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Discussion/Meta The Rise & Fall of Daryl Dixon

Discussion in 'Daryl / Norman Reedus' started by Doctor Grimes, Oct 14, 2016.

  1. Doctor Grimes

    Doctor Grimes Not Your Governor
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    Before I begin, this is not a "hate" thread. It is merely my own person take on the character of Daryl -- and why I contend he has decayed over the seasons, and has become an anchor weighing this series down.

    First of all, let me say this outright: Believe it or not, I actually used to like Daryl.


    In seasons 1-2, I really enjoyed Daryl's character. While never my favorite (that was always Glenn or Rick), I found Daryl refreshing, comedic, and disarming. When I heard that they'd made plans to kill him in season one, but kept him around, I nodded to myself, "Good call."

    In the mix of dour and grumpy season 1-2 characters, Daryl's vibrant and colorful presence was a godsend. He was brash, amoral, but had a soft-spot for missing kids. He doled nicknames, cussed, was loud. He made himself known even with minimal screen time. His culmination of a popularity was a no brainer: endearing side character, Reedus's prior cult fan base, well-written character.

    ... But then Daryl's popularity began to affect his development on the series. And not for the better.

    By season 3, Daryl's popularity had gotten back to AMC (or at least the money from his merchandise sales did the talking). He moved into the forefront as Rick's "wingman." More coffee mugs, shirts, and other memorabilia lined the shelves adorned with Daryl’s iconic angel wings. Audiences didn’t just see more of him in stores, Daryl began to make more appearances on the television as well.

    Immediately, I began to grow concerned because the traits of Daryl's I once liked started receding (his impetuousness, vulgarity, loudness) in place of some melodramatic edgy moodiness (broodiness, grumbling). Daryl's appearance shifted to match. Gone was his shorter, lighter locks in place of some Just For Men-realness and leather. He took up smoking, which was uncharacteristic of the Daryl we knew before (especially given the history with his mother).

    While I still liked Daryl, it began to grate on my nerves how his traits morphed to suit a “cooler” package. I began to see less of a redneck with a heart of gold, but more an amalgam of Joe Camel and the Fonz.

    The cliffhanger of mid-season 3 finale ending with Daryl's fate up in the air was another sign AMC knew exactly who would bring in the viewers next season (oh no, Daryl is in peril!). Likewise, shoehorning in scenes meant to make ovaries combust was obvious, such as Daryl coo-ing Judith (even though we'd been given no prior evidence Daryl had any experience with babies). Touching as it was, it struck of pandering.

    Then came season 4. Oh woe was season 4 for Daryl. It was the death knell to any warm feelings I once held for his character.

    We were at a point where fans outsides of the series weren't enough, the show had to go and give Daryl fans on the show itself. In "30 Days Without an Accident", Patrick comes up to Daryl with stars in his eyes, asking, "Can I shake your hand, sir?"

    At this point, I knew Daryl was not here to be a character anymore, but a mascot. Throughout the rest of this season, it consisted of Daryl doing "cool" things, like lobbying grenades into the piping hot barrel of a cannon (which should’ve resulted in third degree burns) and using walkers as a shield from powerful machine gun rounds. Furthermore, while I tend to like morally grey characters, this season depicted Daryl at some of his downright nastiest without much cause. He was unnecessarily hostile to Bob, abusive to Beth (belittling her feelings after she’d just seen her father’s head sliced from his body; grabbing her arm), and also pathetic (in that he decided to join Joe's gang even though they were full-well bad people). I understand this was meant to symbolize Daryl "regressing", but it felt forced - and it was unpleasant to watch to boot.

    Season 5 kicks off with even more Daryl. Daryl going to save Beth, Daryl lamenting he couldn't save Beth, Aaron reaching out to Daryl to help him reconnect with civilization, Daryl rejecting civilization, Daryl being self-sacrificing -- it was basically “more of the same.”

    Like many of the characters on this series, he's stuck in a spin-cycle. He keeps improving, then backsliding, improving, then backsliding. I'd get more enjoyment out of watching a yo-yo. When will it end? When will he *finally* move forward? When will he *finally* do something different?

