The Walking Dead season 11 missed a big opportunity by properly introducing Pope (Ritchie Coster) and the Reapers in a Daryl-centric episode. After getting captured by the villains who have been relentlessly chasing Maggie’s group, Daryl (Norman Reedus) finally came face-to-face with their leader.
The Walking Dead season 11, episode 4, “Rendition” continued the story of season 10’s “Find Me”, which was the last episode to center on Daryl. Years after meeting and losing Leah (Lynn Collins), Daryl finally found her again, only to find that she’s now a loyal member of the Reapers. By the end of the episode, Daryl had inserted himself into the Reapers as a spy on the inside and arguably Alexandria’s best chance of derailing the efforts of the Reapers, who are one of two villain factions in The Walking Dead’s final season, with the other being the mysterious Commonwealth.
Daryl earning the trust of Leah, Pope, and the Reapers certainly opens up an interesting new storyline for the fan-favorite character, but at the same time, there’s a feeling that he wasn’t the best choice for this episode. Instead of focusing on Daryl, it may have been better to shine the spotlight on Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam). The religious aspects of the Reapers and their beliefs about God would have made them a fitting foil for the priest, whose faith has been a fundamental element of his character throughout his tenure on the show.
While Daryl’s connection to Leah creates some degree of storytelling potential for season 11, an undercover Reaper story would have had much greater implications for Gabriel. After all, being associated with a group of religious zealots does seem well-suited for his character. The timing would have been right too, given what’s been going with his character in recent episodes. After capturing a Reaper who asked for a prayer, Gabriel uncharacteristically denied the request, proclaiming “God isn’t here anymore.” This comment of course raised speculation over what kind of dark place he’s in right now.
Gabriel, rather than Daryl, having that conversation with Pope toward the end of the episode could have been the perfect way to follow up the latest twist with his character. Has Gabriel completely given up on God because of all the things that have happened over the last few years? This question could have been answered in a scene with Pope, whose religious views would clash with Gabriel’s regardless of whether or not he’s still a believer. If Gabriel is in a crisis of faith but is still trying to hold onto his values, a clash with the Reapers could remind of him of what he stands for. All things considered, Gabriel would have been the ideal inside-man to take on the Reapers in The Walking Dead season 11.