(WARNING: This article contains some massive spoilers for The Walking Dead. You have been officially warned)
All of the characters on #AMC's #TheWalkingDead have been through the ringer. After all, it goes with the territory when the world has turned upside down and at any point you can be eaten alive by flesh-hungry monsters or, just as easily, killed by a fellow surviving human because he wants that half of an old Snickers bar you found on the ground.
Of those characters, Rick (Andrew Lincoln) has definitely been through his share of trauma. After waking up from a coma in the zombie apocalypse, he had to quickly come to those terms and find his family. In the time since, he has killed his best friend, lost his wife, become a cold-blooded killer and lost countless chances at a new start to the various hordes that threaten them on a daily basis. However, as the leader of the group he had to keep coming out of things stronger than he went in. He has become the essence of adapting to this dangerous new world.
Similarly, Maggie (Lauren Cohan) witnessed the brutal decapitation of her father, got separated from her husband and came upon the lifeless body of her sister all in the span of about a week. Then, most recently, witnessed the incredibly heart-wrenching murder of her husband (by brain bashing) while carrying his child. You would think that would have been the final nail in her emotional casket, but, like Rick, she emerged from that with an incredible amount of strength and resolve. Her purpose is now clear and driven.
And Then There's Daryl Dixon
The character of #DarylDixon (Norman Reedus) was a fan favorite from the start thanks to his no-nonsense attitude, tracking skills and the built-in fanbase that came from the star of #TheBoondockSaints. But he has also shown more character development than anyone else in the series considering where he started from and what he's had to endure throughout the now seven-year run of the #horror hit.
From his first appearance coming back from the deer hunt and learning that his brother Merle (Michael Rooker) was left behind on a rooftop in Atlanta, to his most recent kidnapping by the new series villain, #Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), Daryl has grown, loved, lost, been betrayed and felt more pain and sorrow than anyone else on the show. So, with the next episode set to be a Daryl-heavy one as Negan tries to break the tough-as-nails character, let's take a look back at the devastating events that have shaped him into the character that he is.
5. The Fate Of Sophia
A lot of fans hated the second season of The Walking Dead for it's long, and drawn-out first half, wherein the group struggled to find the missing young daughter of Carol (Melissa McBride). I can understand the complaint in that — when told episodically over eight weeks — it seemed to wear thin. However, when binge watched, you realize that it's only a matter of days and much more compelling to sit through.
One of the big highlights of the season, though, was the development of the Daryl Dixon character. With the first season only being six episodes — of which Daryl only appeared in four — there wasn't much substance to him beyond his bad attitude and act first/think later nature. However, Season 2 and the search for Sophia really shined some light on the character and showed a side that was more caring and driven — while still being a bad ass with a younger brother complex, as shown in the episode "Chupacabra."
So, when Sophia came walking out of that barn at the end of the mid-season finale, all walker-ed out and stuff, it was a huge blow to everyone — especially Daryl. He had developed a closeness with Carol over their mission, consoled her on many occasions that everything would be fine and even risked his life in the search. The revelation that the whole search was in vain was so devastating that he closed himself off from the group until the death of another beloved character, Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn) pulled him back in and he started developing a kinship with Rick.
4. The Return And Death Of Merle
Merle Dixon was a world-class, abusive asshole. He kept his little brother down and it wasn't until he was gone that Daryl was really able to step up and shine on his own. However, that briefly changed when Merle was brought back into his life in the second half of Season 3. With the refusal to let Merle join the prison group, Daryl splintered off and went with his brother to parts unknown for a brief time. However, it was that one-on-one time that made Daryl realize he was a better person now and belonged with Rick, Glenn and the rest of the group he had become so close to.
However, blood is still blood, and while Daryl realized that he was better than his brother, that didn't mean he didn't still need him. Rick may as well have been family, too, but there was still a blood bond between the brothers Dixon that Daryl felt like he needed. So, when he tracked his missing brother to the site of a massacre and came across his walker-ed corpse chowing down on young Ben, well, there were tears.
