The more you think about it, the more you realize that Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) has experienced one of the more interesting and complete transformations on The Walking Dead. Yet, despite how far he has come, it’s still a shock when he reminds us of his softer side or betrays his loner vibe to stand up and be counted as a leader for his group.
We’ve still got some time before we get back from the midseason break, but until then, let’s recall those shocking moments and the evolution of Daryl Dixon.
9. Saving T-Dogg’s Life
When the group’s caravan is stalled on the highway due to an over-turned truck, they soon find themselves surrounded by a massive herd of walkers. As everyone scatters, hiding wherever they can, T-Dogg (IronE Singleton) cuts open his arm ducking behind a wrecked car. Bleeding so badly that he starts to lose consciousness, a walker stumbles toward him, smelling his blood. Suddenly, Daryl shows up to stop the walker in its tracks with a well-placed screwdriver and then helps cover T-Dogg with a nearby corpse to throw the rest of the herd off their scent.
While Daryl has proven to be both scrappy and resourceful from the get-go, his reaction was a bit of a surprise, considering that this was the same guy who was ready to blame T-Dogg for the disappearance of his brother, Merle, just a few days prior.
8. Blowing Up A Tank
When The Governor (David Morrissey) returns to wreak havoc on the prison with a new ragtag army (plus one tank), his effort to take the prison for himself is met with a full-fledged battle. While it was no secret that Daryl was a formidable opponent in a fire-fight, the way he handled that tank definitely qualifies as “outside of the box thinking” and it certainly came as a surprise.
7. Following Rick’s Lead
When the group finds themselves at a moral crossroads over what to do with their prisoner, Randall (Michael Zegen), Daryl once again starts to openly consider the possibility that he might be better off alone, believing that the group itself is broken. He never gets the chance to leave, though, as everyone’s plans change when a massive herd of walkers pour onto Hershel’s farm and overrun the survivors.
Once (almost) everyone regroups at the rendezvous point, they realize that Andrea had been left behind in the chaos, it’s Daryl who immediately volunteers to go back and look for her. This wasn’t that unexpected, even though just days earlier he’d told Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) that he was “done lookin’ for people,” but the fact that Rick (Andrew Lincoln) ordered him to stay — and that Daryl listened to him — was. He later refuses Carol’s (Melissa McBride) request that the two of them should head off on their own, or that Daryl should be leading the group. Suddenly, Daryl had become Rick’s right-hand man.
6. Comforting Carol After Her Daughter’s Death
When Sophia (Madison Lintz) went missing, Daryl dedicated himself to the effort to find her, nearly getting himself killed in the process. The whole time, he would tell everyone it was because he was better on his own. Although, when Sophia turned up among the group of walkers being kept in Hershel’s (Scott Wilson) barn, Sophia’s mother, Carol, became overwhelmed with grief. Through it all, Daryl was the one who was there to try and comfort her. This was not only the dawning of the relationship between Daryl and Carol, but a revealing look at who he really was underneath the gruff exterior and leather vest.
5. Saving The Family On The Bridge
After an unconventional reunion with Merle (Michael Rooker) at Woodbury, Daryl ends up making good on his long-expired threat to leave the group behind. After some bickering in the woods, though, Daryl hears the cry of a baby and rushes to save a family that is surrounded by walkers on a nearby bridge.
Merle, in the meantime, stands on the sidelines, explaining his belief that helping strangers is nothing but a waste of bullets. Again, the main crux of the moment isn’t the big shock: by now, we know that Daryl has a stronger moral compass than most so, of course, he’d come to the rescue of some people that were in need. But when Merle starts to rifle through the family’s belongings looking for supplies to pillage, Daryl tells his brother to leave them alone, and that moment of defiance where Daryl stood up to Merle was as surprising as it was key to his evolution.
4. Mourning Carol
As the prison is overrun with walkers, Carol is thought to be dead, killed along with T-Dogg and Lori. In the aftermath, the group digs three graves, though Carol’s remains empty. Soon, Daryl begins finding hints throughout the prison that Carol may have survived longer than everyone initially thought. Daryl tracks the clues back to an isolated prison cell, where he waits outside, wrestling with the idea of having to kill whatever Carol had become on the other side of that door. While finding Carol alive was unexpected, Daryl’s display of pent-up emotion was the real surprise.
3. Confessing His Past To Beth
While we’ve gotten glimpses of many of the characters’ backstories, Daryl’s remains (mostly) shrouded in mystery. It had even become a game between Daryl and the ill-fated Zach (Kyle Gallner), who would get one guess a day as to what Daryl’s job was before everything changed. While we’ve made some guesses of our own, Daryl gives the most revealing explanation while he and Beth (Emily Kinney) were on the run together. Drinking moonshine out of mason jars, Daryl talks about the ugly world he came from, and how he believes that he never really got away from it.
Daryl opening up and being honest about his past was certainly uncharacteristic, but the real shock was his decision to help burn down their shelter in the middle of the night in a forest surrounded by walkers who, incidentally, happen to be attracted to fire.
2. Becoming A Scout For Alexandria
When the group first arrived at Alexandria, Daryl was the last one to let his guard down, shower, or even change into some clean clothes, much to everyone’s dismay. Then, after developing a friendship with Aaron (Ross Marquand) and his boyfriend, Eric (Jordan Woods Robinson), he slowly begins to feel like a part of the community, possibly for the first time in his life. It’s such a substantial change that he even volunteers to take Eric’s place after he’s injured, joining Aaron on the road to find new potential citizens of Alexandria. This is Daryl having come full circle, roaming the countryside not as a loner, but as someone looking for people to join him in the first place he’s ever considered home.
1. Showing His Nurturing Side
As Rick goes into isolation to “work things out” after the death of Lori, Daryl becomes the group’s leader, even spearheading a mission to go retrieve some baby supplies to help care for the newly-arrived Judith. He even came up with Judith’s nickname, ‘Little Ass-Kicker,’ while he was bottle-feeding her, which would end up going down as the most surprising, and wildly popular, Daryl moment of all time.
This is an update of a previously published post.