Spoilers below for the series premiere of The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon, so be warned if you haven’t yet watched!
The Walking Dead franchise has offered up a variety of TV and video game spinoffs that, for the most part, have felt largely like mirrored extensions of the O.G. live-action series, though each has offered up something unique enough to stand apart. Fear’s genre shifts, Dead City’s Maggie and Negan pairing, Tales’ anthological nature, and World Beyond’s lore-building were, for me, those standout elements. And while I fully expected The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon to be more of the same, albeit with more accents, the France-set offshoot immediately feels like the most distinct follow-up, despite being fronted by longtime fan-fave Norman Reedus.
Ahead of its premiere, TWD: Daryl Dixon garnered beaucoup critical acclaim for various reasons, from the unmistakably French setting to the excellence of Reedus’ new co-star, Harry Potter vet Clémence Poésy, as the English-speaking foil for the ocean-crossing American. The lengthy first episode delivers many fun, exciting, and (naturally) disturbing moments, and also inspired quite a few questions and ponderings about the new sights and sounds, and where the story may be going next.
What Were The “Bad Decisions” That Led Daryl To France?
There's no doubt that creator David Zabel, EP Scott Gimple and others on the creative team wanted to start things off by keeping Daryl's arrival in France a mystery, and that backstory was only hinted at a few times during "L'ame Perdue." Reedus' character shared the explanation that "bad decisions" led him from North America to Europe, and the final scene in Northern France clued audiences into the vessel that Daryl was on before he went overboard and was presumed dead. But why was he on that ship in the first place, and what was the research that he apparently destroyed? (And wouldn't destroying any kind of research into the virus in this universe also count as a bad decision?)
And How Exactly Did Daryl Cross A Whole Ass Ocean?
Is the idea that Daryl somehow made it onto that ship from the U.S., and then things went haywire very late in the trip as they were somewhere closer to the vicinity of France's southern region? If so, I have questions about that. If not, then I want to know how he made it all the way to whatever point he connected with the people on that ship. I would also love to know how and why he tied himself to the bottom of that boat, and how he stayed alive through even an hour of that.
Where Did Burners Come From, And What Other Kinds Of Walkers Are There?
With France having previously been revealed as the ground zero for the zombie outbreak, fans knew that this spinoff would feature some truly unique walkers. The first variation that we (and Daryl) were introduced to were acidic monsters dubbed Burners, one of which burned the protagonists arm just by grabbing him. That alone makes me wonder what the science is there, and at what point this strain of zombies pivoted away from the "norm," as it were. I'm also curious to know what other threats are out there, though that doesn't mean I'm not also interested in seeing more chaos caused by the Burners. Maybe we can get some kind of homage to Alien by way of caustic bodily fluids. (It wouldn't be the first reference to the iconic sci-fi franchise.)
Will Daryl And Sister Isabelle Hook Up?
While this spinoff was originally meant to co-star Melissa McBride as TWD fave Carol, the actress exited the project early on for personal reasons, thus giving The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon cast member Clémence Poésy the chance to fill that void. Daryl obviously hasn't been shown to have had a whole lot of romance in his post-apocalyptic existence, and we all know how things went with Leah. And after seeing the chemistry between Reedus and Poésy in just this one episode, I'm already anticipating a swath of Daryl and Isabelle memes, fan-fiction, and over-the-top support. Isaberyl? Darybelle? I'm into either.
At What Point Do Large Groups Of Walkers Suddenly Grow Dormant?
Not a huge question here, but Daryl's encounter with Burners took place in a large building that initially seemed empty, until the point when one noisy walker drew a dozen or so from what would have seemingly been hibernation. At what point did all of the walkers in that building decide to just hunker down and relax for a while instead of trying to get out or walking around in circles or other things we've seen the undead do despite being in one place for long periods of time.
Will Laurent Turn Daryl Into A Father (Daddy) Figure?
The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon crafted quite a lovely moment ahead of introducing Louis Puech Scigliuzzi's potentially genius youth Laurent, in which the nun-reared orphan mimicked Daryl eating an apple from afar. Their conversation right after was also kind of adorable, with Laurent taking quick interest in a new male presence in the abbey, despite Daryl's lack of Rubik's Cube talents. To say nothing of the idea that this involves the kid's vision, I'm interested to see how their relationship pans out over time, and whether it makes Norman Reedus' character come off as more of a father figure, rather than like the cool uncle role that he filled for Judith. Those two could teach each other some things, I tell you what.
How Far Is The Show’s New Messiah Arc Going To Go?
While The Walking Dead has sometimes hinted at themes and ideas that go beyond secular reality, the franchise has largely steered clear of veering too hard into supernatural or otherworldly territory, and for the sake of this entry, that includes incorporating religious miracles and the like. But the premiere quickly sets up the plot point that Laurent predicted Daryl's arrival, that they were waiting for him, and that he already had the nickname The Messenger. Because Laurent is an extremely logical and whip-smart kid, the nuns at the abbey are seemingly of the belief that he will serve as the virus-stricken world's new messiah. I don't imagine this will be a narrative avenue that will be explored too thoroughly, all things considered, but the fact that it exists in the first place has me equally perplexed and intrigued. (And don't think I missed the religious symbology of everything going to shit after Daryl ate an apple.)
Who Is The Violent Group That Massacred The Nuns?
The bulk of the human body count in Daryl Dixon involved a new group of antagonists who have been leaving "Pouvoir des Vivants" graffiti along with a symbol. They're shown to be known and feared by those in the area, from the nuns to the pair of shitbirds who double-crossed Daryl. The leader is apparently a gruff bastard named Codron (Romain Levi), and his brother was one of the men killed during the initial skirmish, so he's out for revenge on top of already being involved with a deadly group. So what's their deal? Are they after something in particular, or are they more of the same kind of testosterone-fueled douchebags who think they can control the world through nothing but muscle and bullets?
I know I'll be watching Daryl Dixon's next five episodes to see how all of this plays out ahead of the already ordered Season 2, and whether it will directly connect with other upcoming Walking Dead shows like Rick and Michonne's spinoff or to Dead City's second season.