- Warning: There are massive spoilers for “The Walking Dead” season 11, episode 8 “For Blood” ahead.
- Lynn Collins breaks down Sunday’s Part I finale with Insider.
- If Daryl didn’t kill her Reaper brother in front of Leah, she probably would’ve went with him.
Leah finally had enough on Sunday’s Part I finale of “The Walking Dead.”
After watching Pope (Ritichie Coster) spiral and risk the lives of her group carelessly, she shockingly killed the leader of the Reapers in front of Daryl (Norman Reedus).
What was going on?
“Even though she’s technically against our main characters, there’s something about her that I think everybody can really relate to,” Lynn Collins, who plays Leah on “TWD,” told Insider earlier this week.
“At the end of the day, she sees Pope, who was her father figure, hurting the ones that she’s been trying to protect for so long. She has to stand up to it. She can’t let it continue,” Collins added.
But that wasn’t all. Leah then shockingly turned on Daryl and sold him out to her Reaper brothers saying Daryl killed their leader. Why would Leah do such a thing?
Insider caught up with Collins to find out what was going through Leah’s mind when she turned on Daryl and, ultimately, let him go, what she and the Reapers may think of the Commonwealth (since we now know Daryl will seemingly wind up there), and why it isn’t accurate to categorize Leah as a villain over anyone else on “TWD.”
Killing Pope was a cathartic and meta moment for Collins who found it to be a healing experience to let go of some of her own past trauma
Insider: What was going through your mind when you saw this in the script and what was going through Leah’s mind when she decided to kill Pope, the person who she viewed as a father figure?
My father was a whole lot like Pope and it’s funny how life mirrors art, and art mirrors life.
Playing this character and working with Richie, who is opposite of Pope, it was a really healing and cathartic experience for me because there were many times in my life where I wish I could have retaliated against, what I felt, was injustice in my home.
[Filming] that night, it was a full moon eclipse. I’m an astrologer on the side and it was very potent eclipse, really about letting go of past patterns, past traumas, past pain and resentment and anger. Literally my experience was, in some ways, that thing that I battled against, which was… this sort of tyrant and abusive person who was also religiously fanatical. I literally had the opportunity to kill that in a way.
All the pain really wasn’t so much about who my father was, or even Pope, was at the time. It was the courage that it takes to stand up to something like that and not many people do it. It’s an incredibly difficult thing to do. It was a very meta moment for me.
My relationship with Ritchie was just so beautiful, so tight. He really understood what it was. It was like this weird emancipation moment. We have these choices in life where you take a stand or you stay silent and things stay the way that they are.
Leah probably would’ve left with Daryl if he didn’t kill another one of her Reaper family members
After Leah kills Pope, she pins it on Daryl instead of choosing to leave with him. Why doesn’t she leave with Daryl? Why does Leah choose violence? I think that was the most shocking part of the episode.
During a bonus feature for the episode on AMC+, [showrunner] Angela Kang had me wondering that if Daryl maybe didn’t kill Leah’s Reaper brother right after she killed Pope that maybe things would have turned out differently. Maybe Leah would’ve would’ve left with him.
I think that’s true. I absolutely think that’s true.
Daryl betrayed her once. Then we see her, through these episodes, trying to trust him again, or at least be allies in some way. But I think in this world it’s very difficult to trust anybody already, regardless of if they’re a family member, part of your group, or whatever.
She felt that Daryl left her in the cabin. Even though he tries to explain it in that earlier episode, I think it’s a constant, ‘Is he just saying that so that I don’t turn on him’? And then here we have this moment where, I think, she does believe him, that he did come back for her and then she finds out, ‘Oh my God, you’ve been lying to me this whole time anyway.’ Then it’s third strike you’re out. He kills another one of her people. At that point, she’s like, ‘That’s you. It’s done. I can’t trust you at all. You killed my family. That was a family member.’ It’s every man for himself, basically.
Leah let’s Daryl go because she does truly love him. Collins believes Daryl and Leah don’t want to see each other harmed.
What is Leah’s endgame here now that she’s separated herself from Daryl and chose the Reapers – her family – over him? Is the plan to just kill everyone on Daryl’s side? Is she thinking clearly?
Eye for an eye. That’s what we’re dealing with here. “You do me wrong. I’m going to do you wrong.” “You kill my family, I’ll kill your family.”
It’s unevolved. I know I’m playing a character, but it’s the obvious choice and it’s the wrong choice, in my opinion. But when people are in grief, you want somebody to pay. You want somebody to hurt just as much as you hurt, especially if you can pinpoint that they’re the one who took the thing that you love away.
It’s tough for Collins to say whether or not Leah is now a villain, because, this far into the apocalypse, who’s to say who is and isn’t a villain: ‘Everybody’s a hot mess’
Absolutely. Well, I think it’s fascinating that both Daryl and Leah decide not to kill one another. In fact, Leah, just let’s him go, gives Daryl a head start as if they’re playing hide and seek or something and she’s going to come hunting for him. Why does she let them go?
