Arts, Television

‘The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon’ is a Tribute to a Failing Franchise’s Revival



The Walking Dead has long overstayed its welcome as a pop culture staple, but like a zombie, it’s back from the dead with Daryl Dixon. The new spinoff show serves as a needed franchise reset.

Daryl Dixon is both innovative and character-driven, which is a breath of fresh air for the Walking Dead franchise.

Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) has been a fan-favorite character since The Walking Dead premiered in 2010. After staying around for 11 seasons, his character has seen all that a zombie apocalypse has to offer … in America.

The new series drops Daryl in France. The details of how and why he’s there are unclear, but they aren’t important. A change in scenery allows the show to explore a crucial but underutilized part of Daryl’s character: Daryl normally works best when he’s on his own. After all, Daryl’s character arc in the main series always dealt with his difficulty to make friends. But once he bonded with the other protagonists of The Walking Dead, he grew into a lovable and loyal team player. 

Now, in France, where he doesn’t have the relationships he built anymore, Daryl has to relearn how to be the gritty, lone survivor that he started out as. 

The question is, can he?

In the premiere episode of Daryl Dixon, Daryl’s fatal flaw is his willingness to connect with individuals. In a zombie apocalypse, it’s every man for himself. When we find Daryl, he’s too easy to trust strangers and goes out of his way to help people who stab him in the back. 

Admittedly, some things that always make Daryl stand out are his gritty nature and the way that he ruthlessly defeats his enemies. He’s a badass, and he never fails to act like one. There are glimpses of that in the premiere episode, but viewers haven’t seen this side of Daryl since the early seasons of the flagship series.

Daryl’s lone survivor instinct will inevitably return the longer he’s away from his friends back in Virginia, but TWD: Daryl Dixon is hinting that Daryl will be dealing with physical threats and a spiritual struggle. 

About midway through the first episode, Daryl wakes up in a convent. He learns that he was saved by a nun and that he’s allegedly involved in a much larger prophecy that’s meant to save mankind. The Walking Dead franchise has pulled off crazier stunts than a prophecy to save humanity (see the nuclear bomb that went off in Fear The Walking Dead season six), but Daryl’s forced connection to God is the key point. 

In The Walking Dead, Daryl has never expressed himself to be a religious person. Really, his character seems to stand for the opposite: Daryl is self-made and for much of the apocalypse, he’s had to rely on no one but himself. He’s the type of person to shrug off God—he’s literally quoted saying “Faith ain’t done s— for us” in the main Walking Dead series. 

As Daryl wrestles with his own faith, his character can continue to grow while keeping up the gritty solo act. By taking up the prophecy mission to save mankind, Daryl embarks on a solo quest but still puts his belief in relationships and humanity. 

It’s doubtful that Daryl will commit to a religious lifestyle going forward, but the presence of religion in the show will test Daryl’s faith in himself and in other people at the very least.

As Daryl Dixon breaks away from familiar characters and locations in the Walking Dead universe, Daryl acts as a familiar constant. Whether he’s riding solo or with other protagonists, he’s still the badass survivor viewers have come to love.

September 17, 2023