In The Walking Dead’s Season 8 midseason finale, there was a lot to process in the final moments in the sewer, especially since Daryl was holding Judith and now we’re all pregnant.
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Don’t get me wrong I’m not here to objectify Norman Reedus, it happens far too often to the point that he doesn’t even really get interesting questions at panels. And it’s an issue that’s absolutely worth addressing, but as the credits rolled and I picked my jaw up from the floor, the first coherent comment I could muster was to double check if Daryl was in fact the one holding Judith.
When even was the last time we saw him do that? The only thing that comes to mind was the scene in Season 3 after he and Maggie (Lauren Cohan) return from the formula run. And it’s fairly obvious that that scene was pure fan(girl) service. So then why is any of this even so significant? Surely, it’s not because Daryl will now assume all babysitting duties (because the requirement to be a Judith caretaker is ridiculously long hair).
In fact, it probably shouldn’t be noteworthy at all. It was just a low-key moment that could easily be overlooked but it shouldn’t. There was nothing tender and soft about the episode. Every scene, broken and choppy as they were was used to show that everyone has something to lose. That war comes with casualties. When Carl (Chandler Riggs) offered himself as a sacrifice to Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) it was reminiscent of Bob’s hysterics when Gareth and his cohorts ate his leg because the nature of world in the The Walking Dead is not just that people die. It’s how these deaths are faced. We’ve seen that over and over and over again in too many scenes to recount.
Carl has been facing his for at least a few episodes now based on when he probably got bit. It’s why he was so insistent on doing the plan his way. A plan, that worked, it’s worth noting, which isn’t often the case. There were no unnecessary casualties and it’s clear he didn’t really expect to make it out, which is why something as small and touching as Daryl holding Judith – while Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Michonne (Danai Gurira) did a mental count searching for the one person they were concerned wouldn’t be there – is so significant. Especially after the disagreement that ended in literal blows between Rick and Daryl. Rick grazing his daughter’s shoulder as he walked by was all kinds of acknowledgement for them both even though his mind was clearly on Carl’s- as was all of ours.
And despite all the grief and hopelessness to come, it’s something we’d love to see more of going forward. After all, there is still a future to build for the little Ass Kickers and Baby Rhees of the world. Even if the one Rick had imagined doesn’t really exist.
The Walking Dead returns for its Season 8 midseason premiere Sunday, Feb. 11, 2018. Be sure to tune in!