people he was with: he only trades with them, but only knew them for less than a week. Leah’s not convinced, so Daryl invites her to just kill him now, as he has nothing else to say.
Instead, he’s put in a cell, with Leah maintaining to the other Reapers that she knows what she’s doing. If she did, she’d play “Easy Street” just to mess with Daryl.
However, Daryl isn’t alone. Across from him in another cell is Frost. Oh, so he’s alive, then. Daryl doesn’t know where the others are, and just because the two shared a bag of grain doesn’t make the two of them friends. Whatever beef Maggie has with the Reapers, Daryl wants no part of it. Right now, Frost needs to shut up and leave Daryl alone. Frost admits that he was right about Daryl- he should’ve let him starve.
The Reapers soon enter and drag Frost away. That night, Leah enters the room and remarks that Daryl is as stubborn as always. She again wants him to tell the truth, but Daryl says that he’s never lied to her. He doesn’t intend to start now. If Daryl could help, he would. He just wants Dog and then Leah will never see him again. Two Reapers bring Frost back to his cell and tell Leah that two others have been found.
Leah heads down to a room where she sees a crying Reaper apologizing to another man who is just happy that the fallen Reaper has been brought home. Leah then spots another individual praying over a body of one of the Reapers.
A man, Pope, played by Ritchie Coster, joins the Reapers and tells them that God is here, and he’s angry. So is Pope. He commands the Reapers to go make those people feel their wrath.
Leah returns to Daryl’s cell and informs him that one of her brothers, Michael Turner, is dead. They fought all over the world together. They soon went private, and Daryl is surprised to learn that Leah was a mercenary. Doesn’t matter to Leah- it’s the same damn job as long as she could pay bills. Like Leah, Michael didn’t have a family and she saw him as the brother she always wanted. Now he’s dead.
It’s been hard, losing so many people, but not like this. It’s the first time in a long time that Leah lost someone close to her. Except maybe for Daryl. But she didn’t lose him. He came back, and she was gone. Leah counters that Daryl left her. She asked what he wanted, and he left. Daryl admits that he got scared of letting go.
Leah admits that it wouldn’t have worked between the two of them anyway. They couldn’t be happy in a world like this. Daryl asks if that’s Leah talking, or her family, but Leah knows that Daryl has killed people. As far s she’s concerned, Daryl has no right to judge her. This is Leah, the good and the bad, and it always has been. Daryl doesn’t believe her. Leah can’t help him with that, but she can him save himself.
She still cares about him and doesn’t want anything bad to happen. So he needs to tell her something, anything, because she won’t be able to control what her commander does next. He’s angry about Turner and wants someone to pay. Daryl finally admits that a woman in the group is the leader. They spoke in code because he’s an outsider.
He also mentions a tall, skinny guy never shuts up, and a priest who carries a shotgun. Somehow, this isn’t a setup for a joke. Doesn’t sound like much, but this group has the numbers. One of the soldiers slipped up and was going to meet three dozen of their fighters. Way more than the 15 Reapers that Leah knows. As Frost stirs, Leah tells Daryl that he’ll be moved out of his cell tonight so he can be more comfortable.
As for when Daryl gets to meet this leader, Pope? That comes later.
Leah goes to Pope and confirms that Daryl was hard to break. His group has twice the number of the Reapers, but Leah thinks that Daryl will be good here. They need the manpower since Turner’s dead and two other Reapers are still missing. With Pope focusing on sharpening his blade, Leah implores him to talk, as she hates when he freezes her out. Pope counters that not everything is about her.
But Leah never said that. However, here they are, lost a day of tracking their enemy because she had to find her old boyfriend. He goes over to Leah and asks if she found what she’s looking for, but Leah maintains that Daryl can be useful. He’s a lot like them. Pain and death don’t scare him. Carver saw it, but Pope just sees a guy that wants to get in Leah’s pants.
Leah never said that Daryl loved her, but Pope reminds Leah that she could’ve killed Daryl, but didn’t. At one point, yes, Daryl meant something to Leah. She’s been open about that. However, that ended the day Pope found her and she chose this family. She’s never once regretted that decision, and she doesn’t want Pope to, either. Pope does believe in Leah more than the others, so at least there’s that.
Again, Leah is sure that they can trust Daryl. Time for Pope to see for himself.
Leah heads to Daryl and informs him that Pope is on his way. All Daryl needs to do is follow Leah’s lead. However, when Leah goes to open the door, she finds it locked and spots liquid on the floor. As the lights on the cabin go off, a lighter is tossed and a fire lights. Leah tries to smash the boards with a chair and gets blown back.
She then points Daryl to a pipe that he then uses to pull apart the boards. He breaks the window with his fist and the two soon escape as the shack goes up in flames.
The Reapers look on as Pope declares that Daryl has now been forged by fire and ordained by God. Daryl is officially welcomed by the Reapers.
This counts as hazing, right?
Anyway, Pope gets his one-on-one meeting with Daryl, who tells the leader that he no longer believes in God. He believes in himself. Pope believes that’s a mistake since Daryl isn’t God. This isn’t the end of Daryl’s test. As Pope pours a drink, he wants Daryl to understand. They all met in the Valley of Death. Or at least, that’s what they call the hills of Afghanistan. They lost count of how many brothers they carried off the battlefield.
Politicians wrote the checks, but soldiers were just props for the next campaign. The politicians talked about God, but they didn’t know him or see his face. The soldiers saw God everywhere, though. He directed the soldiers, who didn’t have much else to hold onto in those days. Except each other.
