- Warning: There are spoilers ahead for season 11, episode nine of “The Walking Dead.”
- The majority of the Reaper group was killed on Sunday’s premiere.
- It’s a story that was likely trimmed after the show’s final season was surprisingly announced.
Sunday’s “The Walking Dead” premiere wrapped up the Reaper storyline pretty quickly so the show could move on to its next, final arc.
Maggie (Lauren Cohan) ruthlessly killed all but one member of the group — Daryl’s former flame, Leah (Lynn Collins) — who slaughtered her people.
First teased on season 10, episode 17, and later referenced and appearing in a total of eight episodes, the group’s quick entry and demise may have left many viewers frustrated.
What was the point of the Reapers? Isn’t there other stuff the series could have focused on and wrapped up in its final episodes? Was the show just trying to fill space and kill some time? (That’s never been showrunner Angela Kang’s MO since taking over the series.)
If you’ve been following “TWD” closely, you’ll likely know this wasn’t the original way things were supposed to play out on screen.
There are a few things you may not have considered about the Reaper’s hasty introduction and subsequent handling.
If the final season of ‘TWD’ wasn’t announced, the Reapers probably would’ve been around a bit longer
There was likely a larger story in place for the Reapers that continuously evolved and changed during the pandemic.
“The Walking Dead” was never supposed to end with its 11th season. “TWD” star Ross Marquand recently told Insider that before the final season was announced in September 2020, they were discussing plans for seasons 12 and beyond.
While chatting “TWD” in February 2020, Kang excitedly shared that the writer’s room had been well underway on a draft of season 11.
When the pandemic hit, plans changed. AMC announced in July 2020 that they would extend the series’ 10th season by an additional six episodes.
When that happened, the Reapers’ introduction was moved up. Kang told Insider in February 2021 that the Reapers were originally supposed to be one of the season 11 villains.
“We wound up introducing this element when we were sort of working on the season 10 extension episodes,” Kang told Insider at the time. “It gave us a chance to kind of show a piece of story that we were going to skip over.”
Two months later, AMC followed the season 10 bonus episode announcement with news that season 11 of the show would be its last. The season would receive an extra eight episodes. Instead of the usual 16-episode run, season 11 would be comprised of 24. The news took many cast members by surprise.
The Reaper introduction was teased in the bonus season 10 episodes and then the plan was that the group would be further explored and fleshed out for the majority of season 11.
Seasons 12 and beyond likely would’ve focused more on the Commonwealth story that wraps up the comics.
When plans changed and the final season was announced, both of those stories now had to be told across 24 episodes.
Kang and the writers team now had to make sure the Reapers’ story, teased in the bonus season 10 episodes, was wrapped up succinctly with enough time to pay the popular Commonwealth arc its due.
The latter should now be the main focus of the series’ final 15 episodes.
All of that may make fans wonder if Kang and the writers would’ve even bothered with the Reaper story or scrapped it entirely if they knew when they were assigned the bonus season 10 episodes that the following season would be its last.
They were originally functioning under the idea that there were more seasons to come. It also begs the question how much of the season 11 drafts from February 2020 changed.
Leah may be more important than you realize and a potential key to finding Rick
Sunday’s episode is likely not the last we’ve seen of Leah in “TWD” universe.
Kang never introduces something just for the sake of filling airtime.
It’s why the anticipated season nine pike death was moved up from the season finale. At the time, Kang told Insider she felt like they would have been “treading water” with a filler episode otherwise.
Kang later delivered one of the series’ best twists in years on season 10 by changing up a popular comic character to be a villain. If you watched the season closely, hints were sprinkled across episodes teasing the reveal.
What larger purpose was the introduction of the Reapers and Leah to serve?
Since Leah, the last member of the Reapers, is still alive, I doubt it’s the last time we’ll see her.
Currently, Daryl and the group’s main survivors have been approached by the Commonwealth community, a group of thousands with a substantial military.
Leah, on the flip side, could cross paths with the group’s antithesis, the Civic Republic Military, another large group in “TWD” universe who flew the show’s former protagonist, Rick (Andrew Lincoln), away on a chopper years ago.
Rick hasn’t been seen on the show since, but is supposed to appear in some “TWD” movie at some point.
On season 10, episode 18, Daryl vaguely mentioned Rick (not by name) to Leah. Daryl, referring to Rick as his brother, said he went missing years ago. His body was never found.
I don’t believe the writers dropped that tidbit randomly.
Wouldn’t it be something if Leah stumbled upon Rick and the CRM and it led to a giant war between the two groups?
Perhaps, I’m wrong. If that’s the case, I’ll truly be confused on the point of introducing the Reapers, Leah, and her brief showmance with Daryl.