Walking Dead Theory: Why Daryl Is A Commonwealth Soldier Now
Walking Dead season 11, episode 9 ends with the shocking reveal that Daryl Dixon is a Commonwealth soldier. But is he playing the long game... again?
Daryl Dixon has joined the Commonwealth’s military in The Walking Dead season 11… but has he really joined the Commonwealth’s military? Despite Maggie proving her scythe is sharper than the Reapers’ and Aaron performing a physically-impossible diving punch, The Walking Dead’s “No Other Way” plays out mostly as you’d expect. Alexandria scores the food it needs from Meridian, then Commonwealth delegates arrive after squeezing the community’s location out of a Eugene whose stomach is too full of ice cream and Stephanie-related butterflies to care.
The final moments of The Walking Dead season 11, episode 9 then catch audiences completely unawares, jumping ahead six months and showing Maggie at Hilltop facing a squad of Commonwealth soldiers who don’t look like they’re dropping by for tea. The biggest surprise comes when the squad’s leader unmasks himself – and Daryl Dixon’s face emerges from underneath the helmet. That’s anti-establishment rebel, eternal lone wolf Daryl Dixon, now clad in the unidentifiable white armor of a Commonwealth soldier, and threatening one of his oldest friends with violence unless she opens her gate.
Of all the Walking Dead characters viewers might imagine signing up for Commonwealth military service, Daryl would be bottom of the list somewhere below Dog and Gracie. Though it might appear Daryl has sold out faster than Metallica in the 1990s, is everything that straightforward in The Walking Dead season 11, episode 9’s dramatic ending? Is Daryl maybe working undercover, and do his true loyalties remain firmly with his friends?
Why Daryl (Probably) Joins The Commonwealth Willingly In Walking Dead Season 11
Before letting the conspiracy theories run wild, Daryl Dixon joining the Commonwealth is likely genuine… at first. In The Walking Dead season 11’s “No Other Way,” Daryl strives for a peaceful solution to the Alexandria-Reaper conflict, acting as an intermediary between Maggie and Leah, who are both baying for blood. While Daryl’s pacifism is partly motivated by a soft spot for Leah, his weariness for war feels totally authentic. Daryl has adopted Rick Grimes’ attitude of “what’s the point of fighting if the fighting doesn’t end?” He recognizes that for Alexandria to progress, they need to stop scrapping over cans of beans. Those sentiments may sound hypocritical coming from Daryl Dixon, but they’re also proof of how much Norman Reedus’ character has evolved across The Walking Dead‘s 11 seasons. Daryl reaffirms these feelings to Gabriel, admitting, “I’m just thinking about choices… and do they matter any more?“
So, when Daryl Dixon is presented with a choice to either join the Commonwealth or stay plugging away in the same old cycle, it’s perhaps not surprising that he buys what Lance Hornsby is selling. At least, not as surprising as it would’ve been back in The Walking Dead‘s earlier seasons.
And if Daryl Dixon truly arrives at the Commonwealth with honest intentions, it’s only natural that he’d join its military ranks. A nomadic soul wearing identity-stripping uniform is a strange sight indeed, but fighting is the only way Daryl can earn his bread behind Commonwealth walls. Politicians have no use for his leadership style, they produce food without requiring bow-carrying hunters, and Daryl had no noteworthy occupation prior to the zombie outbreak. As uncomfortable as he might be with the concept, joining the military is how Daryl makes Alexandria’s Commonwealth alliance work. Nevertheless, something clearly goes awry…
Theory: Daryl Is A Double-Agent Against The Walking Dead’s Commonwealth
Daryl Dixon’s decision to join the Commonwealth makes sense, then, but something’s still not quite adding up in The Walking Dead season 11, episode 9’s gob-smacking final scene. Even if Daryl walks through the Commonwealth’s door without an ulterior motive; even if he swallows his pride and joins Mercer’s military, it’s surely not within Daryl’s ethical capacity to march a unit in front of Hilltop and intimidate Maggie, orders or no. Such drastically out-of-character behavior may hint that Daryl isn’t loyal to the Commonwealth after all, and he’s on some secret infiltration mission, trying not to blow his cover.
