The Walking Dead

‘The Walking Dead’: Daryl-Focused Episodes, Ranked

Our favorite scruffy zombie-killer.

Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) has always been one of The Walking Dead’s most popular characters. He has the iconic look of a zombie apocalypse survivor, a tragic backstory, intense family dynamics, and the emotional stoicism of a rock. Still, he proved himself to be a loyal, selfless person time and time again. He formed some of the audience’s favorite relationships with Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Carol (Melissa McBride).

As one of the longest-lasting characters in the show, people have grown attached. Daryl moved from a recurring character to a regular cast and finally became one of the main protagonists once Rick was presumed dead. That means there are plenty of episodes focusing on Daryl to show precisely why audiences love him.

Season 10, Episode 21 – “Diverged”

Zooming in on Daryl’s friendship with Carol, “Diverged” had the potential to be a great episode. One of the most popular friendships going through a rough patch could be grounds for a heartwarming reunion. Still, instead, “Diverged” has rats, house troubles, and a meandering plot that does little to further the relationship or the overall series arc.

Character studies are great, but only if they offer more profound insight into the characters, they’re following, especially ten seasons into a show. This episode, unfortunately, didn’t break much in the way of new ground for either Daryl or Carol.

Season 2, Episode 4 – “Cherokee Rose”

Until this episode, Daryl had been seen as a tough guy who generally didn’t want to be hanging around with the main characters. “Cherokee Rose,” though, while not explicitly focused only on Daryl, was instrumental in introducing a new, softer element to the surface. He volunteers to go on a solo search for the missing Sophia (Madison Lintz), and when he fails to find her, he brings a Cherokee Rose (a symbol of protection for children) to Sophia’s mother, Carol.

The episode serves to foreshadow both Daryl’s softer character development in the future and his burgeoning relationship with Carol (which later became a popular pairing among fans). Also, it features one of the goriest scenes in the show as a Walker is torn in two from water buildup. However, it’s lower down on the list due to its lack of focus on Daryl.

Season 8, Episode 7 – “Time For After”

Another episode where Daryl isn’t quite the focus, but his decision affects the episode and creates conflicts between the characters. After disagreeing with Rick’s plan for dealing with the antagonistic Sanctuary, Daryl plots to drive a truck through the base’s walls and lead a group of Walkers into the building.

This is exactly what happens, and though the Saviors in the Sanctuary end up escaping, the plan creates conflict with another group of survivors, whom Rick had tentatively made peace with. Daryl’s hands-on approach to solving conflict created even more that ended up complicating matters for the rest of the season – good for television, but not for the characters themselves.

Season 8, Episode 3 – “Monsters”

This episode was a mixed bag for fans. After the long-gone character of Morales (Juan Gabriel Pareja) returns and holds Rick at gunpoint, Daryl unhesitatingly kills him. This far into the series, it may not have been a shock that Daryl was willing to do what was necessary, but it was still surprising that he did without any apparent regret.

Later in the episode, he also makes some morally ambiguous decisions by killing a Savior Rick had promised would live; Season 8 continued the show’s overall exploration of morally gray actions, and Daryl was a perfect character to represent them.

Season 2, Episode 5 – “Chupacabra”

“Chupacabra” highlights the dichotomies of Daryl – a gruff survivalist willing to do anything but also a man throwing himself into a search-and-rescue mission even though it seems hopeless. Continuing the signs of a softer nature from the preceding episode, Daryl continues searching for Maggie and is knocked unconscious. While laying in the forest half-conscious, he hallucinates his brother Merle (Michael Rooker), who accuses him of looking for Sophia rather than spending his time looking for his flesh-and-blood, a fitting summary of their relationship.

In addition, Daryl kills two walkers and takes their ears as trophies, showing his hard survival mentality again. This episode does a great job of balancing the established aspects of character fans had come to know with exploring new sides of his personality.

Season 4, Episode 12 – “Still”

“Still” was a great episode, even though it only featured two characters the entire way through. After Hershel’s death, the others have to cope somehow, and his daughter Beth (Emily Kinney) chooses alcohol (despite the potential dangers being drunk in a world full of zombies might cause). Once Daryl joins her, they argue that Daryl breaks down and admits his guilt over Hershel’s death.

In a touching moment, Daryl confides in Beth his belief that he needs to put the past behind him if he doesn’t want it to kill him.

Season 10, Episode 18 – “Find Me”

The last couple of seasons is excellent for Daryl fans since he’s front and center in most of them. With Rick having disappeared five years ago, Daryl is still obsessed with finding him and scours the wilderness looking for him. However controversial this episode and Daryl’s love interest, Leah (Lynn Collins) might be among The Walking Dead’s audience, everyone can agree that the Carol-and-Daryl moments are enthralling.

Norman Reedus gives some of his best performances when he has emotional range to work with. He certainly has that in “Find Me’, as he deals with guilt over his best friend’s disappearance and informs Carol that she could finally leave.

Season 7, Episode 3 – “The Cell”

Daryl’s been tortured in multiple ways throughout The Walking Dead, but somehow this Season 7 episode tops them all. Seeing a man for whom stubbornness and resilience are ways of life slowly being broken is challenging to watch, and the episode opens with a chilling montage of his routine as a prisoner.

This episode was in keeping with the psychological effects the entire show has explored in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse. Still, luckily for the viewers, it doesn’t last long as Daryl attempts his escape. “The Cell” was still a fantastic experience.

Season 3, Episode 9 – “The Suicide King”

A thrilling episode that opens with Daryl and Merle forced to fight to the death, “The Suicide King” explores Daryl’s definition of family. His somewhat antagonistic but loyal relationship with his older brother leads to friction within the group, as Daryl threatens to leave if they don’t take in Merle as well.

Merle and Daryl provide an interesting dynamic throughout the episode, making the last moment in “This Sorrowful Life” where Daryl has to kill his turned-Walker brother even harder to watch.

Season 3, Episode 15 – “This Sorrowful Life”

While not focused as much on Daryl as on Merle’s actions trying to protect him, the episode has intense, compelling scenes between them that show just how far they’ve drifted from one another, as well as just how much Daryl has changed since joining the group.

Of course, this all leads up to the heart-wrenching scene in which Daryl has to kill Merle, who appears as a Walker. It certainly gave context to the episode’s title, making this a hard one to watch without a box of tissues handy.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button