Warning: this story contains spoilers for The Walking Dead series finale. "Son of a bitch," says Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) in his first words on The Walking Dead, swearing the "filthy, disease-bearing, motherless, poxy bastard" gnawing on a deer he'd killed in the Season 1 episode "Tell It to the Frogs." Playing that Filthy, Disease-Bearing, Motherless, Poxy Bastard Walker was special FX makeup designer Greg Nicotero, executive producer and director of Sunday's series finale. Titled "Rest in Peace," the final moments of the episode featured Daryl's last line of the series: a tender "I love you" said to best friend Carol (Melissa McBride).
In Reedus' closing scene of The Walking Dead, Daryl rides his motorcycle headed toward a new adventure in his own spin-off, racing past one last walker. Disguised by the zombie makeup he'd designed more than a decade earlier, episode director Nicotero made one last cameo on The Walking Dead.
It was a full-circle moment for Reedus and Nicotero, who are among a select number of cast and crew to have remained on all eleven seasons of the AMC zombie drama that ended its run Sunday night after 177 episodes.
"In Daryl's first episode in Season 1 Episode 3, I was the walker that was eating the deer that he killed. So I was Daryl's first walker kill," Nicotero noted on Sunday's live Talking Dead. "So I thought it made sense for me to be the last walker that he encounters on this show."
When host Chris Hardwick pointed out Daryl came into the show with anger and went out with love, Reedus said "it makes perfect sense."
"He showed up on the show, and he was a completely different person than how he ended," Reedus said. "He walked in a hothead and these people changed him, his friends changed him. It made perfect sense. I wouldn't want it any other way."
Reedus and Nicotero are currently in production in France on The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon, the Paris-set spin-off focused on Reedus' eponymous character. Read our exclusive "Rest in Peace" postmortem with Nicotero, the director's breakdown of Carol's ending on the show, and see the first-look images from the Daryl Dixon spin-off. The new series premieres in 2023 on AMC and AMC+.