So season five of The Walking Dead is on the horizon. October 12th is coming, and it won’t be long before people are glued to their TVs on Sunday nights, having placed their bets on various The Walking Dead pools. Who lives and who dies is an ongoing dynamic in a world where death could come in an instant for anyone making even the slightest misstep. There are millions of people, myself included, who hang on every action and consider every possible outcome, gripped by a dread few TV shows have ever been able to elicit. I’ll drop a few bucks on my pick for who will go next, and every season I pick a name already knowing there’s no chance that name is ever coming up. If you read the title of this editorial, you already know what I’m about to say. Every season, I wager money that Daryl Dixon is going down. Every season I know there’s no chance I’m going to win that bet. I have every reason to believe that will be the case again in season five, and that belief, in a nutshell, is the very reason Daryl Dixon needs to die.
Now, I’m a Norman Reedus fan. All you need to do to be a Norman Reedus fan is see Boondock Saints at least once. Congratulations, you’re now down with Norman, because that movie is frakkin’ brilliant. If for some reason you haven’t seen it, first think about what it is you’ve been doing with your life, and then watch Boondock Saints. It’s a mighty entertaining tale, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. At any rate, I thought Daryl Dixon and the “noble savage” routine was engaging for quite a while. For a long time, I was a part of the “that Daryl is one cool character” club like everybody else. He was a one off character that was meant to bring a bit of plot divergence to the TV adaptation of the award winning comic, who turned out to be an interesting, if somewhat coarse and grimy personality all his own. Daryl gave T-Dog some meds that belonged to his supposedly deceased reprobate of a brother and saved T-Dog’s life, you say? Daryl spent weeks looking for Sophia just because he believed he could find her? Yeah, this guy’s alright. It was very comfortable for a while.
Then it all just went horribly wrong.
I don’t know who said it first, but they should be boiled in oil whoever they are. Because of them, I honestly believe the dynamic of this remarkable show was altered from that moment forward. “If Daryl dies, we riot.” Suddenly TV execs were all ears. They take stuff like that very seriously. The fans had spoken and their will was absolute. The bidding of those fans was enough to trump even the theme of the entire show.
“NO ONE IS SAFE.”
But someone was safe, weren’t they? Daryl Dixon. Daryl was safe. Daryl could end an episode neck deep in a pit of walkers, but you knew he’d be there next week. All the other characters were on the line. With the storyline following a parallel but vastly different iteration than that of the book, anyone was fair game EXCEPT…frickin’ Daryl! It began to infuriate me. If Daryl was safe from the overarching premise of the story, why should I care if everyone else was up for grabs? Apparently, this brilliant idea of primary characters being ripped out of the storyline; whether it be with a scalpel or a chainsaw, was being circumvented by one disheveled hillbilly. Before, there had been no net, and you lived every second in constant dread of who would be the next casualty, just like the characters themselves.
Now there was a net. Daryl had a pass, everybody knew it, the paradigm was shattered and people seemed to be just fine with it. I was now in a frenzy that rivaled Annie Wilkes at the peak of her Misery driven hysteria. I ranted to anyone who would listen at length about how this seeming afterthought of a character had come to overshadow the entire The Walking Dead franchise. The number one rule of having a franchise is: YOU DON’T MESS WITH THE FRANCHISE.
Did you ever notice how once you start to be irked by someone everything they do begins to annoy you? Before long everything about the character Daryl; even though I had really liked him in the past, now irritated the hell out of me. It seemed he was in every scene…with his sneer, and his cussin’, and that hair (seriously, what is that?) and his overly efficient crossbow, adding absolutely nothing to the equation. Plus, he was messing with the franchise! I’d talk TWD with people and they’d ask me if Daryl was in the comics.
He’s not, by the way.
By the time the midpoint of season four came along I knew the writers would either have to do something with the character or admit he was only there to pacify the multitudes of people who tuned in every week, but who also couldn’t care less about the story as Robert Kirkman had envisioned it. The Walking Dead was an ongoing serial that went heavy on character progression and development, but where any of those painstakingly developed characters could be removed, permanently and at moment’s notice.That didn’t jibe with “Please don’t kill Daryl.” It was a very nice sentiment and I’m sure Mr. Reedus appreciated it, but “Daryl Fever” was screwing up one of the only reasons I had to turn my TV on.
So I was very pleasantly surprised when they began to actually use the character in a variety of situations based on the comic story progression, the one I personally consider to be the main continuity. They began to reveal deeper layers of the character as opposed to just using him to placate fans who couldn’t get through a week without a sighting of their beloved Daryl. All of a sudden, the character was interesting again and for some reason, vulnerable once more.
I’ve come to suspect that Daryl’s number is indeed back in the bag again, so to speak. Perhaps I’m wrong, and he was always at the whim and whimsy of that mad god Robert Kirkman, but the cynic in me refuses to believe it. There is a facet of the rabid TWD fanboy that I am who will always believe that for almost two seasons Daryl Dixon became the one untouchable character in a universe full of walking corpses and always looming, ever present, imminent demise. It was good for AMC, and it was good for Norman Reedus and that’s just fine. There is incidentally, a character who near as I can tell, shouldn’t be up for grabs, as I feel this character is the basis for the entire story, in both comic and TV iteration. But I’ll save that for another time.
Even so, I need AMC to go ahead and drive the point home. Feed the hillbilly to a mega herd of walkers and I’ll be convinced the scales are even again, and every character is riding that edge on the precipice of life, death…and walking death. As entertaining as I find him, even if only for his consistent Daryl-ness, I need the writers to put this dude down already.
There are amazing characters waiting in the wings of the main continuity, and there needs to be room made for them. There are several characters that will make fine right hand people for Rick Grimes as his persona and that of those around him continue to evolve. The time of the noble savage has come and gone. It doesn’t mean I dislike him. Norman Reedus has cemented his pop culture legacy regardless of what happens this season or any other. Daryl is a geek culture superstar and Mr. Reedus is the man responsible. A fine job, sir, and I have no doubt you will go on to bigger and better things. But Mr. Dixon as a character needs to go.
It’s nothing personal; you understand…you just don’t mess with the franchise.