|The Walking Dead character|
|First appearance||"Tell It to the Frogs"|
|Created by||Frank Darabont
Charles H. Eglee
|Portrayed by||Norman Reedus|
|Family||Will Dixon (father; deceased)
Unnamed (mother; deceased)
Merle Dixon (brother; deceased)
Daryl Dixon is a fictional character from the horror drama television series The Walking Dead, which airs on AMC in the United States and is based on the comic book series of the same name. He was created by writers Frank Darabont, Charles H. Eglee and Jack LoGiudice specifically for Norman Reedus after they liked his audition so much for Merle Dixon that they created an additional character for him. The character was introduced in the first season as a Southern expert tracker who constantly lives in the shadow of his older brother, Merle. Despite his ill temper and volatility, he is tolerated by the core group of survivors due to his skills in hunting animals and fearless efficiency in killing zombies (dubbed "walkers" in the series).
After Merle's disappearance, Daryl begins to shed his aloof personality and starts to bond with the group, particularly Carol Peletier after her daughter's disappearance, and Beth Greene after the two are split off together in Season 4. The character eventually becomes the cooperative right-hand man and protector of protagonist Rick Grimes and leads several supply runs. He is one of the longest-surviving characters of the television series, and one of the characters that does not have a counterpart in the comics. His origin is explored in the 2013 video game The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct.
Daryl has been well-received among fans and critics. Reedus was initially a member of the recurring cast, before he was upgraded to a series regular in the second season.
Fictional character biography
In their childhood, Daryl and his older brother, Merle, lived with an abusive, alcoholic father, Will. He was raised by Merle, though Merle was often away (sometimes serving time in juvenile institutions). Daryl spent significant periods of time alone and, throughout these lonely periods, learned to fend for himself and adopted a hard-boiled survivalist mindset ("Save the Last One") When the outbreak occurs he and Merle fend for themselves and drift around avoiding walkers.
While it is implied in season 1 that he may share his brother's racist beliefs, they are not apparent. This suggests that he may have overcome them after being forced to work with the group. However, the motorcycle that Daryl rides throughout much of season 2 bears an insignia used by the Schutzstaffel that is commonly featured in Nazi and white supremacist ideology, but is also a common motif in biker culture with no intended racist overtones, worn for shock value, as a rejection of conventional social values, and as part of the culture that started with biker gangs of the 1940s and 50s, which often consisted of World War II veterans who wore the German helmets and uniform accessories they had brought back from Europe. In season 2, Daryl states to Dale that the motorcycle was Merle's by saying "Keep your dirty, oily rags off my brother's motorcycle". In the final episode of season 2, he jokes that he could identify Glenn by his driving, due to Glenn being Asian (a joke which Glenn laughs off). Daryl usually has a serious demeanor, but occasionally makes wry comments and jokes to break the tension. By season 3, he has become a responsible, trusted and loyal member of the group. His priorities are tested when he learns that his brother is still alive and working for an opposing group.
In the episode "Tell It to the Frogs", Daryl first appears furious when the scavenging survivors, along with Rick, return to the campsite without Merle. Daryl becomes upset with Rick for handcuffing Merle to a roof, and with T-Dog, who admits to dropping the key down a drain. He, Rick, Glenn, and T-Dog soon head back into the city to rescue Merle, only to find his severed hand in the place where he had been left. In the episode "Vatos", Daryl grieves for his brother for a short time before managing to bottle up his emotions and continuing to put on his usual strong appearance. While he and the others search the streets for any sign of Merle, they run into a band of thugs, one of whom is captured by the group and threatened numerous times by Daryl. After realizing that the "thugs" are merely nursing home employees and intend no harm, they return to the camp. Shortly following their return, walkers invade the campsite and kill many of the survivors before Daryl and the others help kill the walkers.
In the episode "Wildfire", the following morning, Daryl helps impale, carry, and burn the dead (one of whom he allows Carol to impale because he was her abusive husband). When the survivors find out that Jim has been bitten, Rick thwarts Daryl's attempts to kill Jim. Instead, Daryl is convinced to let Jim die peacefully in the woods per Jim's wishes. In the season finale "TS-19", Daryl and the others briefly find respite at the CDC, enjoying the luxuries the facility has to offer, including hot water and couches to sleep on. He enjoys dinner and wine with everyone and learns about TS-19 and Dr. Jenner's work, as well as the fall of the CDC's infrastructure. He is enraged when Jenner attempts to lock them inside the building, which is nearing self-destruction and attempts to kill Jenner. The group is successfully able to escape due to Rick's hand grenade (which Carol had found in Rick's uniform while doing laundry and saved), which shatters the windows. Daryl drives off as the ruins burn.
