The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon 1×04 finally delivers two things: a close-up shot of a post-apocalyptic Eiffel Tower and… Daryl. Despite being the namesake character, Norman Reedus’ crossbow-wielding badass has mostly remained in the background, perhaps in an effort to flesh out new faces like Isabelle (Clémence Poésy) and Laurent (Louis Puech Scigliuzzi). Thankfully, Daryl Dixon “La Dame de Fer” changes that for the better.
At the same time, The Walking Dead spinoff continues to struggle with fully fleshing out side characters. Villains and conflicted heroes like Genet (Anne Charrier) and Anna (Lukerya Ilyashenko) are intriguing, but their motivations are unclear. It’s not that the characters completely miss the mark; it’s more that they lack oomph or, to stick with the French theme, je ne sais quoi. It is an issue that plagued The Walking Dead: Dead City, and one that hopefully won’t be repeated in Rick and Michonne’s The Ones Who Live spinoff.
Daryl Dixon 1×04 Finally Gives Our Hero the Spotlight
As mentioned, “La Dame de Fer’s” highlight is Daryl. Loyalty is his specialty, and despite knowing Isabelle and Co. for only a short time, he doesn’t hesitate to put his life on the line. Sure, he is partly doing it because it’s his best shot at returning to America, but it’s also clear he’s come to care about these people and their cause, even if he isn’t quite sure he believes in Laurent and the prophecy.
Daryl is a complicated person who walks the line between ruthless and selfless. From a touching moment with the pigeon man to savagely interrogating one of Quinn’s men, Daryl Dixon 1×04 weaves between the character’s softness and brutality. Perhaps its most impactful scene occurs after Daryl and Quinn engage in a particularly violent fight. Daryl has the opportunity to kill Quinn but decides to walk away after realizing Laurent is watching him. It says a lot about Daryl’s character. He knows Laurent looks up to him and likely wants to show the young boy that mercy is an option even when violence seems like the only (and easiest) way out.
This, of course, harkens to Daryl’s relationship with Rick’s children, Judith and RJ. With Rick gone, Daryl’s paternal relationship with the kids became a significant focal point of The Walking Dead’s final season. So far, mentions of Daryl’s past have been minimal. Still, moments like the one above are a welcome reminder of how far he has come from the untrusting rebel first introduced in Season 1 of the flagship series.
Side Characters Struggle to Stand Out
Six episodes aren’t enough when dealing with The Walking Dead’s expansive universe. This was true of Dead City, and it continues to be true here. Daryl Dixon 1×04 fumbles when it comes to Genet and Anna. However, Sylvie (Laïka Blanc-Francard) is perhaps the biggest victim of this. She’s an intriguing character. Daryl Dixon 1×02’s flashbacks confirm she grew up in the convent. She survives the later assault and joins Daryl and Co. on their journey to deliver Laurent. Despite this, Sylvie has barely said two words.
Daryl Dixon 1×04 then devotes time to Sylvie’s romantic subplot with Emile (Tristan Zanchi). It’s already a big ask to have audiences care about a romance between two characters who barely have screen time. Worse, it seems the whole thing is just a plot device, enabling Sylvie to ask Isabelle if she’s had any “romantic feelings for anyone since taking her vows” and if that “anyone” happens to be Daryl.
Previously, The Walking Dead has had a lot of wins when it comes to diversity and authentic representation. As such, Sylvie’s character is a surprise. While her story hasn’t fully played out yet, she has been regulated to a background character and plot pusher thus far. Her “girl talk” moment with Isabelle feels shoehorned in to tease this confusing but maybe sexual energy lingering in the very depths of Daryl and Isabelle’s interactions. What about Carol? What about Connie? Who knows? Right now, it seems Daryl Dixon wants to keep Daryl’s past relationships as separate from the spinoff as possible.