|The Walking Dead character|
|First appearance||"Tell It to the Frogs" (2010)|
|Created by||Frank Darabont |
Charles H. Eglee
|Portrayed by||Norman Reedus|
|Voiced by||Norman Reedus |
|Family||Will Dixon (father) |
Merle Dixon (brother)
Jess Collins (half-uncle)
Dog (pet dog)
Judith Grimes (adopted niece)
R.J. Grimes (adopted nephew)
Leah Shaw (ex-lover)
Daryl Dixon is a fictional character from AMC's horror drama series The Walking Dead. The character was created for the television series by writers Frank Darabont, Charles H. Eglee and Jack LoGiudice specifically for Norman Reedus, and does not have a counterpart in the comics on which the series is based. The character was introduced in the first season as a southerner, expert tracker, living in the shadow of his older brother, Merle. Despite his bad temper and volatility, he is tolerated by the core group of survivors due to his skills in hunting animals and fearless efficiency in killing walkers.
After Merle's disappearance, Daryl lets his guard down and starts to bond with the group, particularly Carol Peletier after her daughter's disappearance, and Beth Greene after the two split off together in season 4. The character 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. His origin is explored in the 2013 video game The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct, and he stars in the mobile game The Walking Dead: No Man's Land.
Daryl has been well–received by fans and critics. Initially a member of the recurring cast, Reedus was upgraded to series regular after the first season. Following Andrew Lincoln's departure as Rick, Reedus got top billing and took over as the series' main protagonist in season 9.
In September 2020, it was announced that Reedus and Melissa McBride will lead their own spin-off series set for a 2023 premiere, following the conclusion of The Walking Dead's eleventh and final season.
In their childhood, Daryl and his older brother, Merle, lived with their abusive, alcoholic father, Will. He was raised by Merle, though Merle was often away (serving time in juvenile institutions). Daryl had significant periods of time alone and, throughout these lonely periods, learned to fend for himself and adopted a hard-boiled survivalist mindset. When the outbreak occurs he and Merle fend for themselves and drift around, avoiding walkers. Unlike his brother, Daryl has never been to prison (as an inmate), and was offended when Beth revealed to him that she had believed he had during a drinking game ("Still").
During the first season and for much of the second, Daryl rides his brother Merle's Triumph Bonneville chopper with the Nazi German ᛋᛋ (Schutzstaffel) insignia prominently displayed on the fuel tank. In the final episode of the second season, Daryl jokes that he could identify Glenn by his driving, due to Glenn being Korean. Daryl usually has a serious demeanor, but occasionally makes wry comments and jokes to break the tension. By the third season, 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 Woodbury run by The Governor.
Daryl is first introduced in the episode "Tell It to the Frogs". Having been a hunter to secure wildlife for nourishment of the survivor group outside of Atlanta, he is furious to learn they left his brother Merle handcuffed to plumbing atop a skyscraper in the city, and puts most of his anger on Rick Grimes, the newcomer of the group. Daryl joins Rick and others to return to the city, finding that Merle escaped by cutting off his hand. Daryl becomes one of the group's key fighters, but falls in under Rick's orders as they abandon Atlanta, driving his brother's motorcycle.
The group settles onto Hershel Greene's farmstead as they look for Carol Peletier's missing daughter Sophia after a walker attack. Daryl aids in the search, and tries to help Carol cope with her feelings.
During one solo outing, he is knocked from a horse and suffers hallucinations of Merle, complaining that he is spending time searching for Sophia and not for him, before returning to the group. After Sophia is discovered to have already been turned in a walker and hidden away in Hershel's barn, Daryl helps Carol to cope with her loss. He helps protect the group as they deal with a potential threat of hostile survivors nearby, and to help evacuate the farm when it is overrun by walkers.
Rick's group find and secure a prison as a new shelter at the start of Season 3. In dealing with this, Rick's wife Lori dies after giving birth to her daughter, and Rick is devastated, having hallucinations of her and unable to make decisions. Daryl steps up to help lead the group alongside Hershel during Rick's lapse. His friendship with Carol strengthens after she was feared lost dealing with the walkers.
