After six episodes following a desperate and homesick Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) battling his way through France, the first season of “The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon” ended on Sunday with a surprising twist: Daryl literally missed the boat back to America. Spoilers ahead.
According to series showrunner David Zabel, Season 1’s plan was always to end with Daryl standing on a beach, choosing to stay in France with Laurent (Louis Puech Scigliuzzi) and Isabelle (Clémence Poésy) rather than go home.
“That was really my first pitch on the story,” Zabel told TheWrap.
The executive producer explained that his series’ “central conceit” was always “in trying to get back home, what happens if you form a surrogate home in the place you’re trying to get away from?”
Zabel was careful to build to this emotional decision for Daryl. The first three episodes see Daryl slowly warming up to Laurent and Isabelle. But it isn’t until Episode 4, when a somewhat parental Daryl and Laurent escape Paris on a boat, that a softer side of this gruff character emerges.
“At that point — he’s not going to say it because he’s not that kind of guy — he is like, ‘I know I’ve got to do this. This is an obligation. Regardless of what I want for myself, I’ve got to do this thing,” Zabel said.
Daryl’s ultimate decision to stay behind is also alluded to earlier in Episode 6 thanks to an acting decision from Reedus. Zabel explained that the “genius” of Reedus as an actor is how he portrays the feelings and thoughts of his characters without saying a word. In the scene in question, Daryl tells Isabelle that he’s leaving her while packing some bread for his journey.
“I was like, ‘Norman, you don’t need all that bread. It’s too much bread,’” Zabel told the actor. “But I love that scene, because his frustration is manifesting. He knows it’s hard to leave, and part of him doesn’t want to leave. So it comes out as frustration, which is very human.”
Zabel also broke down Episode 6’s big cameo: Carol (Melissa McBride). Throughout the original “Walking Dead,” Carol and Daryl formed a close relationship, becoming best friends. Once, Daryl even made a friendship bracelet for Carol as a joke. After several episodes set exclusively in France save for flashbacks, Carol emerges in the final moments of “Coming Home” when she steals back Daryl’s motorcycle from a random drifter.
“Carol is still in the old world, so to speak,” Zabel said. “[‘The Walking Dead’] is not happening, but the story of the Commonwealth and Carol and all those people, that’s still going on over there.”
During New York Comic Con, it was revealed that Season 2 of “Daryl Dixon” will be subtitled “The Book of Carol,” ensuring McBride will remain part of this story moving forward. Though Zabel preferred to keep what was in store for Carol a secret, he assured TheWrap that “we’re not dropping anything” in the already-in-production Season 2.
“The narratives that we’ve set up in Episode 6, we will follow through on those,” Zabel said. That includes questions such as what’s been happening with Carol and the Commonwealth, what’s Daryl going to do now that he’s chosen to remain in France and what Daryl’s rival, Stéphane Codron (Romain Levi) is planning.
“These are all things that continue. The two seasons are really of a piece,” Zabel said. “There’s not a sense of like, ‘Oh, Season 2 is totally different than Season 1.’ It it just enhances and continues all the stuff that we did in Season 1 in a way that’s very satisfying.”