It's time for another Walking Dead info dump. "Rendition," the fourth episode of season 11, is the part where we find out exactly who the Reapers are, their origins, their leader, and what their overall deal is. It's fitting that we learn all of this through the lens of Daryl because someone from his past ties directly into these masked adversaries.
Daryl splits off from the group the night they were set upon by the Reapers. Dog got injured (don't worry, he's fine) so he went ahead on his own. He maintains a low profile until he hears Dog barking and runs to find his animal companion sitting next to a masked Reaper. She takes off her mask and we see it's Leah (Lynn Collins).
Showrunner Angela Kang did tell us that story wasn't over.
Josh Stringer/AMC Lynn Collins as Leah in 'The Walking Dead' season 11
Last we saw Leah was in flashbacks to when Daryl was off in the woods looking for Rick's body. She had been living in a cabin dealing with her own loss with Dog when Daryl found her, and the two formed a relationship. Daryl ended up choosing his Alexandria family but immediately regretted the decision and went back for her, only to find that she had left. He scrawled a note on a map for Leah that read, "I belong with you. Find me." Well, she did! Just not in the way we were expecting.
The Reapers take Daryl back to their base where they waterboard him for information on Maggie and the others. He plays it off like he had only known the group for a week and was just trading with them for food. The more Leah speaks with Daryl, the more feelings are brought back to the surface. She feels Daryl could be a good addition to the Reapers, but he needs to give them something if she's going to convince their leader, Pope.
Ritchie Coster, who appeared on The Flight Attendant, Happy!, and Shades of Blue, debuts as Pope, a former soldier who fought in Afghanistan. Like Leah, most of the Reapers are veterans who returned home from war zones and found difficulties returning to regular society. They had become contracted mercenaries, doing "the dirty work nobody else wanted to do," to make money.
Pope feels he and his people were chosen by God for... something. It's not clear for what. When the outbreak hit, he remembers taking refuge in a church as bombs were falling. When the flames finally went out, he looked around to see neither he nor his guys were harmed. He took that as a sign from the Almighty.
After splitting from Daryl, Leah joined up with the Reapers and she's been with them ever since. She's now the right hand of Pope. He admits that he trusts her more than any other member of the group, which is why he's open to hearing her out about recruiting Daryl.
Josh Stringer/AMC Ritchie Coster as Pope in 'The Walking Dead' season 11
Pope is angry. One of the Reapers, named Bossie, brought back the body of his comrade, Turner, to the base for a proper burial. Pope is now looking for revenge, which works in Leah's favor. She advocates for Daryl, noting how their numbers are declining.
Daryl gives Leah some information to keep himself alive. Just that Maggie's the group's leader, they have a priest with a gun, a tall skinny guy who "won't stop talking" (Negan presumably), and dozens more back at their base. That earns Daryl a tryout.
The Reapers lock Daryl and Leah in the interrogation room together and set the whole thing on fire with gasoline. Pope does love a cleansing fire! He sees Daryl not only fight to break out of the room but save Leah first. That's a big thing for Pope. He has a Reaper-wide policy of not turning your back on your brother in arms. So, now Daryl is an official member of the Reapers — and so is Dog. Oh yeah, forgot to mention the pooch has been totally fine this entire time.
However, Daryl has a sobering reminder of Pope's wrath. Pope turns on Bossie, convinced he had somehow left Turner to die. As punishment, Pope throws Bossie into their bonfire and holds him down among the flames until he dies. This harkens back to the charred body branded "Judas" that Negan and Maggie found in the woods in last week's episode. God, Pope says, uses fire both for baptism and wrath.
There are a few things to all of this that just don't really make sense. Pope believes the Reapers have been chosen by God. OK. Why do they go around killing everyone they meet and stringing up the corpses of their victims from trees? That doesn't seem very pious. Why would Leah be so on board with this life of cruelty?
Also, Pope wanting revenge for Turner's death is kind of laughable. Dude, the Reapers attacked the Alexandrians first and you are now mad that people died in the process? Please. Maybe you're just mad because his soldiers' failure reflects on his leadership.
Let's say, for argument's sake, that the Reapers aren't actually as slaughter-happy as they appear — even if they did decide to call themselves "Reapers." Maybe they are only like that to those who have wronged them. One way for this all to make sense is that Maggie did something to piss them off. We know from a Reaper in season 10 that Pope has "marked" her, which was never explained. We also know that Maggie has gone through some dramatic changes because of her life on the road. She seemed unfazed when she left Gage to be eaten by walkers in a subway car, and even justified it by explaining the horrific things she saw on her travels.
Whatever the reality is, all this seems to be setting up a difficult spot for Daryl. When faced with the decision, and you know it's coming, would he save Leah or save his family?