    Nah, instead? Daryl's character development has become one that necessitates the slaughter of other characters.

    There’s a word for the type of character momentum: vampiric.

    Sophia. Merle. Beth. Denise.

    ... Glenn

    Daryl's arc is so often fueled by grief and rage; never as a result of self-reflection of his own actions.

    What makes it worse is that Daryl's golden boy status makes him invincible to death, thus reducing dramatic tension. Never do I fear that one day Daryl will croak, so I am resorted to just hoping he doesn't get someone else I like killed.

    It's safe to say Rick and Carl aren't going to die any time soon. But... those should be the only two guaranteed to be free from the guillotine.

    Instead, Daryl is -- without a doubt -- the safest character on this series. More than Rick. More than Carl. He can get shot in the head, pierced with an arrow, crash his motorcycle, shot in the shoulder (and top of his lungs), get beaten, etc. and survive. It’s laughable, really. Can anything kill him? Would AMC even dare? No.

    Truth is, Daryl is never going away unless Reedus wants to leave. What’s the point of fretting about his character’s status on the show? There is none. So constantly throwing him into perilous situations is just an eyeroll at this point. It’s meant to eke a few drops of sweat out of his hardcore fans, maybe elicit some to cry, “My poor woobie.” I’d rather he just stay out of harm's way for the sake of honesty.

    Another thing that gets me is that other character's valuable screen time is being used to serve Daryl.

    After a long absence in 6B, Michonne and Glenn returned to the audience in 6.15. Not to do anything relevant to their own arcs, mind you, but to chase down wayward Daryl. We don’t get to see them doing their own thing, but they’re focus is on Daryl and his wangst. It was supremely irritating, given I am a fan of Michonne and Glenn, wanting to see them do their thing, but instead getting roped into Daryl’s drama.

    Daryl has a monopoly on screen time on this series. While it's true other characters certainly appear -- like Rick (the main character) -- and, to some extent, Carol and Glenn. Without a doubt, right behind Rick, is Daryl in terms of screen time, dialogue, and narrative.

    Meaning: while Daryl is on this show, other characters are guaranteed to be shafted to serve the purpose of Daryl.

    Abraham finds rocket launcher? Daryl gets to be the one to shoot it. (This point still makes me heated as hell given firing a rocket launcher is NOT a trivial task. Daryl didn't even have to ask anyone how to fire the thing. It's not "point and shoot.")

    Rick has a series of BFFs throughout the series? Including Glenn, Tyreese, and Abraham? Nope, Daryl is your one-stop fucking shop for Rick's sole friend in the ZA.

    Daryl has also had more backstory revealed than any character, has had the most magazine covers of any character, and has also had the most “character-centric” episodes of the cast.

    Perhaps this is because, like I mentioned before, Daryl is the mascot of TWD. Yes. Like Ronald fuckin' McDonald or the Burger King. Daryl is the go-to cardboard figure who waves at us from the cover of magazines and lunch boxes. He's not here to actually serve a purpose other than flex his muscles and bask in the glow.

    No one else gets quite the same level of publicity as Daryl. No other character gets the same merchandise. And, I know, I'll hear the rebuttals of, "It's not his fault he's popular. It's not his fault he sells."

    ... But there is a certain level of cause/effect at play here. Perhaps one of the reasons Daryl is so popular is because of his constant exposure. The fact he has usurped Rick Grimes as the "Face of The Walking Dead." Certainly Reedus plays into this by being active with the fans, but, at a certain point, it should become AMC's responsibility to help sell the other characters -- unless they want to ride this show completely on the back of Reedus/Daryl. A misguided move in the event Reedus ever wants to pursue a career elsewhere.

    In spite of all that? Over six seasons, Daryl has hardly moved the plot along.

    When actually breaking down the plot of this series, Daryl's actions don't actually affect all too much. Barring being a deus ex machina to save Rick from imminent demise (an event that has happened a disconcerting amount of times), Daryl's character development actually hasn't... led us anywhere.

    Meaning: we’re subject to an awful lot of Daryl, when, in reality, Daryl doesn’t actually mean that much to the story.

    Not to say he’s not loved by the characters, that he isn’t a member of the group, that he doesn’t have his moments, but, overall, Daryl’s presence hasn’t been a “game changer.”