Of all The Walking Dead’s surviving protagonists, Daryl is the one you send to gather intelligence when a new enemy appears. Whether as a prisoner of the Sanctuary, or a member of the Claimers, Daryl always seems to thrive behind enemy lines. He stays quiet and lies low, patiently gains his opponent’s trust, then strikes to prevent harm coming to his actual friends. Daryl’s stealthy skill set proved particularly useful against the Reapers earlier in The Walking Dead season 11. Exploiting his connection to Leah, Daryl ingratiated himself into Pope’s group and helped launch a covert attack, as Maggie, Negan, Elijah and Gabriel arrived from outside. For someone you perhaps wouldn’t immediately associate with the performing arts, Daryl has repeatedly proven himself a very convincing actor.
“No Other Way” also hints why Daryl might be sneaking around acting like a loyal Commonwealth soldier. When Lance Hornsby presents his deal to Alexandria, it’s very much a “no strings attached” arrangement. This isn’t a Negan situation where the cost of refusal is certain death. Maggie clearly felt her interests were best suited away from Commonwealth influence, but that doesn’t mean there should be such tense beef between communities six months later. Something must’ve happened during The Walking Dead season 11’s latest time skip that forced characters to choose sides. That’d be the perfect opportunity for Daryl to pretend he was Team Commonwealth, while using his position as a soldier to both feed intelligence back to Maggie, and sway Mercer’s strategy.
The Walking Dead is strongly suggesting that the Commonwealth’s elitist social structure will trigger this oncoming conflict. It’s no secret that Pamela Milton hails from a political dynasty and is accustomed to a world of haves and have-nots. And, already, cracks in the Commonwealth’s happy exterior are poking through – Yumiko’s brother getting dragged away for piping frosting rather than practicing medicine, the hateful Sebastian getting Eugene jailed, etc. After six months of Commonwealth inequality, any hopes Daryl Dixon might’ve had about making their alliance work could quickly turn into a clandestine operation to bring the Miltons down – an operation where his position as a soldier proves invaluable.
The Walking Dead Has Already Shown Daryl’s Commonwealth Betrayal
Irrespective of why Daryl joined the Commonwealth and whether he’s secretly an undercover double-agent, The Walking Dead has more or less confirmed his betrayal already. In the final sting of The Walking Dead’s “No Other Way,” Lauren Cohan’s Maggie is at Hilltop wearing a black top and unbuttoned collar. Elijah next to her dons a black T-shirt beneath a gray hoodie. We can also see a black tunic under Daryl’s bloodstained Commonwealth armor.
In trailer footage for The Walking Dead season 11, part 2, one shot (see above) shows Maggie and Elijah in the same clothes, except this time inside Hilltop’s fences (notice the ladder in the background). Standing alongside the pair is Daryl Dixon, wearing the same black tunic, but without the white armor and now packing his traditional crossbow, which isn’t anywhere to be seen in the “No Other Way” flashforward. Based on the setting and costumes, this trailer image must fall after the tense standoff outside Hilltop. Daryl has ditched his armor, reunited with his trademark weapon (perhaps Maggie was keeping it safe for him?), and now stands alongside his friends rather than against them. Either Daryl was betraying the Commonwealth all along and the Hilltop incursion forced him to finally break cover, or he can’t bring himself to move against Maggie and hands in his Commonwealth member card there and then.
Later trailer footage throws further weight behind the Daryl betrayal theory, showing Norman Reedus’ character smashing an unmasked Commonwealth soldier in the face with the butt of his rifle. The military’s HR department might have something to say about that, so this fight probably happens after Daryl has dropped his “loyal soldier” facade and sided back with Maggie in The Walking Dead season 11.