Last week's penultimate episode of The Walking Dead featured the death of a character I've loathed since day one. But -- SPOILER ALERT -- Merle's passing ended up being bittersweet because of the steep price Daryl had to pay after stumbling upon, and subsequently murdered, his zombiefied brother.
It was a painful scene that reinforced the power The Walking Dead wields over audiences.
And Sunday's season finale promises to be equally jaw-dropping as the long-awaited showdown between Rick and The Governor comes to pass. But will Daryl be able to dry his tears and fight alongside the family he's chosen? That was just one of the questions I posed to Norman Reedus when we met up to talk all things Daryl.
ETonline: What was your first thought after reading last week's script?
Norman Reedus: "Oh man, that's going to suck." When anybody dies on this show, you want to give them the biggest send-off possible so their death means something. I didn't look at it like it was going to be great, I knew it was going to be heavy.
EXCLUSIVE PHOTOS of The Walking Dead Season Finale
ETonline: Losing Sophia was obviously hard, but this strikes me as the roughest thing that's happened to Daryl since the plague hit.
Reedus: Totally. There's these little moments of hope for Daryl, where he thinks the world can get better. There's reasons why people fight and I'm always trying to play him like he's had his back is against the wall from day one. He gets these little glimpses of hope; that the world can get better, that his life can get better, that there is a silver lining to all of this. There was so much hope in being reunited with Merle, that's why he wanted Glenn to be open to forgiving him. It was a moment of sunbeams in this storm, but the sun keeps getting taken away from him. It's hard. It's hard on everybody, and I really feel bad for Daryl.
ETonline: Will Merle's death make it harder for Daryl to muster up the energy to fight?
Reedus: Daryl just turns to stone. He gets hard. He started hard, but he gets even harder. There are so many people who want to kill this guy, and it's not even like Daryl wants to kill The Governor now, he wants to rip his face off. It's a whole new level of hate.
ETonline: As a fan of your own show, how much are you loving what David Morrissey is doing with the role?
Reedus: It's amazing. I'm curious to see where he goes next. In climbing the mountain of that character, I think he's only about halfway there. He's only going to get meaner and tougher. You're going to see an even worse person come out.
VIDEO - (Re)Watch Merle's Big Sendoff
ETonline: Fans obviously love Daryl and Carol -- will we see any developments in their relationship this week? Does she try to soften his facade?
Reedus: Is she like an emotional roofie? [laughs] It's there, but I think their bond is so much deeper than "stick your tongue in my mouth." I like playing that and am glad the writers agree because it's so awkward when boys meet girls, girls meet boys or boys meet boys, and they want to hook up. But this is a whole different set of uncomfortable rules. They love each other on a different level -- it's not about wanting to get together, it's more like a sibling relationship. "If you hurt my sister, there's nowhere you'll be able to hide." It's an impenetrable bond. I know people want them together, but if that happens, I think it'll be more epic than, "They did it!"
ETonline: Plus, everyone is so dirty. Whenever Glenn and Maggie hook up, I can't help but think about that.
Reedus: [laughs] But you know, that could be hot too. The thing is, I get so many people on Twitter telling me to take a shower. They asked me to grow out my hair for next season, so I've been doing that, but I get to run around and be filthy and I'm having a blast. It's like a little kid's dream. Fans keep sending me soap and shampoo -- it's hysterical, but I love playing this filthy, ferocious guy and I'm not going to change.
ETonline: Lastly, what can you say about Sunday's finale?
Reedus: You have two armies of wild animals running towards each other; it's a full-blown war. It's wild, wild tension. It's epic. It's a screaming at the television, covering your eyes, big rollercoaster episode. Get ready to scream your head off.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.