Saturday, 14 November 2015

Characters We ♥ : Daryl Dixon (The Walking Dead) [Mild Spoilers]

© AMC | Source: mthai
Has there ever been a person on this planet who said “Daryl Dixon? Nah… don’t like him.” Of course not, at least no one who watched past the first few episodes of AMC’s The Walking Dead (2010 -     ). So how come that a character, who was created solely for the TV show and is not even a part of the comic books, commands such unconditional love from The Walking Dead fans?

Source: etsy
When I started watching The Walking Dead I was vaguely aware of the hype going on around Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus), but when he made his first appearance I thought that’s THE Daryl? He wasn’t really what I expected. I mean his first words on the show were “Son of a bitch” shortly followed by “All gnawed on by this…. filthy, disease-bearing motherless poxy bastard!” and all this while kicking against the carcass of a deer that has been mutilated by a walker. So the first impression he left was that of a short-tempered, vulgar redneck with anger management issues, the kind of guy you’d feel uneasy about meeting at night in a deserted alley. And while the following episode about the search for his no less angry, vulgar and in addition to that also racist brother didn’t alter the aforementioned impressions, I did begin to warm up to his character. And more and more so with every further episode. The qualities that made me frown at the beginning have come to appear as some of his best qualities against the backdrop of the raging Zombocalypse. 

© AMC | Source: uproxx
While most of the people around him just seem to be playing camp, Daryl is the real deal. He’s a survivalist, the natural enemy of the walkers. He has abilities that seemed redundant and old-fashioned in the modern world, but are more needed than ever in these post-apocalyptic times. Daryl can hunt his own food, read tracks, he has a great sense of direction and sharp instincts plus he can use a crossbow, which seems like a better suited weapon than a noisy, walker-attracting gun.

We don’t know much about his past, but Daryl says: “You want to know what I was before all this? I was nobody. Nothing.” And I believe he believes that to be true. The Dixon brothers grew up in a mountain region in North Georgia. Their parents were both alcoholics and their father apparently also physically abused them. Merle Dixon (Michael Rooker) spent a lot of his youth in juvenile detention and left Daryl alone to fend with his father, claiming later he didn’t know he was beating him, too. There is no indication in the show that either Merle of Daryl ever had a real job or had any access to higher education. Merle was a drug addict and after being dishonourably discharged from the military, he only drifted through life, taking his brother along with him, who did everything he told him. So by today’s standards you could say they were both nobodies, people who didn’t possess any value to society. But that drastically changes once everything goes down the drain.

There is a paradigm shift and what used to be important for humanity, like formal education, politeness, fashion and culture, gave way to the only thing that matters now: the art of survival. So it’s not surprising that throughout the show the tough, ruthless individuals seem to fare the best. But don’t get me wrong, Mr. Dixon is nothing like that. Of course he’s tough – he’s got the biceps, the loose tongue and the guts to prove that, but he is by no means ruthless. Quite the contrary. He and Glenn (Steven Yeun) are probably the most good-hearted characters on the entire show.

© AMC | Source: buzzfeed
Daryl appears to be a lone wolf at heart, being not particularly fond of company, feeling trapped when confined by four walls and preferring to stay outdoors, despite the possibility of walker attacks. Not to forget that he is riding a motorcycle, again despite the possibility of walker attacks, although there is more than enough room in the cars with the others. Nonetheless, he never seems to lose his faith in humanity and is loyal and caring towards his friends. He never turns on Rick (Andrew Lincoln), despite his oftentimes questionable decisions, and keeps on searching for Carol’s (Melissa McBride) lost daughter Sophia (Madison Lintz), even long after her own mother has given up on her. Then there is his brother. Although Daryl condemns Merle’s actions towards the rest of his group, who have come to be like a family to him, he’s nevertheless averse to leaving his brother alone. And since there is no way for Merle to become a part of the group again for obvious reasons, Daryl decides to leave it, too, out of a sense of responsibility towards his flesh and blood. Admittedly, when watching that scene, all I thought was “Noooooo!” But actually, the fact that Daryl sticks so unconditionally to his brother made him rise even further in my estimation. He’s not the kind of person to leave anyone behind, just because it might be the easier, more comfortable thing to do.

Never one to shun potential dangers or confrontation, Daryl is usually the first to volunteer for whatever needs to be done, and by now there is probably not one member in their group who has not, at some point, been saved by Daryl or relied on his aid. He is the kind of guy you want to have around when the world is nearing its end. Whenever he’s on screen, it feels like everything is going to be okay somehow, so in case of danger: Keep Calm and Hide Behind Daryl Dixon. He even took out a freaking TANK all by himself. How badass can you get? And apparently the need for a Daryl transcends the realm of the show. Just have a look at this picture Norman Reedus uploaded on his Facebook page:

 Source: popmythology
It takes a while for him to open up to those around him and lower his guard, but the realisation that he is a cherished, indispensable part of the group and of course his growing friendship with Carol, clearly help speed up the process. It’s like Carol tells him in the first episode of season 4, “you’re gonna have to learn to live with the love.”

Well said, Carol. Well said…

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