The Walking Dead's flashback episodes have often been some of the show’s best, from last season's traumatic "Scars" to season 4's unforgettable "Live Bait". But "Find Me" presents a rare misfire in the show's long history of filling out key backstory for its most important characters.
That's not to say this follow up to last week's enjoyable "Home Sweet Home" is without merit. For one thing, "Find Me" has to be one of the best looking episodes of The Walking Dead to date, gorgeously directed by longtime cinematographer David Boyd, who frames the rural landscape of Virginia in all of its striking natural beauty. The show is typically shot in Spring, but production for these extra episodes took place in the Fall of 2020, and the autumnal colours and dusky sunlight lend a warm, arcadian aesthetic to season 10's closing chapter.
There's also nothing wrong with spending more time with Daryl, now the show's closest thing to a frontman and arguably the most compelling and endearing survivor among the entire cast. But it's the events of "Find Me", depicting a 'Summer of Love' for our world weary woodsman following Rick's accident last season, that fails to land with the impact the showrunners were clearly aiming for.
For one thing, Daryl's romance with Leah, a similarly misanthropic hermit living with her dog (yes, the Dog) in a forest cabin, comes across as rushed. The pair go from almost killing each other to becoming a domestic couple in the space of 30 minutes, with an almost hilariously cliched montage used to gloss over years of their blossoming romance. There just simply isn't enough time in a single episode to give us a clear picture of why Daryl fell in love with this woman we've only just met.
After all, This is Daryl Dixon we're talking about; the infamously introverted lone wolf who doesn't open up to even his closest friends until they’ve gone to hell and back together. The character's first on-screen romance deserves more than a handful of wistful flashbacks. His current relationship with Connie, for example, feels much more authentic, having developed organically over the course of two seasons, with points of connection and empathy that we can clearly identify between the two. By comparison, his fling with Leah feels like being privy to a weird, Freudian dream.
There's also the problematic nature of Lynn Collin's performance as Leah. She's admittedly not given the best dialogue to work with, at one point hemmed into an extended monologue expositing her entire backstory as if reading the blurb on her memoir, but the actor's theatrical flourishes don't play well against Reedus' more subdued disposition. It only exacerbates the sense that these two people aren't a natural fit for one another, despite the show going to great lengths to suggest otherwise.
Symptomatic of its rushed pace, Leah's exit from Daryl's life equally occurs all too abruptly, and without much resolution. It's possible that the architects behind The Walking Dead are preparing for her eventual return, but the character's sudden, unexplained departure leaves us scratching our heads over what the point of this episode was.
At the very least, "Find Me" does close with a much stronger scene between Daryl and Carol back in the present day, cleansing the palate with a more believable conversation between two characters whose relationship we understand, even if that conversation takes the form of a heated argument. It's an interesting way to close out the story; not on any violence, cliffhanger, or tragedy, but merely on a mood of uneasy indifference and enmity between the duo as they settle down for the night.
Carol is wondering if their luck as a dream team is running out. Given that the network has just commissioned a new spin-off show about the pair, I don't think she's got anything to worry about.