As Pope offers Daryl a cigarette, he tells him that the war ruined the soldiers for good. When they returned, some had permanent injuries, while others couldn’t find jobs. People called them mercenaries, even though they just did the ugly work that no one else would. They at least got paid a good bit for it. The real dirty work started after the fall. Pope had never been in a war like that before, and he’d seen everything.
After awhile, Pope started to feel like Daryl and wondered were God was amidst all this death. Until God showed his face again. Politicians had one last war to get behind. This time, they came for them. The bombs came fast and the mercenaries had to run through the fire to save their men. They soon holed up in a church at the edge of the town while everything burned around them.
When the fires stopped, Pope looked at his people and could not believe there wasn’t a trace of blood, burn marks, or even a scratch on them. That’s when Pope knew that he and his were the chosen ones. The fire had no power over these men. Tonight, God chose Daryl, as he came out of that fire alive and well. Daryl counters that he’s been through worse. With that, Pope asks Daryl if he’s hungry.
He brings Daryl to join the other Reapers by the fire. As the Reapers feast, Pope admits that Leah was right about Daryl. He points to a Reaper and tells Daryl that he walked ten mines with another Reaper on his back. That took incredible strength, and now Turner will have a proper burial.
However, something has been bothering Pope, and he has one question: the Reaper has wounds on his back, so where was he when Turner was attacked? The Reaper maintains that he was right there with Turner, and Leah wants Pope to lay off, since it’s been a long night.
Pope tells the Reapers that it takes divine strength to face your fear head on. They all saw what Daryl did, getting Leah away from the fire first. Today, God baptized Daryl in that fire. There is one thing Pope forgot to tell Daryl: never turn your back on your brother. He explains to the Reapers that God uses fire both for baptism and his wrath.
With that, Pope tosses the Reaper onto the fire and keeps his foot on his back until the screaming Reaper is burned to bits. He then tells his followers that they are the chosen ones. They run into battle and into the fire. Always.
Unable to speak, Daryl stares across the fire at a stunned, yet silent Leah as the episode comes to a close.
Let me drop some knowledge on you: the world is a big place. I mean, it’s massive. After the fall, it’s unlikely that someone you meet one day would just show up out of the blue some time later. It’s not impossible. After all, it took Morgan five whole seasons to reunite with Rick. I say this to say that it’s incredible that with Leah’s fate left up in the air in “Find Me,” she didn’t go that far at all.
I’ll admit that it was nice to see her again because I did like the bond she had with Daryl. They got on very well and had they stuck around, their bond no doubt would have grown deeper. But her return and reveal that she’s a Reaper almost feels like when Morales returned, only for the show to reveal that he was a Savior. But at least Leah didn’t die in this episode.
Nothing in “Find Me” hinted at Leah’s past as a mercenary or that she had this violent side to her. We’re told that Pope found her and she came to see the Reapers as her family, but it’s such a strange turn. It doesn’t feel like she’s plotting an escape or trying to destroy the Reapers from within. She cares for them. But she still cares for Daryl.
We see Leah’s conflict when the Reapers waterboard Daryl for information, to the point of going too far. This could work in getting Daryl to crack, but Leah wouldn’t want this for someone she still likes. She needs information from him, but she can’t be too emotional because there’s the chance that the Reapers could turn on her.
After all, they did lock her in that shack with Daryl when it was set alight. Did the Reapers know that Leah would escape in the end? Or could this have been her death sentence? Also, do the Reapers do this for any newcomers? That’s a pretty harsh trial by fire, but I guess it proves Pope’s point about who God picks as His chosen ones. That and who has the will to live.
Pope has the potential to be an interesting villain. Like Negan and the Governor, he’s not above killing his own, but he subscribes to a higher power.His whole idea about the Reapers being God’s chosen ones is as hokey as it sounds, but Ritchie Coster plays the role well and he has this menacing presence whenever he’s on-screen. I expected something to happen to the Reaper that Pope questioned, but I didn’t expect him to get burned.
Given what we know about the Reapers and how they engage in combat, many of them being mercenaries and former soldiers makes sense. That and why they use waterboarding of all methods to get information from strangers. The whole political bent is weird because this show rarely goes in that direction. It wasn’t necessary, but at least Pope didn’t dwell on how the politicians let down the soldiers.
We’re in enemy territory, so I’m not against the idea of learning more about the Reapers, like we did with the Saviors and the Whisperers. But I can’t imagine they’re going to be a season-long threat. Compared to the aforementioned groups, they’re small in size. But they abide by some ideology. What do they want? Do they just want to prove to the world that their God’s chosen ones? Like Gabriel said last time, God isn’t here anymore.
Do they seek to make others live under their rule, as the Saviors did? Or do they just live to destroy, like the Wolves or the Whisperers? I’m slightly intrigued with what we’re given here, but only if we get more time to learn more about this group.
Otherwise, it’s all for naught, since the season’s greater focus is on the Commonwealth. I don’t mind the secondary plot, but I do want a reason to care about it. We know that Daryl’s not in any danger. Might be a bit shocked, but he’ll walk out of this just fine. Like he said, he’s been through worse.
This episode is a decent start at giving us a look at the Reapers, but I hope it goes deeper than what’s presented here. Leah’s return, while very convenient, did allow for some nice, slower scenes with Daryl, which I like. It doesn’t move the overall plot forward, and while what we learn about the Reapers isn’t all that compelling, I’m holding out hope that we learn more about them in the episodes to come.