The group is forced to deal with the Governor from the nearby Woodbury community, who seeks to kill them and take their supplies for himself. In rescuing two of their allies kidnapped by the Governor, Daryl discovers Merle is still alive, having escaped Atlanta, but working for the Governor. After the Governor considers Merle a traitor, Daryl helps him to escape and returns with him to the prison. Rick's group knows the Governor seeks to capture Michonne or else attack the prison, but Rick's hallucinations leave him unable to make the decision, and Merle takes Michonne himself to the Governor, with Daryl following him after discovering his absence. Merle had a change of heart, lets Michonne go, and sacrificially ambushes the Governor's men. Daryl arrives to find the reanimated corpse of Merle, killed by the Governor, and cries as he is forced to put his brother down. Rick's group fends off a major attack by the Governor, driving him away, and bring the survivors of Woodbury to the prison.
Rick has recovered from Lori's death, and he, Daryl, and Hershel lead the growing population. A flu-like epidemic strikes the prison, killing many before a cure is found. Carol takes initiative to kill two who have shown signs of the flu in secret, and when Rick discovers this, evicts her from the group, upsetting Daryl.
The Governor, having obtained more men, launch a fatal assault on the prison, forcing the survivors to flee in separate groups. Daryl rescues Beth Greene, who is catatonic after watching the Governor behead her father Hershel. After days of traveling, Beth opens up to Daryl, and the two get drunk on moonshine as they talk about and let go of their pasts. A few days later, the two are briefly separated while fleeing walkers, and Daryl sees Beth kidnapped by men in a car with a white cross on it. He tries to follow them but is caught by Joe and a small group of bandits, the Claimers, and they force him to stay with them. The group later captures Rick, Carl, and Michonne, but Rick and Daryl fight back when they attempt to rape Carl and Michonne, killing all of the Claimers.
The four travel to Terminus, a safe haven according to signs along a railroad track. Though the community seems open, they find evidence that their friends have been captured. The four are taken prisoner and taken to the others, with Rick asserting they messed with the wrong group.
Rick's group escapes Terminus after discovering they engage in cannibalism, and with the help of Carol, who had launched a walker horde on the site. After meeting Gabriel Stokes at his church, the group makes plans to head to Washington D.C. While Daryl and Carol are catching up, they see a car drive by with a similar white cross on it, and they give chase. This leads them to find that Beth was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, where she was forced to work on patients there by corrupt cops. After Carol is captured, Daryl led Rick's group to try to rescue them. Carol is saved but Beth is killed in a standoff with the cops, and Daryl returns her body to the church to bury her.
The group continues on, eventually meeting Aaron, a recruiter for the Alexandria Safe-Zone in Virginia, who offers them sanctuary there. Like Rick, Daryl remains skeptical given the lack of survival experience the residents have, but accepts Aaron's offer to assist them in finding more recruits. Daryl and Aaron find the community is being watched by the Wolves, exiles from Alexandria that seek revenge. After walking into a Wolves trap, they are rescued by Morgan Jones, Rick's friend before he met the rest of the group in Atlanta, and they bring him back to Alexandria.
Rick and the others of his group are put in charge of Alexandria after proving their survival skills. To get rid of a walker horde trapped in a nearby quarry, Rick plans to parade them far away from Alexandria. Daryl, along with Abraham and Sasha, lead the parade. However, the Wolves launch a surprise attack, breaking the parade, though Rick instructs Daryl to lead the remaining away. The attack breeches the Alexandria walls, allowing walkers to swarm in. After leading the remaining walkers away, Daryl is briefly waylaid by Dwight and his wife Sherry. He finds a fuel truck, and regroups with Abraham and Sasha, and quickly deals with a group of men working for Negan. They ignite the truck in Alexandria to lure the walkers away from the citizens to dispatch them.
As Alexandria is recovering, Carol opts to leave on her own, concerned about seeing others she cares for die, leaving Daryl upset. Rick and Daryl meet Paul "Jesus" Monroe and are introduced to the Hilltop community. They request help dealing with the Saviors, a brutal group that demand supplies as a periodic offering. Rick, Daryl and others launch an attack on a Savior outpost, appearing to kill Negan and all of the Saviors. Later, Daryl encounters Dwight again with other men who claim to be Saviors working for Negan. After reporting this to Rick and the others, Daryl patrols to track down the Saviors but is soon captured. He is brought to a clearing along with Rick and several others of the group that has been captured by the Saviors, and they met the real Negan, who wields a baseball bat wrapped with barbed wired named "Lucille". Negan prepares to kill one of the group in retaliation for the attack on the Savior compound and force them to swear loyalty to him.
