The premiere of Daryl Dixon’s spinoff show The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon has already set itself apart from The Walking Dead, and it is definitely a welcome change. The first episode features higher stakes and more elaborate sets than we have ever seen in the universe before. In the spinoff, Norman Reedus‘s Daryl embarks on a journey across the French landscape to prove that this spinoff will finally address its mother series’ fatal flaw: its inability to directly confront the actual apocalypse. The Walking Dead deals almost exclusively with the consequences of the outbreak. It extensively explores the potential groups that are formed, the types of survivors, and the line between morality and immorality. But the narrative around the outbreak, and even walkers themselves, are pretty underdeveloped and sometimes inconsistent. Fortunately, it looks like The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon is going to alleviate these issues while also taking the most memorable parts of The Walking Dead and adding its own French and Dixon flair.
‘The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon’ Widens Its Scope
The Walking Dead‘s tagline essentially captures the essence of the show: “Fight the dead. Fear the living.” At first, the idea that the living could be more dangerous than the walkers was an exciting prospect. From the cannibalistic group at Terminus to the faux-idyllic Woodbury to the brutality of the Saviors, each unique group brought on a new interpretation of survival. That was until The Walking Dead got stuck in its pattern: a new opponent is introduced, a beloved character dies during their character-centric episode, and the main group bands together and acquires more bullets to kill the enemies off. Meanwhile, walkers just seem to be an inconvenience to their journeys. Even hoards can be taken out by rage-fueled Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and an exploding truck. With the actual outbreak practically being cast to the wayside, The Walking Dead was truly a show about survival and what you have to sacrifice to survive. But in a very repetitive manner.
Daryl Dixon has already changed that in a single episode. Framed by a beautiful French skyline, Daryl meets new characters that give game-changing ideas to The Walking Dead‘s cinematic universe. We are introduced to The Abbey, filled with people whom Daryl describes as “killer nuns” and a child prodigy, Laurent (Louis Puech Scigliuzzi). As the show adopts a slow and tantalizing pace to establish character connections, we find out that the nuns of the Abbey believe that with the proper education and resources, Laurent could be some sort of messiah for the apocalypse and lead humanity to the other side. For the first time in the universe, a viable solution to the outbreak, albeit a highly subjective and religious one, is considered. In Season 4 of The Walking Dead, Eugene (Josh McDermitt) was introduced with a plan to “fight fire with fire” to end the apocalypse, but as we later discovered, it was simply a lie to ensure his own survival. In comparison, the nuns’ plan seems genuine. Whether it will work or not is yet to be seen. By expanding the scope of the show from just survival to the outbreak itself, Daryl’s spinoff gives the franchise a refreshing new take and flavor that fills the gaping hole that was detrimental to the series.
‘The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon’ May Finally Shed Light on Walkers
The walkers themselves have been subject to variability as The Walking Dead progressed. Season 1 walkers were some of the most terrifying of the show. They were able to pick things up, twist door knobs and climb stairs, but most of this was fazed out in favor of slower and less cognizant zombies. By Season 11, evolved, variant walkers are introduced, who are able to do everything from Season 1 as well as run horrifying fast, throw things, and demonstrate a level of awareness. To be fair, during Season 1 the show was still finding its footing and after showrunner and comic author Frank Darabont left after Season 2, changes were bound to be made. Either way, the inconsistencies surrounding the walkers were always a source of frustration for fans, particularly when walkers would stealthily sneak up on characters despite their inherent clumsiness and constant growling.
But with Daryl’s spinoff as well as the post-credits scene of The Walking Dead: World Beyond, a modicum of coherence may be finally brought to the walkers’ origins and developments. World Beyond‘s post-credit scene involved a mysterious scientist watching Dr. Edwin Jenner’s (Noah Emmerich) tapes about the stages of reanimation and the possibility of the variant walkers being created in French labs. This is further emphasized by a gunman shooting down the scientist and accusing her of “starting this whole thing and making it worse.” We’ve already suspected that the French labs were the origin point for the apocalypse, but now are finding out that they potentially caused the variants.
As such, Daryl’s run-in with burner walkers in an abandoned warehouse further implicates France as ground zero. More significantly, Daryl Dixon‘s closing scene showcases a boat anchored to La Havre (the port Daryl himself is trying to get to) which houses a group that has access to advanced technology and is experimenting on walkers. Though we don’t know the extent or intentions behind their experimentation, all signs point to France being a major player in the walkers’ narrative. As such, it seems Daryl’s spinoff will finally answer our burning (no pun intended) questions about the walkers and finally construct walker lore that is congruous to what we have seen so far.
Daryl Dixon’s Spinoff Builds on the Best Parts of ‘The Walking Dead’
While Daryl Dixon delves into the overarching details of the apocalypse that we had so sorely missed in the mother series, the show also succeeds in the storyline itself. A fan-favorite character is stranded in a zombie-infested city all alone and is trying to reunite with his found family as he gets side-tracked by helping another group. It is reminiscent of the highly popular Season 1 of The Walking Dead, where the personal stakes for Rick were high and both he and us were thrown into an unfamiliar and terrifying set of circumstances. But unlike Rick, Daryl is mixed into a situation that has worldly consequences. The stakes of the original series tended to be personal and familial, while this show not only exhibits Daryl’s individual interests but also deals with the future of humanity itself. This is one example of how Daryl Dixon uses the most successful aspects of The Walking Dead and then surpasses them.
Gruesome visuals and brutality are the bread and butter of The Walking Dead, with many fans reveling in the confrontational and gnarly scenes featured in the show. It also excels in creating engaging and unique characters but falls short by positioning them in storylines that we have seen time and time again. Although Daryl Dixon seems to be moving in a The Last of Us direction, with Daryl and Laurent (and hopefully Clémence Poésy’s Isabelle) journeying across France together, the plot still feels fresh with the French setting and new characters. The premiere mixes in building character relationships with violent outbursts flawlessly, proving that it was possible to retain the best aspects of The Walking Dead but frame it in a way that is far more dynamic and engaging than the original show was. Daryl Dixon transcends the limitations of The Walking Dead, and it seems it will finally address the original show’s major failings of ignoring the outbreak and the walkers, leaving us trembling with anticipation for what’s to come.
The Big Picture
- Daryl Dixon’s spinoff, The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon, sets itself apart with higher stakes and elaborate sets, addressing the original show’s flaws of ignoring the actual apocalypse.
- The show introduces new characters and a religious group with a plan to lead humanity to the other side, offering a viable solution to the outbreak, unlike previous false attempts.
- The spinoff finally sheds light on the origins and developments of the walkers, with hints of French labs and a group experimenting on them, expanding the narrative and answering burning questions.