In season 2, Daryl is shown to be calmer and more cooperative and has developed fledgling friendships with various group members. He also reveals a more compassionate side, defending fellow group members' lives from zombies on multiple occasions and assisting them in their times of need. He slowly begins to form a bond with Carol, who was previously a victim of abuse like he was. It is he who searches the most for Carol's missing daughter, Sophia, and refuses to give up.
In the season premiere "What Lies Ahead", Carol's daughter Sophia is separated from the rest of the group at the highway when walkers attack, and Daryl and Rick go looking for her but do not find her. In the episode "Bloodletting", Daryl continues searching for Sophia with Lori, Glenn, Carol, Daryl, and Andrea. Daryl later reveals that he has a bag full of painkillers and antibiotics left over from Merle, which he gives to Dale to treat the injured T-Dog. In the episode "Save the Last One", Daryl and Andrea continue the search for Sophia. In the episode "Cherokee Rose", the group moves their camp from the highway to Hershel's farm. When Carol is despondent due to the prolonged search for Sophia, Daryl gives her a flower, and she is visibly moved by his heartfelt speech that he gives to her about hope and keeping strong. In the episode "Chupacabra", Daryl borrows one of Hershel's horses (without asking) to continue the search and finds Sophia's doll. When a snake spooks the horse, Daryl is thrown down a hillside and he is wounded by one of his crossbow bolts. He hallucinates Merle taunting him and criticizing him for joining Rick's group and searching for Sophia but not him. Daryl manages to climb the hill and stagger back to the farm. Andrea mistakes him for a walker and shoots him, grazing him in the head and knocking him unconscious. When he wakes up, Carol befriends him and encourages him to think better of himself. In the episode "Secrets", while Daryl recuperates from his injuries, Andrea gives him a book as an apology. In the mid-season finale "Pretty Much Dead Already", Glenn tells the group that Hershel's barn is full of walkers. When Shane later breaks open the barn, Daryl helps kill the walkers as they file out. The last walker to come out of the barn is Sophia, forcing the group to realize that she had been killed and reanimated as a walker and that they were searching for her in the wilderness while she was really in the barn. Carol collapses in shock and grief, and Daryl comforts her, as Rick is forced to kill Sophia.
In the mid-season premiere "Nebraska", he becomes emotionally detached from everyone and refuses to go out looking for people anymore. In the episode "Triggerfinger", Carol attempts to bring him back into the fold of the group, much to his frustration, and he attempts to avoid the group as much as possible, especially Carol. In the episode "Judge, Jury, Executioner", Daryl helps Rick and Shane with their prisoner, Randall by interrogating him. Daryl later shoots Dale out of mercy when he is fatally attacked by a walker, as Rick is hesitant to kill him. In the episode "Better Angels", when Randall goes missing, Glenn and Daryl go looking in the woods for him. They find him reanimated as a walker and kill him, and are puzzled when it appears he died of a broken neck and they can't find any bite marks on him. In the season finale "Beside the Dying Fire", when Lori begs Daryl to go search for Rick and Shane, the group notices a herd approaching the farm. The farm is ultimately overrun, and Daryl is forced to flee with Carol, and they later meet up with the other survivors on the highway. Daryl tells Rick that Randall did not die of bite wounds, and Rick tells the whole group that Dr. Jenner revealed to him that everyone turns to a walker when they die. Daryl rebuffs Carol's attempts to convince him that they should go it alone when Rick's leadership is in doubt. Daryl asks Carol what she really wants, and she declares she wants "a man of honor"; Daryl responds, "Rick's got honor."
