Brandy Pettigrew’s whole family watches AMC’s zombiefest. Why? For the good men, of course.
A couple of years ago my oldest son asked me to sit down and watch a TV show with him. I don’t normally enjoy the same shows he does (think goofball comedies with no plot), but I started to watch because he seemed so excited about the show. Two episodes later, I was hooked and trying to find the back episodes so that I could catch up to where he was in the show. The Walking Dead is now my favorite show on TV, bordering on an obsession. I can’t miss an episode. I read blogs and recaps after each episode.
I have my husband watching now too. We’re not alone: the season 4 finale boasted 15.7 million viewers. Why is this show so popular? It isn’t just the zombies. Yes, they’re great and grotesque and always good for a fright, but that alone wouldn’t keep us tuning in every week. It certainly wouldn’t have me waiting with bated breath for the new season to start in October 2014. I believe a big reason the show has such appeal is the good men.
The Walking Dead has a cast of wonderful characters. Their writers outdo each other every week with plot twists and by exposing new facets of their characters. After 4 seasons of the show, you feel as if you know each one of them. You’re rooting for each of them to survive in a world that is so volatile that their lives could be snuffed out at any second.
When I started to write this piece, I thought I could write one article about all of the good men of The Walking Dead. I realized that I wouldn’t be doing any of these great characters justice by only talking about them for one paragraph. So, I’ve decided (and I hope you’ll agree with my decision), to write separately about each of the show’s good men, starting with Daryl Dixon.
Daryl was not one of my favorite characters when he first appeared on the show. I know this will be a surprise to a lot of you in the Daryl Dixon fan club, but when he first appeared in the third episode of the first season he was surly and rude. He didn’t speak much, but when he did it was to degrade someone else’s idea or optimistic outlook. I’m too much of an optimist myself to appreciate this kind of character. But I picked him as my first good man in TWD because he quickly changed my mind.
Daryl’s character, played by veteran actor Norman Reedus, was specifically created for the TV series. I love this, because his character is completely independent of the comic book and we just never know what he’ll do next. Daryl was introduced to us as the younger brother of Merle. Merle will not be featured, ever, in my “Good Men of TWD”. We’re talking bad guy squared! Daryl is an expert in tracking, hunting and navigating. Through the show we find that he has acquired these skills through a rough childhood. His alcoholic, abusive, chain-smoking parents left him on his own often. Merle raised Daryl, after their mother died in a house fire (which was started when she fell asleep, or passed out with a lit cigarette). However, Merle’s guidance didn’t keep Daryl from needing to defend and care for himself most of his life. So, by the time we meet him, Daryl is a drifter and ex-junkie who doesn’t trust or care for anyone but his brother.
During season 2, my distaste for Daryl subsided. He showed us that he could be more than just the distant outsider. At the beginning of season 2 he set out on his own to search for Carol’s daughter, Sophia, who was lost in the woods. His strong desire to continue that search well beyond when everyone but Carol knew that Sophia had to be dead was so selfless and caring. You see Daryl truly struggle with not finding her in time; then, at the end of season 2 when he goes back to the zombie-overrun farm to look for Andrea, by himself, you know that he is determined not to lose anyone again.
By season 3 I’ve officially entered the Daryl Dixon fan club. Sorry guys, it’s not because of his eyes, his muscles, the custom motorcycle he rides, or the Horton Scout HD125 that he wields like it’s part of his arm…. It’s because he’s become such a good man. As Carol said “Daryl has his code…The World needs men like that.” He’s shown his softer side in becoming close to Carol. He’s become Rick’s right hand man. He is the hunter/gatherer of the group. You can tell that he’s well liked in the group and that they would be lost without him. He overcomes a lot of his past when he has to put down his zombie-fied brother, Merle. The tears and anguish seem to be coming not just from the loss of his brother but from years of loss and being alone.
Daryl turns another corner in season 4 and seemed as astonished as I was, in “30 Days Without an Incident,” when Patrick thanks him for bringing food to everyone at the prison and asks permission to shake his hand. With Rick taking on a farming role for most of the season, Daryl seemed to step up to the plate and lead the group. He was looking out for everyone, a huge catharsis for the drifter who was planning to rob the group with his brother when they first appeared. When the group is again split, Daryl and Beth are on their own. Daryl begins to show us his protective, loving side more. Beth brought out emotion and words from this quiet guy that I never thought to hear. He expressed his deep remorse and guilt over not being able to defend everyone and not going after the Governor with Michonne. My heart broke for him.
Who really knows what will happen in Season 5 for Daryl. I know the writers love to tease us. However, they’re really not telling us much yet. I’m sure that as it grows closer to the season premiere, we’ll be favored with tantalizing little bits from them. They left Daryl in a boxcar in Terminus with a few of his friends and without his trusty crossbow. But if I know this flawed, complex badass, he’ll use all of his considerable skills to help them all survive.
Want the best of The Good Men Project posts sent to you by email? Join our mailing list here.