ByJohn Graig, writer at
Film/TV Buff, Sarcasm Expert, Old-School Nerd, [email protected]
John Graig

"Don't be too hard on yourself, Andrea. We've all wanted to shoot Daryl." Dale Horvath

Although it is fairly obvious that Rick is my favorite character on The Walking Dead, it was pointed out to me that I was focusing most of my attention on him. Upon consideration, I decided they were right. Guilty as charged, but in my defense, I wasn't ignoring other characters, I was just focusing on Rick's journey.

Anyways, I decided to let Rick take a break and pay homage to everybody's favorite redneck and walker killer, extraordinaire, Daryl Dixon. Daryl has a huge fan base out there and the last thing I want to do is get on their bad side. I think Daryl is one of T.V.'s most compelling characters, and he and Rick have become an iconic, compelling and very watchable "dynamic duo". The chemistry between Andrew Lincoln and Norman Reedus is 'spot-on", and they deserve to be inducted in the "Iconic Duo's Hall of Fame", along with Jim Kirk and Mr. Spock, The Lone Ranger and Tonto, and Han Solo and Chewbacca.

Even though Daryl isn't even in the Walking Dead comics, his gritty, short-tempered character, coupled with Norman's portrayal, struck a chord with fans. (myself included). In an interview with Wetpaint, Gale Anne Hurd said it best.

“No one brings a compelling, albeit broken, character like Daryl Dixon to life like Norman Reedus.”

Amen, Ms. Hurd. Amen

To fully understand Daryl's evolution from a short-tempered redneck to a respected, trusted and valuable member of a diverse group of survivors, you have to go back to the beginning. Daryl started life with a couple of strikes already against him. Abusive and neglectful parents, coupled with a volatile, resentful brother wasn't a very good beginning for little Daryl. No wonder his first facial expressions were scowls. When Conan O'Brien said he thought Daryl had one of the best, meanest, "I'm going to rip your heart out" scowls, on a T.V. show, Reedus had this to say.

"Early on, I was so insecure as an actor that I just gave everyone dirty looks. I thought they all hated me. And somehow I’ve played parts since then where I murder people. It’s kind of like that scowl turned into a career.

As for Daryl, I’ve always played him as a fighter, but that’s because he’s always had to fight. That’s a different kind of a fight than a guy with big pecs coming at you to prove a point. I guess that goes hand-in-hand with the scowl."

Season 1, Episode 3 "Tell It To The Frogs"

Daryl makes his first appearance in this episode, and to be honest, my first impression of him wasn't that favorable. Since all we knew about him was that he was Merle's brother, I assumed he would be a younger version of him. At first, my assumption was correct. Here was another volatile, unpredictable and short-tempered redneck. A possible danger to the group and himself.
However, my reservations about him quickly disappeared after his first interaction with Rick. Daryl is understandably upset when he learns of Merle's fate, but Rick calms him down somewhat when he tells him, "Your brother does not work and play well with others..."

Daryl's reaction to this statement is spot-on perfect. Although he is still angry, I think he sees that Rick is not bullshitting him. Daryl knows his brother well and realizes that Merle was probably just as much to blame for his fate than anyone. When T-Dog tells him that it was partly his fault too because he dropped the key, a much subdued Daryl says, "Just tell me where he is so I can go get him." When Rick volunteers to go with him to get Merle, Daryl, I think, begins to see Rick in a different light. He might not be able to express it yet, but I think he sees Rick as a man who will "Do right by him." A man he can trust.

Episode 4 'Vatos"

Rick, Daryl, Glen and T-Dog head back to Atlanta to get Merle and retrieve the guns. Finding Merle's severed hand on the roof doesn't help Daryl's mood. Another tense moment ensues between Daryl and T-Dog, but Rick steps in again and calms Daryl down. I think its noteworthy when Daryl asks T-Dog for a "do-rag", wraps Merle's hand in it, and puts it in Glen's backpack. I feel it shows for the first time that Daryl has a heart and a steadfast belief that Merle is still alive. "Only Merle can kill Merle," he declares.

Daryl shows heart again after Glen outlines a plan to retrieve the guns before they resume their search for Merle. He clearly displays admiration for Glen and asks him what he did before all this. The look of amusement on Daryl's face when Glen tells him he delivered pizzas was priceless.

I think its important to note that there are many layers to Daryl Dixon. His rough exterior hides and protects a gentle soul and even though he is aware of this "kinder, gentler" Daryl, I believe he thinks its a sign of weakness and is only beginning to learn how to deal with it.

In closing, The Walking Dead is a character driven drama that asks and explores the question.....What does it mean to survive and how do you hold onto your humanity? In Daryl Dixon's case, I think the reason he has adapted so well in this "new world", is because of his survival instinct and the fact that he has been "surviving" his entire life.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcome below. To be Continued. (Sources: TV Guide, Walking Dead Wiki, AMC, Wetpaint)


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