The Walking Dead star Norman Reedus might have hinted it was Daryl who broke Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) out of jail in Season 10 episode 4, “Silence the Whisperers.” It was first suspected Negan’s accomplice was his former guard Brandon (Blaine Kern III), but the Savior fanboy was cleared when he asked Negan how he escaped from jail — to no answer — in Season 10 episode 5, “What It Always Is.” There has been cause to believe it might have been Carol (Melissa McBride), who could have sicked Negan against the Whisperers to fulfill her vendetta against Alpha (Samantha Morton); conversely, another contender is Dante (Juan Javier Cardenas), who emerged as a suspect after he was outed as a Whisperer spy sent to infiltrate Alexandria and sow dissension.
In “Silence the Whisperers,” Negan found himself in hot water after accidentally killing Margo (Jerri Tubbs) when rescuing ex-Whisperer Lydia (Cassady McClincy) from a vicious ambush carried out with accomplices Alfred (David Shae) and Gage (Jackson Pace). When reporting the incident to community leader Michonne (Danai Gurira), at the time handling a situation at Hilltop, Daryl told her Negan was “on the right side this time,” a position Daryl took after meeting with both Lydia and the then-jailed Negan.
As the council deliberated over Negan’s fate, coming to a standstill, Daryl interrupted. “Look, if you can’t make a decision, the people out there are gonna make one for you.” Acting as Michonne’s proxy, Daryl added, “Lydia said Negan saved her, so he saved her. I’m a no.”
That created a tie, leaving Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) to cast the deciding vote. Gabriel would have voted in favor of Negan, but he never got the chance: the next day, Gabriel was shocked to discover Negan’s empty cell, and Aaron (Ross Marquand) reported former Savior Laura (Lindsley Register) denied responsibility.
“I don’t give a shit about him,” Daryl told Carol when discussing the messy situation, adding he believes Lydia. Another possible piece of evidence would come in the midseason finale, “The World Before,” when Daryl attempted to talk Carol down from carrying out her reckless vendetta against Alpha, saying “she’s a dead woman anyway.”
When Negan first strolled into Whisperer territory in “What It Always Is,” he did so with purpose. Negan appears to have joined Alpha’s cult as a full-fledged member of the Whisperers, but comic book readers know Negan has ulterior motives — and he could be a double agent sent by Daryl.
Despite the history between Daryl and Negan, Reedus hinted Daryl is open to Negan’s realignment as a potential ally:
“I don’t think Daryl holds grudges. I think he’s seen everybody do bad stuff, come back around, and redeem themselves however it’s appropriate at that time and space,” Reedus said on a recent episode of Talking Dead. “If he’s gonna punch him in the face, he’d just punch him in the face. I don’t think he’d be like, ‘Are you a good guy now, or are you a bad guy now?’ That’s not how Daryl thinks. If Lydia says that Negan protected her, I believe her. So I think my only plan to go forward with that is to go look him in the face and see if he’s lying to me. But if he’s not lying to me, that means all these other people are in the wrong. And if he’s telling the truth, good on him.”
“I think there’s a mutual understanding between those two characters. I think they might need each other at some point,” Reedus teased at Comic-Con. “It’s such a weird world, ‘cause some of the bad guys are the good guys, and the good guys are the bad guys, and everybody thinks they’re doing the right thing. I mean, we’ve all killed people. We’ve all done crazy things, so maybe there will be a time where we need him.”
What could possibly get these heated enemies to work together? As Reedus put it: only a certain “big, bald badass.”