The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon is a six-episode spinoff series that brings a breath of fresh air to the stagnated Walking Dead franchise. While it may not deliver an adrenaline shot to the heart, it offers a comforting and familiar viewing experience with a European twist. This series is easily the best version of Walking Dead storytelling since the early seasons of the original show, making it a great opportunity for both new and long-lapsed viewers to jump into the brand.
Created by David Zabel (Mercy Street) and directed by Daniel Percival (The State Within), the series begins with Daryl Dixon, played by Norman Reedus, washing up on a beach in France. The show cleverly acknowledges the D-Day Invasion analogy, but quickly moves past it to focus on Daryl’s journey. How he ended up in France is not immediately clear, but the mystery adds to the intrigue of the story.
Daryl soon discovers that France is not much different from the world he left behind. The streets and towns are mostly abandoned, and zombies still roam the land. However, these zombies are not your typical walkers. They are faster, more aggressive, and their bodily fluids are acidic. The evolution of these zombies is a question that is left unanswered initially, but the show promises to reveal more as the series progresses.
After encountering various militaristic factions, Daryl finds himself in a convent where he meets Isabelle, played by Clémence Poésy, and Laurent, played by Louis Puech Scigliuzzi. Laurent, a 12-year-old boy with unnatural empathy, may hold the key to humanity’s survival. Isabelle convinces Daryl to join her in transporting Laurent to a resistance stronghold, taking them on a dangerous journey through Paris and other locations.
The series may remind viewers of other zombie-centric stories, such as The Last of Us. The similarities between Laurent’s origin story and Bella Ramsey’s Ellie are evident, but it’s refreshing to see the show draw inspiration from different sources. However, there are still echoes of the original Walking Dead series, particularly in Daryl’s character arc. The gruff loner with a hidden soft side is a familiar trope, but Reedus portrays the character convincingly.
One of the highlights of the spinoff is its international supporting cast. Anne Charrier shines as an Evita-esque politico, while Romain Levi delivers a compelling performance as a glowering soldier hunting Daryl. Filming in France adds a different tone and visual language to the series. The Paris scenes, although at times a bit cliché with their landmarks, create a sense of immersion and authenticity. The French backdrop allows for eccentricities like a bizarre concert hall, an underground cabaret, and an extended cameo from Jean-Pierre Jeunet regular Dominique Pinon.
The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon doesn’t shy away from its zombie roots. It offers thrilling action sequences, featuring warrior nuns, gladiatorial fight clubs, and haunting undead children. Daryl also gains a new favorite weapon, fitting in perfectly with the European milieu. The series takes elements from the Walking Dead brand that have felt exhausted in recent seasons, reviving them with a fresh perspective.
While the series does briefly acknowledge the events of the original Walking Dead, it doesn’t dwell on the past. This standalone approach is a pleasant surprise and keeps the show from becoming predictable. However, the introduction of Melissa McBride’s Carol suggests that future seasons may delve deeper into the connection with the main show. Whether this is a positive or negative development remains to be seen.
In conclusion, The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon breathes new life into the franchise. Its European twist adds a touch of classiness and familiarity to the series. The show offers moments that surpass expectations and provides an opportunity for both new and old viewers to enjoy the Walking Dead universe. With its standout performances, international cast, and visually stunning backdrop, this spinoff is a welcome addition to the Walking Dead canon.