Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) is arguably the most popular character in The Walking Dead universe, and he’s been so throughout most of the television series. He’s the show’s ultimate badass, but over the last couple of seasons, he’s also become an emotionally rich character, particularly due to the depth of his relationships with Beth and Carol. But lately, the character has been in something of a funk, aside from “Consumed,” the episode in which he and Carol search for Beth (and meet Noah), and what he brought to the death of Beth with his presence, he’s been somewhat sidelined.
The problem with Daryl is that he’s not a comics character, and while that has be a boon to the series at times, it’s also been something of a detriment. Robert Kirkman, in a way, spelled out why at the Amazing Arizona Comic Con last year (via Blastr):
I like that when we sit down to write the show one of the first things we deal with is: ‘How does Daryl Dixon change this story?’ Because we always start from: ‘Ok, we like this part of the comic. How are we going to do it?’
And it’s just always interesting to get in there and be like, ‘Oh, well his existence and the fact that his personality is this, and he would behave this way, means that he would react to this person differently than this and differently than that.’
The problem, unfortunately, is that there’s several instances in which he simply can’t be added to the comics storyline, so he ends up subsuming the roles of other characters. Tyreese, for instance, was a great character on The Walking Dead TV series, but in the comics, he was even richer. Aside from a very dark suicide pact storyline involving Tyreese’s daughter (which was excised in the series), he was also Rick’s right-hand man, a role that was already taken when Tyreese joined the series. In fact, in an interview with TVLine, Chad Coleman explained that Daryl is exactly why he’s no longer on the series:
“The creation of Daryl, more than anything else, is probably the reason why I’m not on the show. I was [Rick’s] right-hand man [in the comics].”
Who replaced Tyreese as Rick’s right-hand man after Tyreese died in the comics? Abraham. With Daryl still around, that’s not likely to happen, either, and it could ultimately spell an early demise for Abraham’s character, as well. While it allows a fan favorite to continue on the series, it comes at an expense.
Not to give too much away from the comics, but Daryl’s presence also inflicted a little collateral damage onto last week’s storyline. (SLIGHT SPOILERS) In the comics, after Beth’s death, Maggie was so distraught over the loss of her entire family that she attempted suicide (in a very grim scene that still may yet show up in the series). We saw a depressed Maggie in last week’s episode, but it wasn’t a featured moment for Maggie. She had to share that grief with Daryl (who was also close to Beth) and Sasha (who was grieving over the loss of Tyreese, who died because of the existence of Daryl). Without the ripples caused by the existence of Daryl in the storyline, maybe Lauren Cohan gets her own spotlight episode (and maybe they keep the attempted suicide storyline).
On the other hand, Daryl is the biggest reason why Carol is still around (she died much earlier in the comics), and the relationship between those two has obviously enriched the series substantially. But as Rick and the survivors move on to the next stage of the comics — the Alexandria Safe-Zone — how will Daryl’s (and Carol’s) existence continue to affect the other characters around them?
Robert Kirkman continues to say that “no one is safe” on The Walking Dead, but it may be that the riot which would ensue on Tumblr if Daryl dies is, in fact, keeping the job of Norman Reedus safe. But for how much longer, and at what cost to the original comics’ storyline?