Needless to say, there was a period of adjustment after Daryl had to put a knife through his brother's head. The Cain/Abel effect was heartfelt and it put Daryl in a bit of a dark place for the following episode. However, caring for his fellow survivors kept him up and he was eventually able to move on while the prison began to flourish after defeating the Governor (David Morrissey) and his group of gun-toting invaders.
3. The Loss Of The Prison And Beth
The first half of Season 4 had its ups and downs as the prison group was ravaged by an aggressive form of swine flu that claimed the lives of many of its populace. However, things got really bad when the Governor resurfaced out of nowhere with a new group of followers and laid waste to the once safe and effective sanctuary — not to mention the brutal murder of Hershel (Scott Wilson). Once the prison fell, Daryl was forced on the run with Hershel's daughter, Beth (Emily Kinney). The loss of Hershel and the fall of the prison was rough on Daryl, who felt like there was more he could have done in the moment. The event forced him to close himself off, much in the way he did when Sofia died, and it wasn't until an emotional heart-to-heart — and a possible budding romance — with young Beth that he began to pull himself up from the ashes again.
It was Beth's unlimited optimism and hopefulness — in spite of having just lost her father and home — that pulled Daryl back from the brink. So, imagine the effect it had on him when she was kidnapped and then, after spending days (weeks?) looking for her — including a couple of stints with groups of murderers and cannibals along the way — when he finally tracks her down only to see her murdered in front of his eyes.
2. Dead Denise
Daryl didn't know Denise well. He had only just arrived with the group to Alexandria and almost immediately was sent out on a new bike to recruit for the gated town. Denise was the town doctor whom Daryl had gotten acquainted with but probably never really had a closeness to. However, when she went with him and Rosita on a supply run and received an arrow to the back of the head, one can say that it had a little bit of an affect on him.
You see, said arrow actually belonged to Daryl's crossbow and was fired by the guy he had (a month or so earlier) tried to recruit, only to have his bike and crossbow stolen. In fact, Daryl was even the target, but shooter Dwight admitted to not knowing the strength of the crossbow's kick and hit Denise instead. Denise was an innocent who probably didn't have what it took to survive long, but deserved better than she got. This event has formed some seriously bad blood between Daryl and Dwight that actually helped lead up to the next reason.
While out on a bit of vengeance, Daryl was followed by Glenn and Rosita in an attempt to bring him back. The three of them ended up getting captured by Dwight, complete with a gunshot wound to the shoulder for good ol' Daryl and delivered to the very same lineup with Rick and the gang that concluded Season 6 and kicked off Season 7.
While in that lineup, new villain Negan played a game of eeny meeny miny moe and beat Abraham's (Michael Cudlitz) skull in — turning his head into hamburger meat. While attempting to make Rosita take a good look at the bloody mess, Daryl reacted and punched Negan in his damn face. Unfortunately, that was a no-no and Negan had to "shut that shit down."
Not wanting to kill Daryl for having some spirit in him, he instead took his trusty baseball bat to the head of Glenn Rhee (Steven Yeun). The look on Daryl's face, knowing that his actions were directly responsible for the act that followed, was devastating. Glenn was an innocent, hopeful and optimistic guy. He had been there since the beginning and was set to become a father. Glenn's death was a huge blow that Daryl is not likely to ever forgive himself for.
So what do you think? Has Daryl been through a hell storm over these last seven years? Will he be able to recover from the death of Glenn while having everyone else's death and/or betrayal on his conscious? Will Negan succeed in breaking him when the show returns on Sunday? Or is he strong enough to persevere? Sound off in the comments below and don't forget to follow me on Twitter (@ThisIsJamesT) for all things rant and ravey.
Below is the trailer for this Sunday's Daryl-centric episode:
Need more Daryl? Check out the heartfelt Daryl tribute that we saw in the lead up to the Season 7 premiere: