- Episode 4 (of 24), 'Rendition'
- Written by Nicole Mirante-Matthews
- Directed by Frederick E.O. Toye
Spoilers for The Walking Dead season 11 episode 4 follow.
Much like the last episode, we open upon the Reaper’s ambushing Maggie’s group from ‘Acheron: Part II’. This time, however, we follow Daryl’s perspective on his escape.
Separated from Dog (who continues to be a delight to watch), Daryl finds him sitting next to a Reaper. After an unmasking, fan speculation was fulfilled as Leah, Daryl’s ex-lover and the original owner of Dog, stands before him again. After trying to leave with Dog, who refuses to come to him when called, Daryl is captured by Leah’s Reaper friends. Seeing the first sympathetic, human face (especially a recognizable one) behind the big bad of the season is chilling. Things immediately feel more personal in The Walking Dead.
The group's full military background becomes apparent as Daryl is imprisoned and tortured, but he continues to lie about not knowing Maggie’s group. Even when they try to trick it out of him, and even when Leah opens up to him, he doubles down. He tells Leah he never lied to her and wouldn’t start now, which is perhaps the boldest lie we’ve ever seen in this show. The trick works, as he gives them false information, gaining their trust.
Elsewhere in the camp a Reaper, Bossie, has brought back the dead body of another of their allies. The group are distraught at the death of their comrade – clearly a loved one’s death is not something these lot ever have to face. The Reapers have a clear religious angle, as a sort of funeral is conducted and their leader emerges. He preaches that God is here, that he is angry at their comrade’s death and will kill Maggie’s group for this. Pope is his name, as much as his title, it seems.
After Leah vouches for Daryl and wants Pope to allow him to join them, he sets them a little test. That is, by locking him and Leah in a barricaded cabin, covering it in petrol and burning them alive. Daryl successfully smashes out of a window before the fire can take them. There was some tension watching their escape unfold, but we’ve seen Daryl survive worse scenarios than this. It’s hard to think he’d die this easily.
Greeted by his new ‘family’, Daryl meets Pope and is told of the Reaper’s history as mercenaries in Afghanistan, and how they did horrible things during the war – and even worse things during the Fall. After their squad miraculously survived a raging fire by hiding inside a church, Pope saw his group as chosen by God. His delusions of grandeur and self-importance are the main driving forces of his character, it seems, but it’s a very tired stereotype for a villain in 2021.
The whole compound has the vibe of some militia group looking to overthrow the government in the name of God. Without any government to overthrow, they destroy any organized settlement they come across. Even as they eat around a campfire, Pope makes talk of baptism by flame and being God’s chosen ones.
His zealotry comes to a head when Pope takes his anger out on one of his own men. Bossie, one of the Reapers that attacked Alden and had brought back his fallen brother-in-arms, is thrown into the campfire and held in it by Pope as he burns alive.
Pope believes Bossie ran away scared, as he took a knife wound to the back, but we know from the previous episode that Bossie was injured while using flashbangs to save his Reaper brother. Pope’s paranoia and iron grip on this small group is absolute, and he perceives any weakness as a punishable by death. Leah tries to stop Bossie’s death but relents and watches. Clearly there are more strained feelings in this group about Pope’s leadership, and this looks like it'll help Daryl survive his current predicament.
The revelation of Leah will satisfy some fans, but this newly shown human face of the Reapers will not. These ‘fire-obsessed Christian radicals’ are a disappointing trope of post-apocalyptic media. Though Ritchie Coster’s performance as Pope is often gripping during his moments of quiet anger and fanatical speeches, there’s little depth to that character right now.
The action is stifled, and the relationship between Daryl and Leah just doesn’t have the same chemistry as the first time they met. Daryl also comes across as a bystander that other characters talk at, rather than with. The dynamics are just wrong in this episode.
The Walking Dead airs on AMC in the US, and is streaming on Disney Plus in the UK.
- The Reaper’s compound was filmed at the Rushton Mill, in Griffin, Georgia. Rushton Mill acts as both an automobile museum and antique venue in real life.
- According to Angela Kang on the ‘Episode Insider’, the waterboarding torture scene of Daryl was meant to show that the Reapers were military trained when those techniques were sanctioned in the US. As Pope mentions, they were involved in the invasion of Afghanistan in the early 2000s, which lines up timing-wise with their methods.
- Angela Kang also says the Reaper masks are based on the stylized masks used by some military operatives, as well as being are inspired by video game designs.
- Pope says that fire can be used for baptism, and “for wrath”. We’ve often seen Reapers use fire as a weapon, including killing survivors in season 10’s ‘Home Sweet Home’, to the burned traitor walker in ‘Hunted’, and in this episode by the killing of Bossie in the campfire.
- Pope says, when looking at his dead Reaper comrade, “God is here”. Gabriel says “God isn’t here anymore” in the previous episode before killing a (different) Reaper.
- Fortitudo Salutis is a military phrase used by the Reapers, and appears to be Latin for ‘support in times of war’.
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Ross is a freelance writer and consultant who produces entertainment coverage for TechRadar.com.