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Daryl Dixon is a refreshing spinoff with the franchise’s most compelling character

Screenshot from ‘The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon’ trailer | AMC

AMC’s new show “The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon” features its namesake Daryl, played by Norman Reedus, a long-time survivor of the show’s zombie apocalypse. Out of the three spin offs extending “The Walking Dead” universe, “Daryl Dixon” shows the most promise through its fresh ideas and a compelling protagonist.

Daryl begins his journey in France, which was hinted at as the origin of the zombie virus in a post-credits scene in “Walking Dead: World Beyond.”How he arrives, the show has yet to say, but it places him alone in an unfamiliar environment, with none of the previous cast to accompany him. 

But Daryl doesn’t need any support to hold his own. The protagonist pairs crossbow-shooting, zombie-killing badassery with emotional empathy that is rare to have within a zombie apocalypse. 

He embodies the greasy survivor archetype, but also touches the audience’s hearts with his unending loyalty to both justice and his community. Daryl has always been a fan favorite, and being thrust into a wildly new environment provides a refreshing outlook on both his character and “The Walking Dead” universe itself.

The greatest criticism of “The Walking Dead” was its excessive eleven seasons. The many eccentric personalities and love interests introduced would meet their demise as zombies, affectionately referred to as ‘walkers,’ only a few episodes or seasons later. 

While half of the cast was in an unfixed rotation because of this, Daryl remained consistent in his appearances, but he never received a fully-fledged character arc during the last seasons. This six-episode series will hopefully give him the development he needs, revealing a more nuanced character.

In an interview with EW, Reedus explained that he and the production team were “making art”, and the first episode does not disappoint. Complete with solid performances from the cast and the masterful direction by David Zabel, the first episode takes the appeal of the original show and refines it. 

Already with the departure of the entire original cast, the premiere of “The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon” is a more sophisticated and shining light on the zombie apocalypse in a refreshing way. One notable addition was a new, frightening evolution of the walkers – nine minutes into the first episode! An evolutional difference in walkers was something that was always teased, but never explicitly shown until the last season of “The Walking Dead.” 

In the past series, viewers watched as the protagonists disproved all “lofty” misconceptions of walkers: ranging from divine punishment to misguided, curable creatures. Here, though, Daryl is provided with a new mission; to escort pre-teen Laurent, played by Louis Puech Scigliuzzi, who is hailed as the “new Messiah,” towards Northern France. This concept may sound familiar to fans of “The Last of Us.” 

Accompanying him is Isabelle, a nun played by Clémence Poésy, whose strong religious background fuels the motivation for their travel. Religion is no stranger to “The Walking Dead” universe, but this time, Daryl considers a higher power because of these two characters. 

Despite reusing some familiar plot points, “The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon” provides veteran watchers with a new outlook on the zombie apocalypse universe and simultaneously gives its characters enough room to grow. All “The Walking Dead” fans should include this on their watchlist — if they can get through the first eleven seasons.

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