In the season premiere "Seed", Daryl and Rick find a prison complex while hunting. He helps the group clear out parts of the prison, but when they search a darkened area, Hershel is bit on the ankle by a walker. The group drags him to the prison cafeteria where Rick amputates Hershel's leg below the knee, and Daryl notices that five surviving prisoners are watching them. In the episode "Sick", Daryl, T-Dog, and Rick agree to help the prisoners (Tomas, Andrew, Oscar, Axel, and Big Tiny) clear out their own cellblock. Big Tiny is killed, and when Tomas and Andrew try to ambush Rick, Rick kills Tomas and chases Andrew into a courtyard filled with walkers, leaving him for dead. In the episode "Killer Within", Andrew, having survived, draws walkers into the prison courtyard, resulting in the deaths of Lori and T-Dog. Daryl and Oscar find Andrew struggling with Rick, and Oscar shoots Andrew before he can kill Rick. In the episode "Say the Word", while Rick goes off coming to terms with his wife's death, Daryl takes charge, and with Maggie's help, saves the newborn Judith by finding baby formula. When he thinks that Carol is dead, he puts a single Cherokee Rose on her grave. This is the flower that he gave her to give her hope in finding her daughter Sophia. In the episode "Hounded", Daryl finds a walker killed by Carol's knife, and then finds her alive. In the episode "When the Dead Come Knocking", Daryl witnesses Michonne being brought into the prison, and then directs Rick, Hershel, and Carl to a reunion with Carol. Rick and Daryl interrogate Michonne, who reveals that Maggie and Glenn have been captured and taken to Woodbury, a town ruled by The Governor. When Rick thanks him for saving Judith, Daryl merely says "It's what we do." Rick decides to take Daryl, Oscar, and Michonne with him to Woodbury. In the mid-season finale "Made to Suffer", during the group's attack on Woodbury, Daryl shoots (and kills) two Woodbury guards. Later the group finds out that Merle is working for the Governor, and Daryl is captured when he goes searching for his brother. After accusing Merle of treason, The Governor orders the brothers to fight to the death in the Woodbury arena, with its citizens surrounding them and screaming with blood lust.
In the mid-season premiere "The Suicide King", Daryl and Merle escape after intervention from Rick and Maggie. Eventually, the present group members disagree with letting Merle back in. When Merle antagonizes the group, Rick knocks him out as they further discuss his re-entry. It is decided that they will not welcome Merle back; in response, Daryl leaves with Merle. In the episode "Home", Daryl saves a Mexican family from walkers with minimal help from Merle. Following the rescue, Merle attempts to loot the family's car but Daryl stops him. Daryl decides to go back to the prison; he and Merle get into an argument as Daryl walks away. Merle accidentally rips his shirt, revealing childhood scars on Daryl's back from their dad. Daryl hurriedly covers his back and walks off. Merle is hesitant to follow, as he knows he will never be accepted into the group, but he follows. They save Rick outside the prison when a herd of walkers are let loose by the Governor and his followers. In the episode "I Ain't a Judas", Daryl defends Merle's presence at the prison to the rest of the group. In the episode "Arrow on the Doorpost", Hershel and Daryl go along for support as Rick meets with the Governor to make an arrangement; Hershel spends the time conversing with Milton while Daryl banters with Martinez. In the episode "This Sorrowful Life", after Merle is killed by the Governor and becomes a walker, Daryl is forced to put him down. He takes the death with difficulty, crying and falling to the ground. In the season finale "Welcome to the Tombs", when the Governor brings a militia to attack the prison, the group fights them off and they flee. Rick, Daryl, and Michonne pursue them on foot, and find Karen, the only survivor of The Governor's militia after he slaughtered them. They go to Woodbury, where Tyreese and Sasha let them in. They find Andrea, dying from a walker bite, and say goodbye before she shoots herself with Rick's gun.
In the season premiere "30 Days Without an Accident", Daryl has become popular among the growing population at the prison for his proficiency at hunting. Daryl goes on a supply run with Sasha, Tyreese, Glenn, Michonne, Zach (Beth's new boyfriend), and Bob, who Daryl found on the road a week earlier. Zach is bitten by a walker and killed, and when Daryl tells Beth the bad news she does not seem upset but does hug Daryl. In the episode "Infected", Daryl helps clear out the cellblock when walkers attack, and the group finds out that a deadly infection is spreading among the population. Daryl and the rest of the prison's council agrees to start quarantining the sick, including Karen and another prisoner named David. In the episode "Isolation", when Tyreese goes looking for Karen and finds the burned bodies of Karen and David, he shows Rick, Daryl, and Carol. Daryl, Michonne, Bob, and Tyreese head to a veterinary college in search of antibiotics. On the car radio they hear a message offering sanctuary at a place called Terminus before the car is swarmed by walkers and they are forced to flee on foot. In the episode "Indifference", Bob confides his alcoholism to Daryl. They retrieve the medicine from the college, but Bob is nearly pulled into a group of walkers when they grab his bag. When Daryl finds a bottle of alcohol in the bag, he threatens Bob not to have a drink before treating the sick. In the episode "Internment", they return to the prison with the medicine, and Bob administers the antibiotics. In the mid-season finale "Too Far Gone", Rick tells Daryl that he banished Carol from the prison because she killed Karen and David. They go to tell Tyreese about this, but they are interrupted by the sound of an explosion before they can tell him. During the Governor's second assault on the prison, Daryl helps fend off the attackers, even blowing up a tank. Daryl escapes the prison with Beth.
