There’s a saying: Three’s a charm. Here’s another: Three’s company.
AMC has released three (three!) shows set in The Walking Dead universe this year despite the main series ending just last November.
The first of these was the first half of Fear The Walking Dead’s final season, which also happens to be the worst season so far, somehow, miraculously. I didn’t know that it could get any worse after the execrable 7th season, but they managed to outdo themselves. I’m still convinced the showrunners have a secret grudge against AMC.
Then came Dead City, in which best buddies Maggie and Negan head to Manhattan for some R&R. That show started out really bad, but ended up being the best thing The Walking Dead has given us in years, largely thanks to Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s performance, though I found myself like Lauren Cohan’s Maggie a lot more than I had in a while also.
So that’s kind of where I’m at with Episode 1 of Daryl Dixon, or as I like to call it, The Daryl Dixon Show! I’ve only watched the first episode of the Norman Reedus starring spinoff, and I didn’t like it very much at all. I was sent screeners for all six of the season’s episodes, but I’ve taken a new approach to my weekly recap/reviews. I did this with Dead City also.
I only watch one episode in advance so I can write a timely review, but I don’t watch ahead. That’s both so that I keep each episode fresh and distinct when I write about it, but also so that I can watch alongside viewers without knowledge of what’s coming. It’s fun to speculate and to have my honest opinion shift and change as each episode drops (or not change, if that’s the case).
This means that I’ve only seen the first episode of Daryl Dixon and cannot speak to the quality of the season as a whole. I don’t know what happens next. I don’t know if this Series Premiere is the one bad episode or if it speaks to the show writ large. We shall see.
(My colleague Paul Tassi has watched all six episodes and did not like it overall, though he told me the worst and the best parts of the season are yet to come, for what it’s worth). Okay, enough preamble. Let’s talk about this episode, “L’ame Perdue” which translates to “the lost soul.”
Daryl Dixon Goes To France
As I watched this episode, I kept thinking of movies I’d seen in the past. Namely, Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves and Monty Python And The Search For The Holy Grail. And so I spent some time (er, wasted some time) to make these side-by-side visual recaps:
In any case, we open with Daryl washing ashore on what we soon learn is the coast of France. He walks around looking for supplies and runs into some zombies, one of whom grabs him burning his skin as though his hands are covered in acid. We learn later that this is a ‘burner’ and perhaps the single most interesting thing about this episode is the introduction of this new type of zombie. The Walking Dead is wisely introducing various mutant varieties of its chompers which we’ve seen in both the main show and Dead City at this point. (And in Fear if you count Morgan as a variety of zombie).
Daryl stumbles across two French people. One is a young woman with a good handle on the English language. Another is an old blind man who, shockingly, ends up not being blind after all. After two bandits try to capture the woman and take their supplies, Daryl leaps in and saves her. She and her not-blind companion repay this kindness by knocking him unconscious and stealing his stuff. This goes badly for them later, when one of the bandit’s brothers and his goons find them and demand answers. They kill the old man in the process.
Daryl is rescued by nuns who take them to their fortified convent where they’ve been training with knives and bows. All I could think of was “Oh, wicked, bad, naughty, evil Zoot! Oh, she is a bad person, and she must pay the penalty!” and not at all because the Galahad scene from The Holy Grail has stuck with me since childhood, and not in the least bit because of the perilous spankings.
In any case . . . Daryl is cared for and meets a French boy being raised by the nuns who, we later discover, is being groomed (not like that) as a future messiah to rally the people to create the new world or something. That whole bit had me shaking my head. What an actually stupid notion this is. The only thing more stupid is the premise of the show itself. Why not have Daryl go to Montana or Maine or California or something?
I mean, sure, we’re given an explanation of sorts about how and why he’s here. He was taken by “bad people on a boat” and that “didn’t go so well.”
We meet some of the bad people, who just happen to be the goons now hunting for Daryl. They come to the convent and demand the nuns hand him over. Things go badly and soon the nuns are full-on attacking the goons in one of the weirdest, goofiest showdowns I’ve ever seen. This is not how nuns would react, nor is it how they ought to react. They ought to hand Daryl over. Catholic nuns are not warriors. Their faith does not teach them that violence is the answer. (Then again, it also doesn’t teach them to create new messiahs).
Then again, the likelihood of a convent of nuns surviving the zombie apocalypse in France is close to zero. In fact, even finding a convent of nuns in France to begin with is next to zero given how little the French do religion these days. A South or Central American setting might have worked better and made more sense.
