When Pope (Ritchie Coster), the leader of the militant group the Reapers, is killed by Leah (Lynn Collins) within The Walking Dead season 11 part 1 finale, the series wastes multiple stories developed between Pope and the main group of survivors. Given his striking similarities to past The Walking Dead villains— from his extremist beliefs to his unpredictable violence— it was assumed that Pope would be the main antagonist of season 11 when he was introduced in episode 4 “Rendition,” which is why his sudden death came as such a shock so early on in the season.
In “For Blood,” Maggie’s group finally reaches Meridian using Whisperer tactics to lure a horde of walkers towards their gates and sneak into the community with Daryl’s help. As Gabriel gathers food for their friends in Alexandria, Maggie causes a distraction by crashing a car into Meridian’s walls, letting the walkers inside. At the risk of killing his own people, Pope decides to use their secret weapon the hwacha to kill the intruders and walkers in the courtyard. Realizing that Pope has finally gone too far and no longer cares about the safety of her “family,” Leah kills Pope herself by stabbing him in the neck. While Leah’s decision to murder Pope certainly created an interesting conflict within the ranks of the Reapers that’ll continue into The Walking Dead season 11 part 2, it also guaranteed that certain conflicts established in season 11 would be left open-ended.
Season 11 developed a conflict between Pope and Maggie that never came to fruition. Their rivalry is first introduced in the season 10 episode “Home Sweet Home,” after a Reaper attempting to kill the remaining Wardens states that Maggie’s group was “marked” by Pope. In season 11 episode 7 “Promises Broken,” Maggie vows to Elijah that they’ll find and kill all of the Reapers who murdered their people and seized their home Meridian. Pope also acknowledges Maggie as one of his greatest adversaries since Pope refers to Maggie as his “enemy” and is even impressed by her ability to turn “the dead against the living” when the walker horde arrives at Meridian’s gates. While the part 1 finale appeared to be building towards their first interaction, Pope’s death ensured that he and Maggie would never meet face-to-face.
The theory that Elijah is an ex-Reaper also established a conflict between Elijah and Pope that is no longer possible following the antagonist’s death. The theory stems from the fact that Elijah wears a mask and carries a similar bladed weapon as the Reapers. If the theory is true, it suggested that Pope and Elijah would seek revenge against one another because the Reapers are responsible for the death of Elijah’s sister and Pope has a rule that he’ll enact god’s wrath against any Reapers who turn their back on their “brother.” Another complex storyline that can no longer exist is a religious debate between Gabriel and Pope. In episode 4, Pope details his belief that the Reapers were chosen by god to survive to enact god’s will. While Gabriel was known for maintaining his faith into the apocalypse, his line “God isn’t here anymore” in episode 3 suggests he’s experiencing a crisis of faith, which would’ve created an interesting dynamic against a zealot like Pope.
While multiple stories were disrupted by Pope’s sudden death in The Walking Dead season 11 part 1 finale, Pope’s demise at the hands of Leah might’ve alternatively created another complex story for Daryl. After Daryl discovered that his former lover Leah was a member of the Reapers in episode 4, he joined their group not only to act as a spy for Maggie, but to stay close to Leah. When Daryl confessed to Leah that Maggie’s group is actually his “people” in episode 8, Leah perceives Daryl’s deception as a betrayal and turns against him, framing him for Pope’s murder. As the next potential leader of the Reapers, Leah will likely continue Pope’s war with the Wardens and become the main antagonist in The Walking Dead season 11 part 2, which will force Daryl to make the difficult choice between saving Leah or his Alexandrian family.