In the episode "Inmates", after the group is split, Daryl and Beth are on the run together. Daryl acts despondent and says very little as they sit by a campfire. In the episode "Still", Beth and Daryl then find a moonshine shed much like the place Daryl grew up in, and stay for a bit. They get drunk and play a game of "Never Have I Ever", which leads to Daryl yelling at Beth after he gets offended by a question asked by Beth. He then drags her outside to shoot at a walker and gets into an argument about whether anyone else survived the prison attack or not. After they talk a bit and before they left they burn the house down with the moonshine and some money. As it burns they flip it off. In the episode "Alone", Daryl and Beth come across a funeral home, where they start to form a bond. When Beth asks Daryl what made him change his mind about whether there are still good people around, he simply stares at her, implying that she was the reason he changed his mind. Their moment is interrupted when Daryl hears what he thought was a dog at the door and opens it only to reveal a walker herd. Daryl fights off the herd, but Beth gets kidnapped in the chaos. Daryl runs after the car until morning, but stops after he comes to a fork in the road. He is then approached by a group of bandits led by Joe, and decides to join them when given the choice between joining their group or being killed. In the episode "Us", Daryl travels with Joe's group, learning its rules about who "claims" what and that they are tracking a man who recently killed one of their own. He also comes to aggressive odds with a member of the group when they indirectly mention Beth saying "I bet it's a bitch that's got you messed up" which almost prompts Daryl to kill the other member. In the season finale "A", Joe's group eventually catches up to the man they are tracking, who turns out to be Rick, along with Michonne and Carl and captures them. Daryl pleads with Joe to spare them as they are "good people". Joe calls him a liar and has two men try to beat him to death. However, when Joe informs Rick that the group is going to rape Michonne and Carl before killing him, Rick surprises everyone by biting out a chunk of Joe's neck, killing him. The distraction allows Daryl and Michonne to kill their captors while Rick disembowels Carl's captor. In the aftermath, Daryl tells Rick what had happened to him and Beth after the prison assault. Rick then states that the two are brothers. The group makes their way to Terminus, a supposed safe haven. A stealthy infiltration into Terminus still results in the small group being captured. The Terminus crew lead by Gareth directs Rick, Daryl, Michonne, and Carl to a boxcar, where they find Glenn, Maggie, Sasha, Bob as well as Sgt. Abraham Ford Dr. Eugene Porter, Rosita Espinosa and Tara Chambler.
In the episode "No Sanctuary", shortly after being captured the group plots their escape, as Daryl tells Maggie what happened to Beth, from the train cars the Terminus crew drops tear gas in from the roof and had Daryl, Rick, Glenn and Bob taken to a slaughter room where 4 other survivors have their throats sliced. As Bob fails to reason with Gareth telling him Eugene has a cure to the walker plague an explosion caused by Carol and a subsequent invading walker herd distracts Gareth's attention and Rick gets free and kills the butchers. Rick leads Daryl, Glenn and Bob back to the others where they escape Terminus as it is overrun by a walker herd and begins to burn down. Once outside the group runs into Carol who Daryl runs up to and hugs her and watches as Rick and Carl are reunited with Judith as are Tyreese and Sasha. The group then marches away as Rick changes the Terminus signs changing them to "no sanctuary". In the episode "Strangers", the group continues to move along the forest but are distracted by a cry for help from Father Gabriel Stokes, who immediately strikes them all as suspicious after claiming to have not killed any walkers or people but leads them to his church where they set up shelter. While searching for supplies later with Carol the two find a car they manage to get working but Daryl sees the car that took Beth and he and Carol use the car to go after it. In the episode "Four Walls and a Roof", the next day, Daryl emerges from the bushes where Michonne asks where Carol is but Daryl tells an unseen person to come out.