    To put it into perspective: Eugene has had more of an overall effect on the trajectory of the series than Daryl. Eugene. Yes, “I’m not a scientist” Eugene.

    This is why I am so anti-Daryl. Why his presence irks me. It’s not just, “Ugh, greaseball hairdo,” or “Ugh, motorcycle.” It’s no slight to his fans. It’s not because of Norman Reedus. My reasons for disliking him are not shallow. This has been a long, steady decline from a point where I genuinely loved Daryl and what he brought to this series, to being exhausted with his overexposure -- especially because I don’t see him as a critical element to the overall narrative.

    Does this mean I think he should die? No, not necessarily, but fact is, so long as Daryl is on this series, he will continue to weasel his way into the second (or even first) spot on merchandising materials, eat screen time away from other characters who need it, all the while not actually driving the plot forward in any meaningful way.

    I suppose there’s always season 7+ to remedy this situation. Daryl could become a key player again, but that doesn’t salvage the other damage I perceived as done to his character (i.e. Joe Camel/Fonzie hybrid that I believe he’s become as a method of popularizing him).
     
  2. Clutterbuck

    Clutterbuck Finding Bigfoot™
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  3. balladsinthebluegrass

    balladsinthebluegrass Hold to things that are bright.
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    You nailed it, Doc. When Daryl was the redneck with a heart of gold, I was really into him. He was charming in a prickly sort of way. But now, he's like the Big Man on Campus or something. The amount of attention he gets is inversely proportional to what he actually contributes to the plot and overall character development of the whole cast. His character never goes anywhere, and he never helps anyone else get anywhere, either.
     
  4. Doctor Grimes

    Doctor Grimes Not Your Governor
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    It is a little repetitive, but all the points I wanted to make are in there. I was tipsy and salty when I wrote it.
     
  5. Fuji

    Fuji Searching for Sophia

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    I have been wondering if they were planning on having Daryl's arc mirror Rick's. Rick gets dominated by Negan and hated by members of his team only to eventually triumph over Negan and gain the respect of his family and others back.
    Daryl possibly causing Glenn's death and being blamed/hated then redeeming himself somehow
     
  6. anya7890

    anya7890 Wearing a Necklace of Ears

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    I agreed with a lot of what you said doc, I'm so sick of Daryl being on repeat, just do something with him, I'm really hoping beyond hope that his arc in season 7 will give him some sort of progression, because I am so over his "main-pain" and emo arcs, I said that as a fan of the character. I guess the good news is that at San Diego comic con, Kirkman said that we will see the evolution of Daryl Dixon, so that gives me a little hope that will get some sort movement with his character.
     
  7. Doctor Grimes

    Doctor Grimes Not Your Governor
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    This is what I hope. I mean, if he's going to be here forever, I want to see him actually have more depth. Perhaps he's too far gone, but I just have to hope my feelings come around at some point.
     
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  8. Canuckgirl

    Canuckgirl Ricktator

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    Where do I began?! I have always been vocal about my dislike of Daryl. It started in season 1, mainly because I had just finished reading the comic and was disappointed that Tyreese, Paul and Donna weren't there. Instead I got two loudmouth (The Dixon bros) and this weak black character (T-dog), so I never warmed up to them, except for Merle, who grew on me in season 3. As Dr. Grimes has mentioned, my main gripe with Daryl has been the fact that he is a useless character. COMPLETELY USELESS. He is a trope within a trope. That whole thing with Patrick when he licked his fingers and then shake the boy's hand made me want to rinse my eyes out. The whole Claimers thing was another one that made me go :rickwtf:. The fact that he has basically taken Tyreese's role and now there are rumors that Dwight might be killed so Daryl can get his arc makes me rage. ENOUGH. Do something refreshing with him or fucking kill him. Shit, give him Nicholas' death, I don't give a shit
     
  9. Canuckgirl

    Canuckgirl Ricktator

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    I need to insert Clutterbuck's Graham Norton gif "NO NO NO"
     
  10. Appetence

    Appetence Eternally failing at productivity bc TITTD
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    [​IMG]

    This post is the shit. I wish an exec from AMC would see this and take heed.
     
