For all of the Internet chatter about dipping in the ratings this past season, the first half of season 7 of the Walking Dead had still attracted more viewers than most shows can get all season long. The series has been on for seven years and is just now showing minute signs of slowing down, but will most likely pick in steam on the back half of the season. After all, we’re talking about zombies and they’re all the rage. If any show or movie has been able to do zombies right, it’s The Walking Dead.
There are many characters to fall in love with throughout the series, but one that has had some renewed focus is the wildly popular Daryl Dixon. While the events that have happened to the guy certainly haven’t been pretty, Norman Reedus has done a terrific job this season showing the characters anguish and desire for vengeance. Daryl is one of the most universally loved characters on the show and the rest of the season will hopefully treat the guy better. We still have a few weeks to go until the show returns, but to tide you over, here are 15 things you might not know about Daryl Dixon.
15. He’s Not In The Comics
When Robert Kirkman began telling his Magnum Opus zombie saga, shockingly to some, Daryl Dixon was not part of the Rick Grimes group of survivors. In fact, Daryl Dixon wasn’t a part of any crew– he didn’t exist in the comic book at all. When casting began for The Waking Dead, Daryl still wasn’t a creation for either series or book. Until the day Norman Reedus walked into the casting room. He read for Merle Dixon, another original creation for the show, who would be realized on screen by the great Michael Rooker (Henry, Mallrats, Guardians of the Galaxy). But Reedus was so good that Kirkman was left with little choice but to create a character for him, and Merle’s little brother Daryl was born. Since his first appearance in episode two (“Tell it to the Frogs”), fans have clamored to see the crossbow-wielder on the printed page. You could say “never say never”, but in interviews, Robert Kirkman has stated that Daryl will never be in the comic book.
14. A Comic Book Debut In #129 As An April Fool’s Joke
Despite Kirkman stating that Daryl will not be appearing in the comic books anytime soon, if ever, that didn’t stop fans from taking to the internet and salivating when Skybound, the comic’s publisher teased that the younger Dixon boy would be debuting in this issue. Fans of the series may want to read ahead (POSSIBLE SPOILERS) – the issue certainly has a lot going on it, Negan has been held captive by Rick for a while now and starts to convince Magna that Rick isn’t who he says he is and some turmoil between Alexandria and the Kingdom, but there is no Dixon to be found. The fervor was due to someone taking an image of Dwight from the comic books and tweaking it to look like every one’s favorite scraggily-haired zombie hunter. The elaborate ruse was done as an April Fool’s joke by Skybound’s Brian Huntington and he even gave an elaborate and detailed explanation as to how he pulled it off.
13. He Was Inspired By Clint Eastwood
When Daryl debuted, he was a loner who happened to be associated with Rick, Shane, and company. He was the strong, silent type who was clearly vulnerable when and if he chose to open up to someone, but a tremendous asset to the group with his deadly precision and street smarts. It’s a southern role not seen on series like this one in a long time, he’s a classic Western trope inspired by the gritty heroes played by Clint Eastwood, right down to the poncho he used to wear, reminiscent of Clint in films like High Plains Drifter. His sensitivities shine through when it comes to women (more on that later) and children like Carl and “little ass-kicker,” Judith, and that ruthlessness comes through with anyone Daryl calls a friend. In a comic book based series, he is analogous to another comic book legend, Wolverine– Daryl’s the best at what he does and what he does isn’t very nice.
12. Daryl And The Villains
Many fans love to devour all kinds of neat little factoids about their favorite shows, and as far as The Walking Dead is concerned, Daryl is usually our eyes on the inside whenever we are introduced to a new group of bad guys. When a new group arises, somehow Daryl finds himself with them– he leaves with Merle and the Governor, and can you blame a guy for wanting to find his brother and try to show him how cool his new friends are? When Joe and the Claimers were hunting for someone who turned out to be Rick, they recruited Daryl, who tried to convince Joe that Rick, Michonne, and Carl were good people. Most famously, he was taken by Negan and the Saviors for standing up to the guy and try as he might to break him, no matter what horrible torture they inflicted on him, Darryl refused to bend the knee and luckily wasn’t even forced to, as he was rescued by Jesus in the mid-season finale.