I think there is truly real love there. They did love each other. I don’t think it’s her playing a game of, let’s cat and mouse it.
She loves him, even though he’s betrayed her now three times. Maybe we meet again and this will inevitably have to happen, but right now, I don’t think she wants him to die and I don’t think he wants her to die.
Is Leah a villain now and is she beyond redemption? We saw this glimmer of good in her when she let the father and his child go. How do you objectively view Leah’s actions on the finale and then how does Leah view herself right now?
Well, it’s interesting because when we look at the characters and we’re saying who’s a villain? What’s a villain?
If we say that a villain is someone who kills, then they’re all villains, everyone, in the show. In that way, everybody’s willing to kill for their cause. Who’s to say who’s a villain at this point? She’s wanting to protect the rest of her family from people that are threatening that family.
It’s funny, we have a lot of conversations about this on set of this idea that our main characters are our heroes and good guys, when in fact they’ve been going into communities and taking – it’s all so up for grabs on who’s good and who’s not based on their past actions. At some point it’s like, everybody’s a hot mess because everybody’s having to kill at every turn to protect what they believe is theirs.
Leah doesn’t think the Commonwealth is even on the Reaper’s radar at this point. They’re concerned about keeping what’s theirs.
How worried or concerned should we be for Leah heading into these next eight episodes? It’s never wise to turn your back on Daryl on this show.
It’s hard to say because I don’t want to give things away, but I think in general everybody needs to be watching their back right now. Anything could happen at this point.
Let’s do a little hypothetical because we see Daryl’s going to wind up at the Commonwealth in this preview that they released for the next eight episodes. I’m a little upset that was teased when we’re all waiting to learn about the current fallout. But ,what do you think Leah would make of the Commonwealth community? Is that a place that would interest her and the Reapers or a place that they would try and take over?
There’s so few of them, I don’t think that’s something they’d try to take over. I think everybody’s trying to figure out, What is the next move? Where do they go? Where are they going to be safe and secure? How are they going to protect what they love?
It’s not out of the question, but… I think right now they just have to figure out how do they protect Meridian and what they’ve had in Meridian? That’s I think is what’s first. I don’t think the Commonwealth thing is even really on her radar.
Collins teases more deaths are likely coming.
Are you hoping that Leah gets to have some big showdown with Maggie or Carol? Or do you think it will eventually come down to something between Leah and Daryl, a kill be killed situation?
There’s a lot of different ways they could take it. It’s going to be interesting to see what they choose. But yeah, there has to be some sort of resolution. The relationship has taken so many turns…
I think somebody’s gonna die. People have to die. There’s no way to leave this situation with everybody [intact].
Leah really doesn’t have any idea who Carol or Connie or anyone outside of Maggie is in Daryl’s life.
Someone pointed this out to me on the bonus episodes. Did you notice that Daryl gave Carol Leah’s knife? How do you think Leah would feel knowing that Carol has that?
Carol is not on Leah’s radar. She doesn’t know who these people [are]. It’s not like Daryl sat down and was like, “OK. Here’s my iPhone and here’s a picture of Carol. The fans kind of think that we should be together.”
She doesn’t know who Carol is. So I think Carol having her knife is neither here nor there. It’s not like Leah was like, “Oh, there’s possibly competition for Daryl’s heart here.” That was never a part of the relationship, him talking about who these people were that he’s trying to save. She knows [about] Maggie because she’s seen her now.
Collins hopes in sharing her experiences that it will help others who may be going through or have gone through difficult times.
I watched “True Blood” when that was on. Dawn is such a very different character than then Leah. Is there a sense of pride in being able to like play a character like Leah now as opposed to the characters you played earlier on?
There was something that definitely changed for me as I was turning 40 in the industry.
This could be argued, but it’s no longer so much about how I look and my sex appeal. These characters that are coming my way are – not that Dawn wasn’t fun. She was strong in her own way. There’s merit to that. But these older women who’ve been through hell, I’ve been through a lot and it’s really rewarding and fulfilling to be, “Yeah, I can bring not only this level of gravitas, but I bring a level of experience that fills these roles.”
To be able to do something productive, creative, and artistic with the challenges I’ve faced and survived, it’s incredibly rewarding because I’m also then able to talk about my experience so that other people who’ve maybe been through similar things can be like, “Oh right. Wait. You can survive it. You can use it. You can use it to help other people. You can use it to be creative and artistic and make awesome stories or art or whatever it is.”
So many of the leaders left in “TWD” world now are women. You’re the leader of the Reapers. The Commonwealth is led by a woman. Maggie leads her own community. I don’t know if they purposefully decided on that, but I think it’s telling that “The Walking Dead” made that decision.
Yeah. I think that’s what happens when you have a female showrunner. We get to showcase the female story line, which I think everybody finds rewarding, not just females.
The second part of “TWD” season 11 will return to AMC on February 20, 2022. You can watch a trailer for it here and follow along with our coverage throughout the season here. This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.