After Negan chooses Abraham to kill, Daryl attacks him but he is held back by the Saviors. Negan proceeds to kill Glenn, and then cows Rick into submission. Daryl is taken prisoner by Dwight back to Sanctuary, the Savior's base. Dwight attempts to convert him to join Negan, but Daryl refuses. Later, Sherry helps Daryl to escape, and he is helped to Hilltop by Jesus, where Rick and others are meeting to discuss the situation with Negan. After a tearful reunion, they all agree Daryl is a fugitive from Negan and Jesus suggest he go to the Kingdom, run by King Ezekiel, for safety as well as to try to convince Ezekiel to help. There, Ezekiel remains non-committed as his deal with Negan is amicable, but offers Daryl shelter.
While there, one of Ezekiel's men, Richard, suggests a plan to lure Ezekiel into fighting the Saviors, by having the Savior kill a woman that Ekeziel has taken a liking to but staying outside of the Kingdom. Daryl realizes this is Carol, and refuses to go along with the plan. He opts to return to Hilltop, but stops to reunite with Carol on his way out. After debriefing the Hilltop community, he apologizes to Maggie for Glenn's death and she forgives him. Daryl then returns to Alexandria, and helped prepare for a plan to attack Negan the next time he comes. However, they find Dwight has arrived, who swears that he wants to help them stop Negan despite Daryl's reservations. Negan does launch a surprise attack on Alexandria, but the timely arrival of the Hilltop and Kingdom communities allow them to overpower the Saviors and their allies, the Scavengers, and the three communities agree to go to war against Negan. Daryl finds a note from Dwight swearing he did not know what Negan had planned.
Daryl is first seen in the season premiere, "Mercy", where he is key to their plan to attack the Sanctuary by luring a massive walker herd using placed explosives and his motorcycle. After their plan succeeds, he splits off with Rick to attack a compound housing Savior weaponry. "Monsters" shows Daryl and Rick searching the compound for the guns to no avail; unlike Rick, who is beginning to question their decision to go to war, Daryl has no qualms about their mission, killing former Atlanta survivor Morales and executing a Savior to whom Rick showed mercy. He is still distrusting of Dwight.
When Rick and Daryl have a misunderstanding, their newly acquired weapons are accidentally set ablaze as they fight. After Dwight is later exposed as a mole, one Savior gets away after the rest are shot, and then Dwight asks to be spared. As he is led away, Daryl takes back his vest. Despite this, Daryl remains hostile to Dwight and expressly states his intention of killing him once the war is over. Though Tara initially agrees with him on this, she changes her mind after Dwight saves her life twice.
In the season finale, Daryl takes part in the final battle with the Saviors and survives. Afterwards, he drives Dwight out into the woods where Dwight expects Daryl to execute him. Instead, Daryl exiles Dwight on threat of death if he ever returns and encourages his former enemy to seek out his wife, Sherry.
Eighteen months have passed since Rick defeated Negan. The communities of Alexandria, the Hilltop, the Kingdom, Oceanside, and the Sanctuary have rebuilt what they can to make more viable societies. Daryl and Eugene oversee the remaining Saviors at the Sanctuary. Justin, a Savior, tries to take more than his share and pushes Henry. Daryl rushes in to subdue Justin before Rick can assert his control on the group. Rick and Daryl realize the Saviors are starting to get out of hand, due to Rick's hurry to finish the bridge and the lack of food. Later, they set off the dynamite, and track the nearby walker horde as it diverts towards the first siren. However, when the second siren, manned by Justin, fails to sound, Rick realizes the group of men at a logging site nearby are in trouble.
Maggie, Daryl, and the Oceanside group conspire to assassinate Negan. They know Rick will not let Maggie into Alexandria as she has made her intentions clear, and start to work out a plan to bring Maggie into Alexandria without Rick's knowledge. Jesus, who is hesitant about this course of action, covertly contacts Rick to warn him. Rick is overseeing the takedown of the bridge-construction camp. Eugene warns Rick of two large hordes seen in the area, but both are moving divergent to their routes. Rick gets Jesus' word, and decides to head to Alexandria. He contacts one of the Alexandria watch points to tell them to be on the lookout for Maggie, unaware that the watch point is a member of Oceanside. When Rick prepares to go by horseback, Daryl offers to drive him there instead via motorcycle. Rick becomes concerned when Daryl purposely misses the turnoff for Alexandria. He demands Daryl stop the bike, and the two get into a fistfight. Both end up falling into a deep pit off the road that they cannot easily climb out of. The two eventually put aside their differences and work together to escape the pit.
