The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon may not quite deliver an adrenaline rush to the heart of the stagnant Walking dead franchise, but the new six-episode series is definitely the television equivalent of a café au lait and a tarte tatin.
It’s reassuring and familiar, with a European twist that along with its light buzz brings an aura of class. The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon is easily the best version of Walking dead telling stories since the early seasons of the mothership. And because it can be easily jumped into with little or no background knowledge, it presents the rare opportunity for the brand to welcome new or long-standing viewers.
The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon
It comes down to
Brings the franchise back to life.
If someone has found it before Walking dead spin-offs are repetitive and boring and who’s never really been the biggest fan of Norman Reedus’ Daryl Dixon character, I’m as shocked as anyone by this one: The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon is a decent little show and has several moments that are significantly better than that.
Created by David Zabel (Grace Street) and in early episodes directed by Daniel Percival (The state within), the series begins with Daryl Dixon doing the dishes on a beach in France. You might write, “It’s like the D(aryl)-Day invasion!” in your notes and think you’re smart, but don’t worry… the show had the same thought and you’ll get tired of that analogy eventually.
How did Daryl end up on the beach in France? Short answer: what does it matter? It’s Daryl Dixon in France, man! Long answer: wait four or five episodes and eventually you’ll get your answer and THEN you can say, ‘Who cares? It’s Daryl Dixon in France, man! Does Daryl even remember how he ended up in France? I’m not quite sure.
Anyway, Daryl washes up on the beach in France and soon discovers that things are somewhat similar to the continent he left behind. The streets and towns are largely deserted, and if you spend too much time anywhere, zombies will eventually emerge to play. However, these are not the ordinary walkers. They’re a little faster, a little more aggressive, and their viscous bodily fluids are somehow acidic. Ew! How did that evolution take place? Patience, my friend!
After a run-in with one of the many militaristic factions prowling the beautifully yellowed French countryside – which can be seen everywhere in an impressive number of drone shots – Daryl ends up in a monastery. There, a serious nun with a mysterious past (Clémence Poésy’s Isabelle) introduces Daryl to Laurent (Louis Puech Scigliuzzi), a 12-year-old boy with an unnatural empathy and a backstory that leads some people to think he might be the last hope of the humanity is. Isabelle hopes that Daryl will join her in taking Laurent on a treacherous journey to a resistance stronghold, a path that will take them – plus Laika Blanc Francard’s Sylvie, a nun whose entire character keeps forgetting the show – through Paris, among other places.
It’s here you think, “Wait, a gruff loner on an odyssey protecting an innocent, possibly Messianic child?” How bad The last of us!” And believe me, you don’t know half of it. Laurent’s origin story and the TV origin story for Bella Ramsey’s Ellie are virtually identical. But at least the show repeats stories from another zombie-focused fictional universe, rather than just the Walking dead greatest hits, such as The Walking Dead: Dead City.
There are still plenty Walking dead echoes, in part because Daryl Dixon apparently has one basic arc, which played out dozens of times in the original series and is mapped into similar loops here. You see, Daryl comes across as, well, a grumpy loner, but given enough time – five minutes should be enough – his inner softie can lovingly come to the surface, before retreating and returning and retreating and returning . It’s entirely to Reedus’ credit that the misanthropic Daryl and the empathetic Daryl coexist believably even after all this time.
The added wrinkle here forces the unrefined Daryl to navigate a new world where he doesn’t understand the culture or the language or, often, the prevailing religion. It’s a running joke – and unlike some parts of the Walking dead World, this show has funny bits – that every French character comes to Daryl speaking French, finds out he’s American, and then enthusiastically welcomes him into variations of perfect English that they’re eager to speak themselves. That’s how you know The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon is a fantasy.
Alongside Reedus, an effectively haunted Poésy, and an annoyingly precocious (by design) Scigliuzzi, the international supporting cast is very good, including Anne Charrier as an Evita-esque politician and Romain Levi as a glowing soldier hunting down Daryl.
unlike Dead citythat wasted the opportunity to create an entirely different tone and visual language by reducing the urban environment to sound stages and urban scenes so CG-enhanced they could be anywhere, The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon gets real value from filming in France. Sure, there’s a little too much, ‘Look, it’s the Eiffel Tower! Here we are at Père Lachaise!” in the Paris scenes, but it’s still a clever way to reflect that Paris is a city where the living and the dead are always mixed together. You actually believe, and even embrace, that this series is actually set somewhere and not just some corner of rural Georgia with a slightly different topography than a location explorer.
The French background facilitates eccentricities such as a bizarre concert hall with a unique orchestra, an extended cameo by Jean-Pierre Jeunet regular Dominique Pinon, and an underground cabaret accompanied by Drag race France Paloma winner. The distinctive delights are not exclusively of French taste, mind you. Sometimes The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon is just a badass zombie show, and there are warrior nuns, disturbing gladiatorial combat clubs, and creepy undead kids, if you’re into that sort of thing. In addition, Daryl gains a new weapon of choice, one that matches the environment.
consistently, The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon takes the elements of the brand that have felt worn out in recent incarnations — like the episode-by-episode visits to various outposts of civilization, where we’re reminded that humans can be just as scary as walkers — and breathes new life into them just enough . Despite Daryl taking center stage, the series doesn’t hang on to what came before, though Melissa McBride’s fleeting deployment of Carol suggests the series will stick around more in seasons to come. I don’t need that. More The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon becomes ordinary The living Dead, the less surprising it will be. For these six episodes, the standalone fun is the biggest surprise of all.