Here’s what we saw: Daryl left Alexandria in pursuit of Dwight, the Savior who killed Denise last week, and whose survival Daryl blames on himself. Rosita, Glenn, and Michonne, rightly fearing the worst, quickly followed. When briefly separated in the middle of the woods, Dwight and his Savior cronies ambushed the latter two. Daryl and Rosita attempted a rescue, only to encounter a trap: Dwight was waiting for them. The episode ends with Dwight shooting Daryl point-blank in the back of the head.
This seems cut and dry. A bullet to the head isn’t ordinarily an injury you walk away from, and Dwight, having twice run afoul of Daryl (and having sustained a pretty ghastly injury during the last confrontation), has every reason to keep his victim down. Add to that the over-the-top deluge of blood erupting into camera at the moment of the shooting and it’s difficult to conclude anything but the obvious. One niggling detail keeps hope alive: Dwight’s final words. “You’ll be alright,” he drawls. Was it sarcasm? Is “you’ll be alright” code for “you’re half-dead and permanently disfigured, but it's mendable?” Does “you’ll be alright” imply “for now”? Nobody can say for sure. Walking Dead contorts face value.
Precedent might save Daryl's life. The Walking Dead pulled our legs in the past, fooled us into thinking that a character was dead only to reveal, an episode or two later, that it was just a canny bit of misdirection. Only a few months ago, hungry walkers tore Glenn apart after faceplanting into the horde. The show kept up the ruse, aggravatingly, for a whopping four episodes before revealing the truth that he survived. That’s only the most galling example to date. Glenn had a second brush with death in the half-season premiere. Daryl's brother, Merle, "died" before -- surprise! -- reappearing in season three. Even baby Judith had her death briefly (and cruelly) teased back in the Governor days. At this point we should treat every death as suspect until we see a corpse on the ground or a head removed from the body.