The Walking Dead star Norman Reedus spent the break between seasons eight and nine worried his Daryl Dixon would kill Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) after a last-minute change inserted him into a scene with a conspiring Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and Jesus (Tom Payne).
“At the end of last season, that very last scene that we shot, it looks like Jesus, Maggie and Daryl are going to turn on Rick — I wasn’t in that scene [at first],” Reedus told TheWrap.
“Maybe an hour before that, they’re, ‘we want to put you in this scene.’ And I was, ‘what are you talking about? I can’t go against Rick. What are you talking about?’ And they were, ‘trust us, it’ll play out later.’ And I was, ‘wait, wait, what?’ So I spent my whole hiatus thinking, ‘oh my god, I’m going to kill Rick, or he’s going to kill me.’”
Season Eight ended with Hilltop leader Maggie telling right-hand man Jesus they were going to show Rick “he was wrong” for deciding defeated Savior leader Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) should be spared and jailed, earning Daryl’s agreement.
The rift between the two men widened in 903, “Warning Signs,” after Daryl said he disagrees with Rick’s newfound “every life counts” philosophy, arguing the Saviors shouldn’t be allowed the bright future denied dead friends Glenn (Steven Yeun), Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) or Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green).
Daryl and Maggie have since turned a blind eye to the clandestine actions of Oceanside, walking away and allowing Cyndie (Sydney Park) to execute Savior Arat (Elizabeth Ludlow), avenging the murder of Cyndie’s 11-year-old brother. “Rick’s rules aren’t the only rules,” Cyndie said, inspired by Maggie’s hanging of traitorous coward Gregory (Xander Berkeley).
“We gave Rick’s way a chance. It’s time to see Negan,” Maggie told a tagging-along Daryl, walking off together to revisit Alexandria for the first time in months.
“Both those characters have been in this world long enough where you can only follow someone so long when you don’t agree with what they’re doing,” Reedus said. “[Rick] is sort of blinded by grief and all these other things, and he has to make this work and for all these reasons but he’s not really listening to the people around him anymore.”
He added, “A lot of the stuff with Daryl is he just, he is like, dude, you’re not hearing me. Like you’re not listening to me.”
“It kind of came out of the blue at the end of the season, as it did for everyone, and for me as well. I had a bit of a struggle with it, honestly. But I trust in the writers and what they’re trying to do,” Payne said at Salt Lake City’s FanX convention in September, explaining the actors are rarely informed how stories will play out.
That scene will be directly addressed in 904, “The Obliged,” in a conversation between Jesus and Maggie preceding her journey to Alexandria.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.