At the construction camp, the remaining survivors are preparing to move out when a group of Saviors hold them at gunpoint. They demand the group turn over weapons for the Saviors to protect themselves, since they know Oceanside has been killing off the other Saviors. A firefight breaks out, Rick and Daryl hear the sounds of gunfire and rush to escape. Just as they start clearing the edge, walkers from one of the approaching hordes, start falling into the pit, but both still manage to get out alive. Rick sees a loose horse nearby and offers to lead the walker horde away from the camp while Daryl drives off to warn them. Rick, on horseback, leads the horde along but is surprised when the other horde that Eugene warned him of is converging on the same point. The horse knocks Rick off its back. Rick lands hard on a concrete block and finds a piece of rebar has impaled his side. Ultimately, Rick appears to sacrifice his life to destroy the bridge and the walkers with it. Daryl joins the others in mourning Rick, unaware that he was saved at the last minute by Jadis, the leader of the Scavengers group, who took him to parts unknown.
Six years later, Daryl has alienated himself from the group, living alone in the wilderness. However, he remains friends with Carol and her and Ezekiel's adopted son, Henry, taking on the latter as an apprentice blacksmith. Daryl takes Jesus and Aaron along with him to search for Eugene, who has gone missing; when they find Eugene, he warns them of walkers who have apparently evolved enough to speak to each other; these turn out to the Whisperers, a group of survivors who wear masks made from walker skin and speak in hushed tones in order to blend in with real walkers and avoid attacks. Daryl and Michonne find and interrogate Lydia, the teenage daughter of the Whisperers' leader, Alpha. Daryl sees that Henry and Lydia have feelings for each other, and warns the boy that she is not to be trusted. Eventually, however, Daryl sees that Lydia is not like her ruthless, bloodthirsty mother, and becomes a mentor to her.
Alpha arrives at Hilltop with her followers, demanding Lydia's release. Daryl refuses at first, but relents when he sees that the Whisperers have captured two of their residents, Alden and Luke; he agrees to give her Lydia in return for them. Later, Henry leaves the Hilltop, suggesting he is going out to look for Lydia; Daryl sets off with Connie in pursuit. They disguise themselves as Whisperers and rescue Henry and Lydia, pursued by Alpha's right-hand man, Beta. They take shelter in an abandoned building, where Daryl fights Beta and pushes him down an elevator shaft. They join Michonne and Rick's now-preteen daughter Judith to go to Kingdom, unaware that the Whisperers are following them. Alpha infiltrates Kingdom, and shows Daryl a massive horde of walkers that she threatens to unleash upon the communities if they cross into Whisperer territory again. Soon afterward, Alpha murders several Hilltop residents, including Henry, and leaves their severed, zombiefied heads on pikes as a warning. Daryl shields a grief-stricken Carol from the sight of her beheaded son. When she and Ezekial separate, she moves in with Daryl.
Months later, Daryl watches with growing concern as Carol grows obsessed with killing Alpha and avenging Henry; at one point, he is forced to stop her from attacking Alpha directly. Carol and Daryl set out to destroy Alpha's walker horde, but after Carol captures a Whisperer, Daryl suspects that she is motivated more by revenge than protecting the community. He nevertheless helps her and several other Kingdom and Hilltop residents pursue Alpha, who lures them into a cave and traps them. Daryl and most of the others escape, and he saves Carol's life. Negan gets close to Alpha and kills her on Carol's orders; it is left ambiguous whether Daryl knew about it.
Beta rallies a huge herd of walkers to attack the community's new headquarters, an abandoned hospital, and Daryl sneak through the horde and lead it away using a wagon and loud music. The Whisperers destroy the makeshift sound system, forcing Daryl's group to infiltrate the horde and kill the Whisperers one by one. Daryl wounds Beta, who is consumed by the walkers, and Lydia and Carol lead the horde over a cliff.
The episode "Find Me" establishes via flashbacks that, five years earlier, Daryl had gone to live by himself in the woods after Rick's apparent death. One day, Daryl found a dog in an empty cabin; the dog's owner, Leah, thought he was trying to rob her, and held him at gunpoint. She set him free eventually, and they had occasional, random meetings until they became a couple. They were together for 10 months, but Daryl could not decide whether to commit to her or his community, and she left after they had an argument. Daryl wrote Leah a note asking her to find him and put it in a secret compartment, and left to reunite with Carol and Henry.