  11. Fuji

    Fuji Searching for Sophia

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    Oh I definitely think if this is the way they are headed it would be a huge disservice to AL. It seems as though he will have to take a back seat to JDM this season so if he has to share the limelight whenever they decide to bring Negan down, I will be disgusted. It is okay if Daryl gets his redemption but not at the expense of Rick's arc.

     
  12. The Last Big Kat

    The Last Big Kat Vengeance For The Plunderers
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    There's no saving him for me. Even if he gets interesting, the characters he's had to step all over and the screen time he's wasted to finally get to that point will carry my resentment forever. Him being suddenly interesting may only make me loathe him more.
     
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  13. Deep_Ricking

    Deep_Ricking I like it raw.
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    I want to send this to Gimple.
    [​IMG]
     
  14. thesamurai

    thesamurai The World Is Ours
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    You got it right, Doc.

    Oh how I loved Daryl in season 1 & 2. Now, he's just a character who mumbles, is irrational, has his character arc each season be fueled by Man Pain, treated like the star of the show when that should be Rick, be given badass moments which should be given to other characters, and frankly, really needs a shower, with soap.

    Lather, rinse, repeat.

    Every. Time.
     
  15. TexasZAgal

    TexasZAgal Ricktator
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    I don't mind admitting that I have never loved Daryl, liked him but never loved him. I can't even watch his bottle episodes because I know they are terrible, plus the man mumbles so half the time I can't understand what he is saying. And I just don't want to see his manpain any more, enough already.
     
  16. Lilly965

    Lilly965 Wig Shopping For Michonne
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    I don't think Gimple likes the character at all to be honest. Which is also why I don't feel Gimple would want to put Daryl and Carol together as a couple.
     
  17. Canuckgirl

    Canuckgirl Ricktator

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    The only time I like Daryl is actually in TheBaetide's fanfic and that is saying a lot
     
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  18. Mousey

    Mousey Awaiting Job from Deanna
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    I'm right with you on it. I can't say I liked S1 Daryl because my seething hatred for Merle crept into his character, but I enjoyed his progression in S2 and liked what I saw in S3 as well. There was real growth and some great interactions.

    Hell, even season 4A. I thought the Patrick thing was cute -- even though I completely and totally understand why you or anyone would think it's canned and stupid. His stuff with the medicine group was good material too because it showed a growth in character. I could've even swallowed the events of Still if they'd let him have that emotional catharsis about his father, but the country club shit + the funeral home shit was awful and killed all impact.

    The moment things really went sour between me and Daryl was in 416, when they made Rick's savagery against the Claimers all about Daryl. That "my brother" line had no place being uttered in that clearing, and Daryl had no right to negate Rick's insight about himself, because Rick was 100% right. And the usurping of major Rick moments hasn't stopped, like the infamous "we ain't them" and the RPG crap while the rest of Alexandria actually fights for their lives as a group because they're real characters.

    But what can they do with him? The next stage of evolution basically has to be real human bonds outside of Rick and Carol (or something deeper with Carol), but as all the EPs have basically said that'll never happen because of the Daryl Dixon machine, there isn't anything left for him to do. It stands out so badly in 6B because everyone else is falling in love, breaking up, starting a family, undertaking new huge enterprises, and really growing up/moving on. :|
     
  19. Tisha Grimes

    Tisha Grimes Stay Strong
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    As someone that loves Daryl I am tired of the man pain and all the damn guilt. It is getting old fast.
     
  20. The Last Big Kat

    The Last Big Kat Vengeance For The Plunderers
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    I didn't like Daryl in season 1. He started to at least get interesting in season 2, but I saw some "pandering" to make him likeable back then. Season 3, I started to actually like him, and that carried over into season 4. There were other moments of pandering that I sort of noticed, but it didn't bother me at that point.

    "Still" was about when Daryl's behavior started to become unbearable for me, but I pushed it to the side. Easier to convince myself I liked the most popular character than accept that I didn't.
     
    #20 The Last Big Kat, Oct 14, 2016
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 14, 2016
    Canuckgirl, Mousey and Doctor Grimes like this.