11. His Survival Instinct
While certainly not the critical darling that the series has been, the tie-in video game, Survival Instinct is notable for telling a lot of Daryl’s backstory. In the game, players control Daryl who can either fight walkers or sneak past them. Just like the early seasons of the show, Daryl is tied to finding his brother Merle and they meet several people that are either killed or are turned into walkers by the game’s end. Sadly there isn’t a lot told in the game that we didn’t already know, but it’s interesting to think that the character of Daryl knows a lot more than he lets on when the show begins– he knows facts such as the cure is just a hoax. While it was cool to see Norman Reedus and Michael Rooker reprise their roles for the game, there are far better zombie-based video games in the world, including TellTale’s own TWD video game series. Hopefully, AMC and Robert Kirkman can again do a TWD video game and do it right.
10. Daryl’s Motorcycles
Daryl’s very cool. He’s a bad boy. As far as TV tropes go, the very cool bad boy with a heart of gold rides a pretty sweet motorcycle. Daryl Dixon’s no different and he has ridden not one but two awesome bikes on the show. The first bike Daryl had was an old-school Triumph Bonneville TR6C, a popular chopper from the 60s. When the show came back for its fifth season, Daryl had a new hodgepodge of a bike, made up of parts of a Honda Nighthawk. Built for the show by a company called Classified Moto in Richmond, Virginia. The company grabbed two CB750s and modded them to look as if they were put together from scavenged parts throughout the zombie apocalypse wasteland. Even better for Daryl, the bike has a mount for his crossbow! In a world that seems tailor-made for a guy like Daryl Dixon, the guy finally found a way to pair his favorite weapon with his trusty steed.
9. From Recurring Cast Member To Top Billing
Despite his crazed popularity now, Daryl actually began as just a recurring cast member on The Walking Dead. But due to not only his popularity, but also what the character means to the show itself, every season that goes by Norman Reedus appears closer and closer to the top of the cast. Due the promotions, Reedus even lobbied for Daryl to get a dog (the writers gave him a new crossbow instead). As each season progresses, Daryl’s importance as a character rises. He’s just one of the guys in season one, so he’s recurring. In season two he ingratiates himself more with the group and proves a vital part in their search for Sophia, therefore he became a member of the main cast. Since Shane and Dale’s deaths in that season, Daryl has been second place in the top billing ever since, highlighting his devotion to Rick as his right-hand man, a place the character enjoys and a person he would gladly die for.
For many of the female (and some of the male) fans of The Walking Dead, Daryl is a frequent topic of conversation; more specifically, shipping the guy off with various characters of the show. There’s the meme online of the grungy brooding member of Team Rick holding Rick’s baby Judith and the caption Daryl + Judith = Ovaries Explode. But where the fans want Daryl’s heart to truly lie are with Beth, to a lesser degree and of course his kindred loner spirit, Carol. With Beth, Daryl took on a very protective attitude towards her and began to teach her how to fend for herself. Of course, a young girl like Beth, who also had lost a lot of loved ones in the zombie apocalypse would take a liking to a guy like Daryl, who not only can teach her but has proven time and time again that he won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. They got to know each other a little better when the Governor attacked the prison again and the pair wound up on the run together. Sadly, if there was ever going to be anything between them it was snuffed out when Beth was murdered by Dawn at the hospital, but it was Daryl who affectionately carried her out.
One of the best unrequited love stories on The Walking Dead is Daryl and Carol. At the very least, they are two kindred spirits, both victims of abuse who had to learn how to survive– and that was before the zombie Apocalypse! But during the apocalypse, and subsequently the series itself, the pair found common ground and bonded when Daryl gave Carol the chance to impale her abusive, now-zombie husband, not to mention relentlessly searching for Carol’s daughter, Sophia. These two moments helped begin to forge the Carol that we would eventually come to know and love on the series and Daryl has been with her nearly every step of the way. Carol was the person who encouraged Daryl to think better of himself and she is the only one allowed to call the guy “Pookie.” If they were to ever hook up, it would be one of the most naturally progressive relationships in TV history, literally two people who happened to have found each other, and mutual respect, admiration, and love in the darkest of times. But for now, if there is a relationship between the two it happens off-screen in fan fiction.
6. Walker Kill Leaderboard
In a series about how humanity gets on after a complete breakdown of civilization happens, there’s bound to be plenty of dead bodies. But when the breakdown is due to the rise of the undead, there is going to be a whole slew of bodies that need killing! On team Rick, there are plenty of good soldiers very adept at killing the undead, Michonne and her katana, Rick and a trusty hatchet, and plenty of men and women are quite versatile with a knife. But then there’s Daryl and his trusty crossbow. Since the show started, the younger Dixon brother has consistently been in the top 3-5 most zombie kills. Besides his weapon of choice, Daryl is also adept at using his surroundings, i.e. the trunk of a car or a biker chain. To paraphrase the immortal words of Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson) in Jackie Brown, when you absolutely have to kill a crazy brain-eating undead mother-f*cker, accept no substitutes.
