Considering this may be Daryl's last season on The Walking Dead, it is fitting to put his importance to the group into context - he has saved all of their lives through the transitive property. Now look, I know what you're thinking. You didn't really pay attention in math class, but that's okay - I will walk you through this one.
Let us now take a little stroll down memory lane. The first stop? Season 2, Episode 1: "What Lies Ahead." In this episode, our group gets their first taste of the destructive force of a herd of walkers. Dale spots the herd coming and panic starts to set in among the group - and one character suffers a pretty serious injury.
Remember him? T-Dog (played by IronE Singleton) suffers a brutal cut on his arm and starts bleeding badly. With this serious injury and the impending herd, T-Dog finds himself in a hell of a spot - bleeding uncontrollably while the rest of the group scrambles to hide from the herd. And who comes to the rescue?
At the time, the audience's perception of Daryl was not what it is today. He was sort of "guilty by association" because of his affiliation with Merle Dixon, his brother - and our only knowledge of Merle being from Season 1, which portrayed him as a racist, loose-cannon sort of character that was tough as nails. This moment in Season 2 marks the first time the audience gets a glimpse into Daryl's heart. He spikes a few walkers, lays them over T-Dog to hide him from the herd, and essentially saves T-Dog's life.
So Daryl saved T-Dog, okay, big deal! How does that mean he saved everyone? It DOES! The transitive property is real! Stay with me now and let us take a gander at Season 3, Episode 4 : "Killer Within." Here, the group is at the prison, though they don't have total control over it yet. And in this episode T-Dog dies.
T-Dog's death was heroic, and a respectable death for a character that was criminally under-utilized. So why does T-Dog's death here matter to the group long-term? Well, T-Dog dies, sure, but he doesn't JUST die. He sacrifices himself for another beloved character - Carol.
Granted, at the time, we weren't aware that Carol had actually survived. She was stored away in a broom closet of sorts until a few episodes later when Daryl stumbles across her little hiding spot.
Some of you may now see where I am going with this, but if you do not see it, let's keep walking, shall we? In fact, let's walk all the way past Woodbury and The Governor and right up to Season 5, Episode 1 : "No Sanctuary."
Remember Terminus? This one wasn't too long ago, so it should still be pretty fresh. And honestly, "No Sanctuary" is one of my favorite episodes of the whole series. Recall, if you will, that Rick and the gang are facing the prospect of becoming dinner for Gareth's little compound of cannibals. And only one person (well two, technically, but someone has to hold the baby) is in a position to save the group - Carol.
The initial explosion that Carol triggers causes enough of a distraction for Rick to cut himself loose and start up on an epic killing rampage, freeing his team and killing every cannibal in his path. Without Carol's help, Rick and the group most likely would have ended up on plates. But Carol is only alive because of T-Dog, who only survived because of Daryl. Thus, Daryl, through the transitive property, saved the entire group.
Matt is a writer/filmmaker in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. Follow me on Twitter @Matt_InTheWoods