The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon is the latest in a flurry of spin-offs of The Walking Dead, expanding the franchise into new areas previously unexplored. This one focuses on fan-favorite character Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus), one of the few who didn’t exist in the comic books but was created solely for the show. He mysteriously ends up in Paris, providing an entirely new setting and a new primary language for the series (don’t worry, there are subtitles) along with lots of F-bombs (no language restrictions on this show!) and a Last of Us-like journey.
How did he get there, what happened, and what’s in store for the already confirmed second season? With a massive reveal in the end, there’s lots to love, and look forward to, about The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon.
The story begins with Daryl washing up ashore in France. It’s later revealed that in exchanging work (hoarding walkers for testing) for fuel for his motorcycle, Daryl got into a fight with a group of ruffians he accused of killing a timid, innocent young man. He was locked up and left for dead, but Daryl isn’t one to sit idly by. He and his cellmate hatched a plan to escape, take down the ship workers, and hop on a boat to safety. During the melee, however, the other man was gobbled up by walkers while Daryl fell overboard, where he somehow swam to safety. By then, he had already crossed international waters.
He comes across a nice young woman and an elderly man, but they are attacked by angry military men. Once again, luck is on Daryl’s side and he is saved by a nun named Isabelle (Clemence Poesy). She nurses him back to health and reveals what she wants from him: there’s a young boy named Laurent (Louis Puech Scigliuzzi) living at the convent who she believes to be the Messiah. It’s later revealed that he’s her nephew: her sister died and turned just as Laurent was being born, which she believes makes him a miracle baby, destined to save the world. She wants to get him to a safe commune known as The Nest where he can do God’s work and prepare for the new world.
Daryl is not interested in helping, though. True to his style, he wants no attachments. He just wants to get back home (before he can inevitably leave again). But when uniformed men who work for the woman in charge of the ship are after Daryl and attack the convent, leading to the deaths of many, he feels responsible. He’ll help her with this one task, but then he’s leaving.
As with any Walking Dead series, the protagonists encounter numerous people on their journey. From a preschool full of children miraculously surviving on their own to a musical conductor gone mad (using walkers as his band of merry instrumentalists), none provide much help. But they do give Daryl a chance to try out his new weapon of choice, a chain mace, and bring Daryl face-to-face with another American much like the man he used to be. “I’m not your brother,” Daryl growls when the racist, ignorant man pleads with him to let him get back to his family he doesn’t realize is likely already long gone.
They finally find useful allies with a group of Isabelle’s network in Paris. Somehow, they end up in an underground bar pulled right from the ‘60s, complete with jazz singers, burlesque performers, drinks flowing, and ample food. To Isabelle’s surprise, the place is led by Quinn (Adam Nagaitis), Isabelle’s former friend/lover she thought had long died. It turns out, he’s also Laurent’s biological father, Isabelle learns.
But Quinn is less interested in Laurent and more interested in getting Isabelle back. This leads the former thief and party girl turned nun (yes, there’s more than meets the eye to Isabelle, one of the most compelling characters on the show) to make a difficult decision: she asks Daryl to take Laurent to The Nest on his own. She needs to take care of some unfinished business. If she doesn’t, she knows Quinn will be relentless in his pursuit.
Fans see a softened Daryl as he becomes a father figure to Laurent and opens up to the boat’s captain as they set out to The Nest about everything from his relationship with (or rather lack, thereof) God and his troubled past. Fans see a vulnerable Daryl when he opens up to Isabelle about how his grandfather fought in the war in France where he died, thus abandoning his father. Daryl believes this to be partially the reason his own father was absent for much of his life. It’s the kind of character development fans had been itching to see for so long on The Walking Dead.
Tragic circumstances, however, lead to Daryl’s capture where he’s faced with an all-too-familiar scenario: he’s placed in a cage like a feral animal, forced to fight electrically enhanced walkers for sport while citizens look on. They’re no match for the fierce fighter, however, which leads to a second attempt: chain him to Quinn, also captured, turn down the lights, and let them duke it out with the walkers, one another, or both.
The intensity rises in this scene, even though fans know there’s no way Daryl will die. Quinn, however, is bitten and while they both survive, he sacrifices himself so Daryl can escape, making sure Daryl will tell Isabelle of his final selfless act. Quinn’s reanimated body later attacks Isabelle, leaving Laurent to end his father’s life to save his aunt. “I know it wasn’t him in there,” says the soft-spoken Laurent, “and God will forgive me.”
They finally make it to The Nest, which, it turns out, is Mont-Saint-Michel, a tidal island and mainland commune in Normandy. It’s run by an American who moved to Paris in the ‘90s. Daryl looks and feels right at home, training residents to fight, goofing around with Laurent, and even learning a bit of French: “Enchante” he says smiling and raising his glass during dinner. Daryl is becoming a changed man, but he still has that nagging feeling that something is missing. He needs to go home.
Daryl says his goodbyes, though no one wants him to leave. He sets out on a boat they have arranged to help him get home. Before reaching the shore (and fighting off more walkers), he comes across a graveyard of American soldiers. Daryl frantically searches through the tombstones until he finds his grandfather’s, shedding a tear as he remembers his past life and recognizes the sacrifice his grandfather made. Just as he’s approaching the shore, however, Laurent calls out from atop a hill. The boy has secretly followed Daryl, likely hoping he can convince his new friend to stay. Daryl’s decision is not revealed.
What makes Daryl Dixon worth the wait is the final scene before the credits roll. A bearded man is zooming down the road on a motorcycle, a car buzzing behind. He stops, shoots the car’s tire, and raises a gun, threatening the driver to reveal themself. Out emerges a short-haired Carol (Melissa McBride), hands up revealing that she just wants to find her friend. Gasp! Yes, McBride is officially joining the show for the already confirmed season 2. The man is riding Daryl’s bike and she wants to know where he got it.
Carol swiftly gains control, knocking him out and stuffing him into the trunk. She holds his gun to the man’s head, asking him to reveal where he got the bike. If he’s lying, she won’t return to let him out. Don’t mess with Carol.
A sign shows that she’s in Maine, the last place Daryl told her he was when he was able to radio home before arriving in France. Carol is more than 3,200 miles away from Daryl’s last known location, but it’s completely doable that she might follow his trail all the way to the Bastille of the sea; that is, if he decided to go back there.
The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon has been renewed for a second season.
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