5. A Cult Following
He’s strong, silent, cool, loyal, slightly damaged with a heart of gold. He’ll go to hell and back for his friends and those very same friends have become his family. Fans of The Walking Dead all hold Daryl in high regard. But it’s the female fans in particular who quite simply adore the guy and Norman Reedus for his portrayal. There’s a whole subsection of the female contingent of The Walking Dead‘s female fans and even though they’ve broken up into several factions— Reedus Sluts, Norman’s Nymphos, Dixon’s Vixen’s and even the Boondock Betties, taking their name from one of Norman’s earliest roles in the cult classic Boondock Saints. His fans are so rabid that one of them even bit him during a photo op at a Comic Convention. It inspired Reedus to post an Instagram pic of him wearing a shirt that says “Do Not Bite Me.” The ever cool Reedus declined to post charges, since it was only a nibble.
4. He Was Abused
Not a whole lot is revealed to Daryl’s friends or even The Walking Dead viewers about the southerner’s past. Clearly he cares deeply for his entire group, especially the younger members and others who might not be able to fend for themselves. Psychologically speaking, perhaps that is because Daryl is a victim of abuse and neglect himself. In one episode, “Home”, Merle ripped his shirt off to reveal Daryl’s scars on his backside. Merle, who suffered the same fate at the hands of their alcoholic father already took off and had explained to his younger brother that he had no idea. He was abused and neglected so much growing up that even when the group found real sanctuary in Alexandria and was able to clean themselves up, Daryl remained aloof until he felt the group was safe for him. Instead of turning himself inward though, Daryl has always tried to ingratiate himself to the group he’s running with to try and overcome his past, even carrying a real life book with him— Treating Survivors of Childhood Abuse by Marylene Cloitre, Lisa R. Cohen, and Karestan C. Koenen.
3. Looking For Closure With Merle, For Acceptance With The Group.
Similar to Carol searching for Sophia, Darryl spent a few episodes looking for his brother, but unlike the young child, Daryl had spent months looking for his brother, who the group of Atlanta survivors left to die on a roof when running from walkers. During his time looking for Sophia, Andrea mistook Daryl for a walker and shot him. While recovering, Andrea handed him a book, The Case of Missing Man by Jimmie Herron. Unlike the previous entry, this was a book prop made specifically for the series. The title has many implications for the character… He had been literally and physically heading off to look for Merle and Sophia. But it also alludes to his emotional state as a man recovering from past transgressions, literally missing from real societal conventions. It was around this time that the group had started to accept Daryl and stopped being leery of him. The missing man was in the process of being found and finding his place in the zombie apocalypse.
2. Kirkman’s Favorite
For those readers that don’t know, when a writer begins to write his or her story, they tend to do their best to think like their characters when writing for each one. “What would Rick Grimes do in this situation?” That must be a question that The Walking Dead creator, Robert Kirkman must ask himself about 1000 times a month when writing a new issue for his comic or sitting in on a writers’ meeting for the series. But while Rick is clearly the star of both the book and the show, the fans aren’t the only ones who have taken a shine to Daryl Dixon. Kirkman himself not only created the character especially for Norman Reedus, he has also stated that Dixon is his favorite element of the series. In an interview for the AMC series, The Writers Room, Kirkman stated as much, “Daryl is my favorite element of the television show. When we saw Norman Reedus… the producers kind of got together and said we love this guy, we’ve got to get him in the show somehow. So suddenly Merle had a brother named Daryl.”
1. Amazon.com Reviews
Thanks to the power of the Internet, fandom knows no boundaries at all. When it comes to the Zombie Apocalypse genre, fans from all walks of life have shown their love. Even people at The Center for Disease Control tongue-in-cheekily released a Zombie Survival guide (which is in reality a disaster kit worded as if it were to be used in case the undead rise). Fans of the TWD dress up at conventions, host viewing parties, and generally enter all of the contests that the Talking Dead show and AMC hold. Some fans have gotten extra clever though when it comes to Daryl’s crossbow. The Horton HD 125 has gotten some interesting product reviews on amazon.com. The review is a grey quick treat for die-hard fans looking for a laugh and it even references events from the show.