Daryl (Norman Reedus) might have finally met his match on The Walking Dead. Spoilers for Sunday's episode 1018, "Find Me." Ten seasons into the zombie drama, it's revealed Daryl had a romantic relationship with Leah (Lynn Collins) towards the end of the mostly unseen six years he spent in the woods searching for Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) in Season 9. Though Daryl and Leah's first time being intimate takes place off-screen — the encounter is implied and left to the imagination, possibly due to health and safety protocols from filming during the era of COVID-19 — it marks the first-ever romantic storyline for Reedus' character.
In the letters column of his comic book, where Daryl doesn't exist, Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman once wrote the television show has "very specific ideas about Daryl's sexuality (or the seeming lack thereof), and if there's ever a quiet period in the show where he's not consistently distracted by crossbowing… we'll tackle it in the show."
Kirkman also revealed the AMC Network "absolutely would" have accepted a decision to reveal Daryl is gay.
After the live-action series killed off Beth (Emily Kinney), a character some thought might be Daryl's first romantic interest, Kirkman said during an appearance on Talking Dead in 2014 that Daryl is "being somewhat asexual on the show."
"I think that he's a very introverted character and I think that's somewhat his appeal," Kirkman said at the time. Explaining his comments in his comic book, Kirkman added: "I just wanted to make it clear that I was saying that the possibility [of Daryl being gay] is there and I would've been fine with it, the network would have been fine with it, but we ultimately didn't do that. I can make it official — Daryl Dixon is actually straight."
In 2017, Reedus said original showrunner Frank Darabont considering having Daryl be gay but Daryl's sexuality went unaddressed in earlier seasons of the show. That same year, Reedus said on Talking Dead that he doubts Daryl "dated ever" before the zombie apocalypse.
In the years and seasons since, many fans have hoped for romantic relationships between Daryl and best friend Carol (Melissa McBride) or close friend Connie (Lauren Ridloff), forming the respective "Caryl" and "Donnie" factions.
When current showrunner Angela Kang explained to Insider why Daryl has yet to find love, whether that be Carol or Connie, Kang said, "I think that Daryl, he's an abused character who does not trust people easily, which makes it pretty hard to get into some relationships."
In 2018, Reedus said that whenever a Daryl romance happens, it would "be a big deal."
"But I'm glad that we have played him the way we've played him. I think if we would have had some hot steamy barn sex somewhere, it would be over and done, it wouldn't be a thing," Reedus told TV Line at the time. "I don't think he's that type of a guy. I think he's the type of guy that when he does it, he'll be in love. Like he will fall in love."
Reedus continued of Daryl, "He wears his heart on his sleeve. Everything he means he says, when he cares about someone, he cares about them. And I think playing it in that direction is better than having an episode or a scene in one thing. It means more to him. He's sensitive."
Does that mean Leah — who for now has disappeared — is "the one" for Daryl? Is Daryleah (Learyl?) endgame?
Asked about Daryl's lacking love life in 2019, Reedus told The IMDb Show, "He's like a flamingo or a penguin. I think if he's gonna find [love] he's gonna stick with it."
"There's a lot of nookie going on in our show, and I'm not in any of it. I did kind of convince everybody that I was kind of a virgin and kind of a loner early on in the seasons, and I think they kind of ran with it for a while. I feel like Daryl doesn't really have game," Reedus said, adding a potential on-screen love scene would have to be "just super awkward."