Webster’s dictionary defines evolution as a process of slow change and development. We have seen no other character on The Walking Dead slowly change and develop as much as Daryl Dixon. Daryl first burst on the scene and captivated our very souls in this scene.
Daryl’s First Appearance
Source: Walking Dead
From the Beginning to the End
We saw Daryl as just a good, old boy, a Southern redneck, in those first episodes. Just a look from those steely eyes could cut you.
Until we get to the season 6 finale when he is facing Negan’s bat, Lucille, and his eyes are now shaded from our view and we view a changed man, one who has evolved from that bad boy redneck into a battle-hardened warrior who faces down death at the whim of a madman.
Carol Brings Out A Softer Side
When Daryl brought Carol the Cherokee rose and told her the legend, his sensitivity and good heart peeped through that hard, sullen exterior. He cared. He kept right on searching for Sophia when others had given up hope. When the horse threw him off and he almost died, then was shot by Andrea, he never wanted to stop looking.
Even when Sophia stepped out of the barn as a walker, it was Daryl who ran to Carol and not only held her back, but just held her.
I have to admit I cheered and cried when he opened that door at the prison and found an exhausted, dehydrated, dying Carol, who everyone thought was lost to walkers. When he scooped her up in his arms and toted her out of there, it proved once again how truly loving and caring he really is.
When He Became Every Fangirl’s Ideal Baby Daddy
I’m sure there was a collective “Awww” heard all the way to the Space Station when Daryl took newborn baby Judith into his arms and started feeding her a bottle. I know I melted into a puddle of goo. Here is this sullen, angry, tough guy tenderly holding and smiling down at the tiny bundle in his arms and it took us by surprise. Little Ass Kicker indeed!
Source: YouTube/Kaye Iaroco
Bonding with Beth
Another unlikely pair ended up together as they fled the prison, Daryl and Beth. The Daryl we met in season one most likely would not have endured dragging a teenager cross country. Would he have left her to fend on her own? We’ll never know because by this time he has evolved into a kinder, more compassionate person. He really cared about her well-being, even though he fought showing it.
After unknowns kidnap Beth, Daryl tries to find her, eventually with Carol’s help. Many trials and tribulations later, Beth and Carol are to be rescued from the hospital when this happens. Beth dies. Pain and loss are etched into every line of Daryl’s face. Evolution brought friendship and family, along with the sorrowful specter of death.
Merle was Daryl’s brother and he was everything bad and more we thought Daryl was and actually should have been. If Daryl had continued down the same path under Merle’s tutelage, I’m sure he would have remained the hardened, bitter redneck we first encountered. Even Merle evolved a little at the end which led to his demise at the hands of the Governor. Daryl had to end Merle’s second life as a walker which, I believe, burned away any lingering aspects of the young redneck he once was.
A True Brother
Mistrust and skepticism slowly gave way to a true friendship, a true bond, a true brotherhood between Daryl and Rick. The evolution of Daryl Dixon had come full circle at that moment when Rick declared them to be brothers. It was a long, hard, arduous journey to get there but Daryl was no longer in Merle’s shadow. He had stepped out into the sunshine of all he could be and was. He was his own man.
I am glad I got to follow the evolution of Daryl into the man he has become. I look forward to seeing how his character will continue to grow and evolve with The Walking Dead, season seven. Join us on the journey on AMC beginning Sunday, October 9, at 9/8C.