Daryl's story is elaborated in the episode "Consumed", when Carol and he discover that cops have taken Beth. They lose track of the cops after their car fails to restart and nevertheless travel into Atlanta and locate the distinct car again on top of a parking lot next to the Grady Memorial hospital. While they sneak around and dodge walkers they encounter Noah, unbeknownst to them a resident and survivor who met Beth. Noah holds them at gunpoint and forces them to surrender their weapons to him. Daryl and Carol comply and are left to deal with walkers freed by Noah to give him enough time to escape since he limps heavily. Daryl catches up with Noah eventually and charges him to the ground. A large book shelve collapses on Noah and keeps him trapped while it releases a walker who approaches a begging Noah to save him. Daryl reluctantly complies with Carol's pleas for Noah's life. After Daryl sends an arrow through the walker's head Noah shares his story and whereabouts concerning Beth. When the group now is about to leave the building, two cops hit Carol with their car, seriously injuring her and leaving her unconscious. The cops take Carol away. Noah calms Daryl, that they have will take care of her medically. Daryl vows to return for her with the rest of the survivors countering Noah's argument that the cops have too much firepower to overwhelm them and Daryl leaves with Noah, revealing that he is the person Daryl brings back to the church.
In the episode "Crossed", Daryl, Rick, Tyreese, Sasha and Noah gear up and head to Atlanta to retrieve Beth and Carol only to face complications with Officer Dawn Lerner's police subordinates Sgt. Bob Lamson and Officers Shepherd and Lacari. The group captures the 3 officers and Daryl suggests trading them for Beth and Carol. Lacari briefly causes trouble almost killing Rick with a walker. Daryl saves him but Lamson escapes after distracting Sasha. In the episode "Coda", Rick consults with Daryl about their deal, how Lamson was the only one to support the plan and he tried to escape. However Sheppard and Lacari tell Daryl and Rick to keep going with the plan, and tell Dawn that Lamson was killed by walkers. The group observed Rick's offer to more of Dawn's police officers where Daryl was positioned with a sniper rifle in-case things went south. Eventually the group met Dawn and her police in the hospital where they traded Lacari and Shepherd for Beth and Carol but when Dawn demanded Noah back Beth stabbed Dawn, prompting her to shoot Beth. Immediately Daryl shot Dawn in the head before breaking down in tears and soon taking Beth's lifeless body outside where the rest of the group arrived in time to see.
Daryl is shown to be an expert marksman, but his signature weapon is a Stryker Strykezone 380 crossbow, which Reedus says he takes home after filming. He also uses a Busse Team Gemini Knife, and in a few episodes, particularly Beside the Dying Fire, can be seen using a Colt Official Police. In Vatos in the first season he used a shotgun, and he used an assault rifle in a few episodes including the season 4 mid-season finale Too Far Gone.
Development and reception
Daryl was originally a recurring character, but, due to his popularity, was upgraded to the main cast in season two. Reedus originally asked the writers and crew if Daryl could get a dog. His request was denied, and Daryl instead got a new crossbow.
As of season three, Daryl receives fourth place in top billing and has reached second place in top billing for seasons four and five, having become one of the main protagonists of the series. Fans follow the character, and Reedus in other roles. They have debated Daryl's sexual orientation and sexuality, especially with regard to Caryl (Carol and Daryl) and Bethyl (Beth and Daryl) shippers; some fans argue that he is heterosexual, while others argue that he is gay or bisexual. The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman stated that Daryl is heterosexual, but that the show has portrayed him as somewhat asexual. "I think that he's a very introverted character and I think that's somewhat his appeal. I do have to clear something up, though," said Kirkman. "In the Walking Dead letters column in the old comic book that I do, there was a question that made me mention that there was a possibility early on about making Daryl Dixon's character gay and it caused quite a hubbub online. I just wanted to make it clear that I was saying that the possibility is there and I would've been fine with it, the network would have been fine with it, but we ultimately didn't do that."
Entertainment Weekly featured Reedus as Daryl on the cover of an issue previewing season three of The Walking Dead. Additionally, Daryl won IGN's "Best TV Hero" of 2012, and the character was featured in a Super Bowl XLVII commercial for Time Warner Cable. For his performance as Daryl, Reedus won the People's Choice Award for Favorite TV Hero in 2014 and was nominated for the Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor on Television in 2011.
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