TV Review: The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon – Series Premiere

Aaron Neuwirth reviews the series premiere of The Walking Dead: Darl Dixon, the spin-off series that features Norman Reedus' fan-favorite character fighting zombies in France.

When we last saw Norman Reedus’ Daryl Dixon, he was exiting The Walking Dead searching for his pal Rick Grimes, whom he is convinced is still alive. Never mind why he’s intent on believing it (regardless of how much we, the audience, know); that’s his goal. Well, looking at the premiere of Daryl Dixon, the latest Walking Dead spin-off, it doesn’t appear that Daryl will be reaching his BFF anytime soon. Stranded in France and getting into what seems to be another Last of Us situation, Daryl has a journey ahead of him that will supply at least a few seasons worth of European travel.

If it’s not clear by now, Norman Reedus has a lot of fans. Daryl Dixon is a fan-favorite character, and Reedus has conducted himself in a way that gets a lot of people excited, whether it’s his real-life interactions (the guy seems very self-effacing) or when he’s hitting the road on another season of Ride with Norman Reedus on AMC (in which the network pays the man to ride around with celebrities on their motorcycles to ideally keep him happy between seasons of zombie smashing). None of that is bad, but now we have the ultimate test of whether or not a season focused only on Daryl can deliver what fans want.

See Also: TV Review: The Walking Dead: Dead City – Series Premiere

Daryl Dixon

Well, that’s not entirely true. We’re not even halfway into the season premiere, “L’ame Perdue,” before there are already at least four other characters we’ll be learning more about. Granted, I didn’t expect Daryl Dixon to go the Cast Away route and leave us with just one guy for 40ish minutes at a time (though my version of the show, Daryl, Dog, and Motorcycle, would have been just that and ruled!). Still, given the way Reedus has developed a pretty good handle on playing quietly brooding, it does seem like a lot of potential may have been left on the ground. Even one episode of Daryl hiking it around post-apocalyptic France would have been nice (Will Forte got away with something similar in The Last Man on Earth).

Regardless, this is the show, and fortunately, it’s a pretty decent start. Things are fortunately kept vague enough to not feel as though we are being inundated with information. At the same time, the haziness of Daryl’s side of the story provides enough intrigue. Sure, there are some plot contrivances as far as why a big bad villain is already established, but by the end of this premiere episode, we have a goal in mind for our lead character and an understanding of why there are a couple of people with him, and a clear threat that he may need to be aware of during this journey.

The plotting is presented pretty clearly. Daryl awakens off the coast of France, tied to a boat. Once washed ashore, he scrounges up some supplies and travels across the foreign land. Attempting to trade supplies for food goes disastrously, as Daryl fights off a couple of guerrilla soldiers, only to be betrayed by those he was defending. Fortunately, Sister Isabelle (Clémence Poésy) saves Daryl and brings him to an abbey. Here, some new complications arise in the form of Laurent (Louis Pucech Scigliuzzi).

Daryl Dixon

This young boy factors into some sort of prophecy that may mean he is the new messiah who can lead the revival of humanity. Now, if you’re like me, this is where eyes may have started to roll a bit. Dary is certainly not convinced, especially when told he’s a part of said prophecy as “the one” who will help deliver this child to where he needs to go. Naturally, there’s a rejection of the call straight out of Joseph Conrad’s Hero’s Journey, only for new circumstances to prompt Daryl into helping the boy and Isabelle by having them tag along with him. He has to head up to the port city anyway.

Why is any of this section of the episode fun? Beyond the interest that comes with seeing nuns in an abbey behaving in certain ways that feel off-kilter, this is also an episode of television that climaxes with this same group of nuns using French Revolution-era weapons to battle off a small squad of guerillas. I may not know what the rest of this series has in mind, but director Daniel Percival and writer David Zabel don’t just throw in a sequence like this to tell you the show will not have more ridiculous fun like this.

Of course, in the context of the show, it’s all gloomy and sad. The Walking Dead has rarely attempted to stray too far from its nihilistic tendencies. However, in the sturdy hands of Daryl Dixon, at least we could get more in the realm of B-movie pleasures akin to the Snake Plisken-like love these showrunners clearly seem to have when it comes to the setups of these recent spin-offs. That would be a big help, given how thoroughly well-regarded HBO’s The Last of Us is. Already having so many shows where Pedro Pascal guides an innocent through alien-like worlds, Daryl could be the added muscle needed to keep things interested in Europe.

Daryl Dixon

Oh, and by the way, this is still a zombie show. They have a bit of a presence early on when Daryl finds himself fighting a small group of walkers in a shop. The twist, however, is that these new walkers have a burning touch and acid-like blood. I don’t know if we’re suddenly getting into xenomorph territory, but Daryl will now have to be extra cautious as he continues his French displacement.

So, there’s a solid start here. The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon was a curious idea, given the setting, and I’m pleased with what we have so far. I appreciated the clarity and the undercurrent of knowing fun it seems to have about this whole setup. Reedus is also in fine form, leaning into his stoicism in the right ways while still tossing off a line or two that helps propel certain moments. I hope we get more zombie action, not just the latest line of “bad guys who are bad because that’s what they are,” but plenty of episodes are left to see. For now, I’m happy to keep riding with Daryl Dixon.

Daryl Dixon

Dead Bits:

  • Zombie Kill of the Week: Daryl smashes a harpoon through a table to kill a walker, only for him to repeatedly bonk the walker’s head on the table, trying to recover the spear. Good stuff.
  • The bad guy is Codron (Romain Levi), whose brother is dead, and now he wants revenge. He also seems to be in charge of some kind of militia, but to what end?
  • The other threat – the ship crew Daryl was with before being thrown overboard. They are still a presence and want to confirm that one man could not survive being stuck at sea. Clearly, they don’t know Daryl Dixon.
  • So what’s causing these burning zombies to exist?
  • Clémence Poésy is a fun get for this show, and the whole “comparing scars” scene suggests we have more to understand about her wayward past.
  • Daryl doesn’t do Rubick’s Cubes.
  • Those nuns had quite the armory.
  • Those nuns also locked a zombie priest in a room, hoping he would be turned back. Yeah…that didn’t happen.
  • Thanks for reading, and feel free to hear what me and a few other fans of the show have to say about the series on The Walking Dead TV Podcast.

The Waking Dead: Dead City airs on AMC and AMC+.

Daryl Dixon

Daryl Dixon

Written by
Aaron Neuwirth is a movie fanatic and Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic from Orange County, California. He’s a member of the Hollywood Critics Association, the Online Film Critics Society, and the Black Film Critics Circle. As an outgoing person who is always thrilled to discuss movies, he’s also a podcaster who has put far too many hours into published audio content associated with film and television. His work has been published at We Live Entertainment, Why So Blu, The Young Folks, Screen Rant, and Hi-Def Ninja.

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