Why the Dixon?

Or how come a guest star in Season 1 of The Walking Dead reached supernova status by Season 3, because, let’s not kid ourselves, that’s exactly what happened. I do want to make one thing clear before I get to my main point and it is the fact that everyone on this show is a star in their own right. There are no secondary characters in the permanent cast, they’re all brilliant, which is one of the many reasons why the series is as great as it is. And yet it seems that none of them has shot up as high as Daryl. Of course it matters that he isn’t a character in the comic book and this has been pointed out often enough, but there are other things that I think played a greater role. Just to list them in advance these are, in ascending order of importance, the crossbow, the presence and character development, the team behind it, and the man behind it.

The crossbow. Is the sexiest projectile ever. Period. Longbows may be sexy but crossbows take it one step further. A long step. First of all, they look beautiful, they just do — the simplest combination of three straight lines and a curve, it’s a lovely shape. Secondly, they’re deadlier than a bow and the combination between beauty and deadliness is attractive, say what you will. Thirdly, and probably critically, they are weapons for men; no-nonsense, tough, cynical, sweaty males who know exactly what is practical in times of crisis. I have to admit that my love for crossbows dates back to the first time I read “Guards! Guards!” and the Ankh-Morpork Night Watch, and has only grown fonder since then, so I know what I’m talking about. And yes, I did have a slight crush on Legolas in LOTR. It would have been major, had they invented crossbows. Of course, crossbows, or rather the bolts, are as phallic as can be, I don’t even know why I have to mention it, but there it is, just for the sake of being thorough. So much for the weapon of choice.

The presence. By this I mean not just the physical presence of Reedus, ravishing though it is, but also the direction in which Daryl’s character is developed. He is the only one, I repeat, the only one who evolves in the moral sense of the word. All the rest of the gang start off as these highly civilised, compassionate, rational citizens of a modern society and all of them, save Dale who died a humanist, are forced to compromise a significant part of their civilisation in order to survive. It’s totally understandable but it’s still a sort of degradation.  Daryl, on the other hand, starts off as a survivor; a rather primitive, back-against-the-wall, fight-or-flight bundle of potential that’s been living under the wrong influence all his life. Put this potential in a suitable environment and it blossoms, pardon the very feminine verb. We love to see a good-for-nothing turned hero, don’t we? Mind you, we also love to see how a hero turns to the dark side by force of circumstances, we feel deeply for them, but it lacks the optimism of the first transformation which is why I think we love it more. We love hope. Lil Ass-kicker aside, Daryl is the image of hope that even after a zombie apocalypse we don’t necessarily have to downgrade to our most primal. He becomes a better man; the end of the world is not the end of humanity, doubtful as it may seem, when looking at most of the other survivors.

The people. There are two things I want to see in a TV series or a movie: logic and plausibility, organic action. I want to believe what I see and relate to it. I’m sure that’s what most viewers want but many of them are too uncritical, I feel. Let me just throw in an example of how it shouldn’t be done. The Vampire Diaries has a massive fandom, which makes me despair at the state of mankind. It relies on artificial dynamism, childishly illogical plot and flat, flat, flat characters. I honestly couldn’t think of a more opposite show to The Walking Dead. The reason TWD is the jewel it is, are the people behind it. I won’t list them in case I accidentally omit someone. The reason Daryl Dixon is the icon he already is, is that he was written and directed by people who are well aware of the term “multilayered character”. Oh, and of course, it was tailored for Norman Reedus so it’s only natural that it fits him like a glove. Does this mean he’s playing himself? Not in the least. It means he has the depth and scope to fill his character’s shoes, and they are big shoes. He fills them hands down.

I decided there’s no point in musing on the subject of hotness, as this is a topic much exploited. I will touch on it, though, with a specific observation. Norman Reedus radiates genuine kindness and he informs Daryl with it. This is a very rare quality in my very critical eyes. Forget bad-assery, the violent childhood and all. if you ask me what’s hot, I’ll go with kindness, any day. Imperfect (wink) crying face and all.

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