By spilling Leah’s brains, The Walking Dead’s Reaper storyline is finally done – here’s how her demise sets up the last block of season 11. Introduced in the “COVID” episodes of season 10, the Reapers arrived in The Walking Dead as transitory villains, but Pope and his gang wound up becoming main antagonists of season 11’s opening third regardless. Thanks to the violent delights of Daryl, Gabriel and Maggie, the Reapers were defeated by the end of The Walking Dead season 11, part 2’s premiere… save Lynn Collins’ Leah. She resurfaced sooner than expected, joining up with the Commonwealth’s Lance Hornsby for an assault on Hilltop.
The Walking Dead season 11’s “Acts of God” puts the final nail in the Reaper coffin, with Daryl Dixon shooting Leah before she can take revenge on Maggie. With every last member of Pope’s crew now excommunicated to the afterlife, the Reapers’ presence on The Walking Dead comes to an end, but that end risks feeling a little abrupt. Following a drawn-out confrontation against Maggie, the entire arc ends with Daryl walking in, one bullet to the head, onto the next. It’s a minimum fuss, no fanfare farewell to a character who barely had time to find her old locker before Daryl suggested she clear it out permanently. Despite her storyline skidding to a halt, however, The Walking Dead handled Leah’s exit the right way.
Though The Walking Dead doesn’t draw attention to the location of Leah and Maggie’s final showdown, the cabin is actually where Leah first appeared in The Walking Dead season 10 (the shack she and Daryl almost settled down in before her disappearance), which brings a poignant resonance to Lynn Collins’ final minutes in the zombie apocalypse. And though Daryl’s no-nonsense bullet comes and goes without a fleck of remorse, the low-key kill perfectly highlights how much closer The Walking Dead‘s protagonists have become. Leah was someone Daryl held great affection for, even letting her escape following the Reapers’ defeat. But when forced to choose between Leah and his family, there’s no contest. Daryl shows a total lack of hesitation pulling the trigger, makes no attempt to spare Leah, then carries on afterwards as if he’d just shot a rabbit for dinner, rather than a woman he might’ve once loved. Leah’s death wonderfully accentuates the “us vs. them” attitude Rick’s group has created entering The Walking Dead‘s final stretch.
Considering they debuted in episodes solely created to bridge the gap between The Walking Dead seasons 10 and 11, Pope’s Reapers arguably outstayed their welcome, never establishing themselves as villains on par with the Saviors or Whisperers. Leah’s return then came at a strange juncture where countless Commonwealth storylines were jostling for screen time. That reemergence now looks especially pointless considering how swiftly Leah was killed off, because aside from sniping a single background character (that guy… Elijah’s friend…) and blowing up a house that’s now on its third rebuild, Leah’s comeback achieved little beyond giving Maggie something to do in The Walking Dead‘s very last mid-season finale. Ending the Reaper storyline here allows The Walking Dead‘s final 8 episodes to focus squarely on more important matters – the Commonwealth, the CRM, Rick Grimes, etc.
With the Reaper arc done, The Walking Dead has also laid to rest Daryl Dixon’s love triangle. After meeting and losing Leah during the time skip, Daryl developed a little something with Lauren Ridloff’s Connie – a romance disturbed by Leah’s untimely reappearance. The last Reaper’s death finally gives Daryl and Connie the green light to pursue their feelings when The Walking Dead season 11 returns. Though the wisdom of bringing Leah back can be questioned, the execution of her execution hits all the right notes… and lays out exciting futures for both Daryl Dixon, and the Commonwealth.