Spoiler warning! If you haven’t watched The Walking Dead’s “Stradivarius,” do so before reading on.
As The Walking Dead‘s resident alpha badass, Norman Reedus’ Daryl Dixon hasn’t commanded a lot of the show’s central storylines in recent years, at least beyond his imprisonment in the Sanctuary and his one-off tiffs with Rick. Sure, part of Daryl’s strength is that he can add additional muscle and more to everyone else’s stories, but he deserves more solo focus, especially now that Rick is gone.
Thankfully, the second time jump has added some depth to Daryl’s narrative, and “Stradivarius” shined a bigger light on where the character’s headspace is at these days. Let’s shine our own light on how things are getting more interesting.
Daryl has been out on his own for quite a while, apparently. Daryl became one with nature in the previous episode, though the circumstances behind that weren’t made clear. We still have no hard answers about why he struck out on his own, but Carol made it clear he’s been roughing it for longer than he’s letting on. Hopefully all the peace and quiet centered him a bit from his previous states of perma-rage.
He still believes Rick is alive. This is a very interesting new wrinkle for The Walking Dead to throw at fans, given how ever-expansive the franchise is getting in the near future. Daryl does have a point in saying Rick’s body was never recovered in any capacity, and if he continues to beat the drum for Rick being out there somewhere, that would be an easy way to bridge the TV show with Andrew Lincoln’s standalone Rick Grimes movies. Daryl spinoffs or we riot!
Daryl also has weird scars on his back. When Henry and viewers caught sight of Daryl’s back, it was immediately obvious that the elder survivor shared a similar wound to the one seen on Michonne’s back in the previous episode. I’m always interested in a good mystery — I’ve posited a number of questions about it — and it’s especially intriguing that the characters who were closest to Rick are the ones who are first seen sporting the letter-shaped scars.
Daryl now has a dog named Dog. It can easily be argued that all Daryl has needed is a best friend to brood alongside. His literal brotherhood with Merle and figurative brotherhood with Rick didn’t scratch that itch, and Carol and Beth had too much romantic chemistry. Now, though, The Walking Dead found an absolutely perfect new addition in a dog that Daryl named Dog. For years, Norman Reedus has been calling for Daryl to get a dog, and a single episode proved how simply genius that choice was. And it’s named Dog.
Daryl serving as Henry’s mentor could be bizarrely amazing. Few Walking Dead moments make me hoot as loud as I did when Ezekiel put Henry in his place for backtalk. However, I now find myself surprisingly intrigued by Carol’s attempts to get Daryl to provide Henry with a different set of influences. Henry’s already got a father figure, so what he really needs is a fucked up uncle to teach him all the things a father wouldn’t. Daryl could indeed be that hard-nosed, zombie-squashing uncle, and Henry could turn into something awesome one day.
Those knives are working out well for him. It was previously revealed that Daryl wouldn’t be relying on his crossbow as much in Season 9, for one reason or another. He’s got a pair of knives now that he can use a lot more smoothly for close-quarters combat. Not that Daryl has left his signature piece behind or anything; he’s just showing new weapons some love now, and he looks quite natural doing it.
For now, Daryl is joining in on the hunt to find Eugene, which could mean he’ll be on the front lines when The Whisperers make their existence more widely known. Find out what happens next when The Walking Dead‘s midseason finale airs on AMC on Sunday, November 25, at 9:00 p.m. ET. To see what other shows will be starting up during its midseason hiatus, hit up our fall TV schedule and our midseason premiere guide.