In the present, Daryl returns to the cabin in hopes of finding Leah, and Carol follows him. The cabin is empty, but the secret compartment has been opened, giving Daryl hope that Leah read his note and is trying to find him. Carol tells Daryl to let Leah go, angering him; they get into an argument in which he blames her for the apparent death of Connie, one of their community members (he is unaware that she is still alive). The two wash their hands of each other, and go their separate ways.
Daryl has lost some of his bitter rage and willingly works with Negan during the mission to take down the Reapers. Daryl's surprise reunion with Leah allows him to infiltrate the group with Daryl trying to both take them down and protect both his former lover and his adopted family, something that Daryl and Leah share in common. Although the mission ends with Leah being forced on the run. With both Rick and Michonne gone, Daryl takes up the role of parent towards Judith and R.J., something that he struggles with at times, although Daryl makes for a good father overall. Daryl also seems to have mended his relationship with Carol after Connie's return and moving to the Commonwealth, the two even planning to have lunch together at one point. Working as a soldier in the Commonwealth Army, Daryl maintains his loyalty to his friends and family, even threatening Lance Hornsby at gunpoint when he steps out of line. Commonwealth General Michael Mercer, who has to deal with corruption in his forces, is shown to have a great deal of respect and trust in Daryl despite them having a short relationship. During this period, while Daryl wears his armor often, he also discards it in situations where he's around his friends, such as the standoff at the Hilltop and working with Gabriel and Aaron despite them being with a number of other Commonwealth soldiers. When Leah resurfaces, Daryl kills his former lover to protect Maggie and tells her that he feels he owes it to Glenn to protect her in the stead of Daryl's deceased friend.
Daryl used a Horton Scout HD 125 crossbow for the first three seasons. The character's use has inspired reviews of the weapon at Amazon.com referring to the show. It was replaced by a more powerful Stryker StrykeZone 380 during Season 3. In season 6 episode 9, Daryl uses an Airtronic RPG-7 to take out a biker gang working for Negan. In Season 7 Episode 10, Daryl was given a new crossbow, which is a PSE Fang 350, which he only used for a short time until he finally took back the Stryker StrykeZone 380 from Dwight in Season 8 Episode 11. In season 11, after joining the Commonwealth Army, Daryl begins using an AR-15 as his weapon. Daryl carried a pair of blades as well.
Development and creation
Reedus read the script for the show and wanted to be a part of it so badly that he begged to audition even for a day role. He was asked to come in and read lines. They picked Merle's lines, which is why the rumor still abounds that he read for the role of Merle, but Rooker already had the part. They liked his audition and gave him the role of Daryl. Daryl was originally a recurring character but 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. In season 9, Daryl does get a dog who is first introduced in "Stradivarius."
After being fourth place in top billing for the third season, Daryl was promoted to second place in top billing for every season since the fourth, having become one of the main protagonists of the series. He got top billing following the departure of Andrew Lincoln in season 9. 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. He continued by saying: "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.
- TV Guide listed Daryl as the best character on The Walking Dead, ranking the top twenty four characters in the first five seasons. His transformation from a "selfish loner to an integral member of the survivors" was highlighted as well as being an "excellent hunter".
- The character holds the 2nd place in a list of "30 Best ‘Walking Dead’ Characters" by Rolling Stone.
- As of August 2019, Daryl is currently voted #1 on Ranker's "The Best Walking Dead Characters".
Noel Murray of Rolling Stone ranked Daryl Dixon #2 in a list of 30 best Walking Dead characters, saying, "The Walking Dead is a show that traffics in iconography – and you do not get more iconographic than the show's scraggly-haired, crossbow-wielding, motorcycle-riding hunter. First introduced as an angry redneck and evolving into one of the series' most striking figures, Daryl has revealed more dimensions over time, and Norman Reedus' performance helping to expose an unsurpassed kindness and commitment to the hero’s closest companions."
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- (SPOILERS) The Making of Episode 313 Arrow on the Doorpost: Inside The Walking Dead Archived 2016-03-16 at the Wayback Machine Youtube "AMC" (March 10, 2013)
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- Murray, Noel (December 7, 2016). "30 Best 'Walking Dead' Characters". Rolling Stone.