In any case, the bad guys don’t get Daryl and they don’t get the boy, who the convent’s Mother Superior calls “the cure for a sick world” for some baffling reason. Daryl takes two of the nuns—Isabelle (Clémence Poésy who you may recognize from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) and Sylvie (Laika Blanc Francard)—along with the boy, Laurent (Louis Puech Scigliuzzi) from the convent on a quest to get the boy to some people who can help raise him to become the world’s savior, or something.
The main thug—Codron (Romain Levi)—escapes.
We then cut to Le Havre in Northern France, where we meet a mysterious woman who imperiously questions the sea captain about what happened on the ship. There was a mutiny, we discover, but the man who started it went overboard and was “presumed dead” according to the captain. The woman is not impressed. “Presumed? By who, by you?”
“His name was Dixon,” the captain says. The woman, the boss lady, tells her goons to find him if he isn’t dead. And so we have our new Big Bad who now has a personal bone to pick with our hero.
This is the other bit that I found pretty silly. The Walking Dead formula in just about every show goes like this: Our heroes arrive somewhere. They meet some decent people. But soon a new group of Bad People shows up. There is a violent conflict between the groups. The heroes win and the bad guys are defeated. Rinse, repeat. And here we are, setting the same stage we’ve set so many times before.
I am hoping that things pick up now that we’re out of the convent and on the road. More Daryl is always a good thing, though I can’t help but feel Daryl + Carol + Dog would be better. But I think I’d prefer a story where Daryl was in the Americas somewhere, with his bike and crossbow, not escorting a stupid kid to some stupid “Nest”.
Again: We shall see.
I pointed out in Dead City also that it’s getting a little bit . . . weird that every single villain in TWDU is now a woman. I’m not at all opposed to compelling female bad guys. Alpha in The Walking Dead was a chilling nemesis and a great change of pace from Negan. But since then almost every villain has been a woman, including:
- Pamela Milton in The Walking Dead Season 11. Sure, Lance Hornsby and the Pope were also bad guys, but they were more like mini-bosses. She was the main antagonist. (Hornsby was, by far, the best villain in that season but they didn’t go anywhere with his character).
- In Fear The Walking Dead the main bad guy in Season 4B, Season 5 & 6 and Season 8 were women. (In Season 7 it was Strand, which was wildly stupid, not because conflict between main characters would be bad but because they made him a mustache-twirling villain rather than just a guy with a different vision than Morgan).
- In Dead City we were thrown a red herring, made to think that The Croat was the big bad, but we learned by the end that his boss was the Dama (the Lady in Croatian).
- In World Beyond, Elizabeth Kublek was the primary antagonist.
And now, in Daryl Dixon, we have another female villain. That means that out of Since Season 9 of The Walking Dead virtually every villain across something like 9 seasons of TV has been a woman.
Like I said, I like female villains I just think a little balance is in order. It’s almost like AMC is telling us that women are more wicked and evil then men at this point. I get that after the Governor and Negan it was smart to shift course to Alpha and other female antagonists but there is such thing as too much of a good thing. (And I forgot that the New Babylon leader is also a woman, and Maggie is the leader of her group and so on and so forth). I’d say the same thing if we had two female villains and then only male villains after that, by the way. It’s just weird.
So. Yeah. Not a fan at this point, but we shall see.
- I’m a little confused about Daryl telling Isabelle that he ran into a nun, and asking her if she could take him back to “that place…the port”—is he talking about another nun, or is he talking about her? Is he just talking about her getting him back to where we saw him in the beginning of the episode?
- I like the show’s intro. It’s very dramatic and colorful.
- It’s funny that all these French people are using black powder guns that would probably not actually work at this point. The French do have actual modern guns, by the way. Just not as many as Americans. But they do have an army and police and hunting rifles and so forth. There would be guns in circulation during the apocalypse that weren’t from the 1890s’.
- I genuinely do enjoy Daryl. Norman Reedus is great. The potential for a cool Norman Reedus show is there, but I’m not feeling it here—not this premise. Not the idea that he is a “prophesied” hero come to escort The Chosen One. People have complained that the show rips off The Last Of Us, and I can see how that’s already begun in the first episode. The comparison will not be flattering. And sure, even that show/game is using an old trope (escort the MacGuffin from point A to point B) but still. It’s fresh in our collective heads.
- Note to reddit: I don’t hate The Walking Dead. If I hated it I’d stop writing about it. I have, for many years, sought to encourage it to be better, to be more than what it is. I believe that AMC has become complacent—and complicit—in its decline from what it used to be, and my criticism is designed to point out flaws so that those can be improved. The stubborn refusal to make important changes—especially to leadership—means that we continue to get mediocre (or downright terrible in the case of Fear) content when we deserve so much better.
Check out my video review below:
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