This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the TV show being covered here wouldn’t exist.
For the second time this year I can say something that makes me genuinely happy—we have another spinoff of The Walking Dead, titled The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon, and it’s good! While the first spinoff series this year focused on Maggie and Negan getting lost in New York, this series takes everyone’s favorite redneck with a heart of gold, Daryl, and throws him across the Atlantic Ocean where he’s forced to deal with France’s equally as bad zombie apocalypse. What a time to be a fan of this universe!
The premiere episode of The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon sets up the plot with a perfectly paced mystery. We start with Daryl laying on an overturned small boat that’s approaching a shore. As he struggles his way to the beach and begins to get his bearings, something feels off. The signs are all in another language and the architecture is not American. As Daryl looks around this small waterfront town, he realizes he’s washed ashore in France.
The last time we all saw Daryl was the final moments of The Walking Dead as he departed The Commonwealth knowing that his friends and loved ones were safe and that he could go out and find Rick. Having somehow managed to get himself shipped off to another continent, Daryl is on his own again just like when we first met him, only this time he doesn’t speak the language.
After collecting some supplies and weapons, Daryl sets off on foot across the ruins of the French countryside. He encounters a girl named Maribelle and her father. She speaks English and can communicate with Daryl. They talk about the possibility of traveling together when two soldiers show up and threaten Maribelle and her father. Knowing what we know about Daryl and what happens when you mess with people he likes, this encounter quickly turns ugly.
As Daryl deals with the soldiers, he does not realize that he’s been betrayed by his two new “friends” and is knocked out by her father. They rob him of his supplies but are scared away by a mystery woman with a gun who approaches to help the wounded Daryl. The surprise comes when Daryl regains consciousness inside an old abbey surrounded by nuns, one being Isabelle, the woman who saved him, who are tending to his injuries. Daryl learns from Isabelle that the nuns of this abbey are all protecting this young boy who they believe is a messiah that will restart civilization after years of the apocalypse.
Another group of soldiers come across Maribelle and her father. They ask them about the two soldiers that had attacked them earlier, but they do not cooperate fast enough and the leader of the soldiers, Codron, kills the father. Codron is angered by the actions of Daryl and insists on tracking him down. Just as Daryl tells Isabelle that he’s not interested in helping protect the boy and decides to leave the abbey, Codron and his men show up and pick a fight with the nuns. Daryl decides to go back and fight for these people that took him in and helped him and can take out almost all the soldiers, except Codron. As he escapes, it’s clear this rivalry between Daryl and Codron is far from over. Daryl agrees to protect the boy and travel with him to a safer part of France, so beginning his “holy mission”.
In the same way that The Walking Dead: Dead City jumpstarted the series after the main show ended, this series follows in its footsteps by taking a character we have grown to know and love over many years and place him in a completely unknown situation. Not only is there no comic book or book of this story, Daryl is a character created exclusively for the television show. We now get to go on a brand-new adventure that doesn’t fall in the confines of a comic book story and doesn’t have to follow the same structure that made even die-hard fans bored occasionally.
I loved having no idea why or how Daryl ended up in France and having to be as clueless as the character the whole episode. While the episode had the same vibe we’ve become accustomed to on The Walking Dead, it’s also a completely new genre. The landscapes were massive and beautiful, the buildings were old and so unlike what we were used to seeing in rural Georgia, and the people were all so unique. Parts of this felt more like an indie film, making the overall experience so much better. Even the episode title “L’ame Perdue”, which translates in French to “The Lost Soul,” paints an eerie picture of how we feel about Daryl being lost so far from his home.
Having had over a decade of the original series, I am welcoming these spinoffs with open arms. Norman Reedus is more than capable of carrying a show about Daryl and I’m looking forward to learning more about the character and the zombie issues that Europe has just as much as I enjoyed learning more about Maggie and Negan and New York City’s issues. And if the quality of these shows stays the same or even improves a bit more, these shows may go down as being more talked about than the original.
The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon airs on AMC at 8 p.m. Central every Sunday.
Featured image courtesy of Emmanuel Guimier/AMC
'The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon' 1x01 - 8/10