Daryl Dixon Review: The Walking Dead’s Latest Spinoff Breathes New Life Into the Franchise

Every time The Walking Dead launches a new spinoff, I approach it the same way: with cautious optimism. And more often than not, it lets me down. So you can imagine my delight to discover that the series’ fifth offshoot, Daryl Dixon — premiering on AMC Sunday, Sept. 10, at 9/8c — is, as the French would say, très bien. Pourquoi?

For starters, creator David Zabel’s premise is refreshingly original, at least for a Walking Dead. (For The Last of Us, not so much.) Norman Reedus’ gruff-but-tender OG, having washed ashore abroad, is tasked by fast friend Sister Isabelle (Clémence Poésy) with delivering to safety Laurent (Louis Puech Scigliuzzi), the young boy who is expected “to lead the revival of humanity.”

Is the kid really some kind of messiah, or is Sister Isabelle merely indulging in wishful thinking? Regardless of the answer, it’s a very different question for us to be asking than the usual “Will the good guys beat the bad guys?” or “Who’s getting bitten this week?” And not for nothing, but Reedus + a kid = money in the bank. (See also: Daryl and Judith’s lovely relationship.)

Helping matters is the fact that our leads are uniformly good. Poésy is presence personified, newcomer Scigliuzzi, a compelling find, and Reedus… I’ll be honest. I wasn’t sure that a whole show centered around taciturn Daryl would work. It does. What’s more, the actor, who is also an executive producer, kinda makes us fall in love with his character all over again as we watch him make his way through this strange new world.

That said, Daryl Dixon is by no means perfect. There are some murky motivations, eyebrow-raising coincidences, and here and there dialogue that is more mystifying than it can possibly have been intended to be. But the setting is stunning, the score by David Sardy is magnificently cinematic, and the walkers are… let’s just say that they’re not your grandma’s, OK?

Plus, with each episode that I screened — I’ve seen all of Season 1 — I kept saying, “Please don’t let this be the one to make the whole thing suck.” Despite my quibbles, I never got to an installment that made me reluctant to watch the one after it. Truth be told, by the time I got to the end of the finale, I wasn’t glad that I was done until Season 2, I was disappointed. I wanted more. (Thankfully, it’s on the way.)

THE TVLINE BOTTOM LINE: Though it may be as flawed as its protagonist, Daryl Dixon feels as fresh as a newly turned walker.

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