Welcome to Industrial Scripts’ Truly Original Characters series, an ongoing sequence of articles examining the most original characters to appear in both TV and film. This article focusses on Daryl Dixon from The Walking Dead.
Table of Contents
- What is an Original Character?
- Who is Daryl Dixon?
- What Makes Daryl Dixon an Original Character?
- Multi-Dimensional Characters
- Daryl Dixon’s Relationships
- Daryl Dixon’s Journey and Character Arc
- Daryl Dixon’s Strengths and Weaknesses
- In Conclusion
What is an Original Character?
It’s a character that sticks with you even when they’re long gone from your screens. It’s a character that serves as a reference point in casual conversation or a character that sums up a behavior or generation.
“not the same as anything or anyone else and therefore special and interesting…”— from The Cambridge English Dictionary
Most importantly, in screenplay terms, an original character is a character that shines through in spite of any other weaknesses within that screenplay.
For a Screenplay Reader or Development Executive, an original character is an element of a script that stands out. No matter how busy they are or no matter how much work other elements of the script need, the original characters steal the show.
Great characters are at the very heart of great screenwriting and original characters can help elevate great to superlative.
Whether plucked from real life, an amalgamation of real people or just simply a genius stroke of creativity, these are original characters…
*The following article contains spoilers for The Walking Dead*
Who is Daryl Dixon?
Daryl Dixon is an apocalyptic survivor and a main character in The Walking Dead. Daryl is a skilled hunter, trained in tracking and direction. He is also one of the few characters in The Walking Dead not to feature in the comics on which the series is based.
Daryl Dixon is first introduced as a stubborn and violent character who is only a part of Rick Grimes’ group because of his mission to rescue his brother, Merle Dixon, who is trapped on a rooftop at the beginning of series 1.
Different sides of Daryl are revealed, quickly showing that his violent exterior hides a soft interior. Daryl is a strong member of the group and proves his skillset early on – from his skilled crossbow shooting to his leadership skills.
Later in series 4, the reveal of Daryl’s backstory provides an explanation of the nature of his character. Daryl burns down a house in the middle of the woods with Beth as a rebellious goodbye to his childhood memories. Eventually, he leaves behind his father’s abuse and his mother’s abandonment.
His difficult backstory and gruff demeanour hiding a sensitivity make him a loveable fan-favourite. He’s immediately striking as an intriguing and charismatic presence but it’s the slow reveal of his inner personality and backstory that truly makes him a rich and engaging character throughout the series as a whole.
What Makes Daryl Dixon an Original Character?
Daryl Dixon from The Walking Dead is not like any other character in the series. He creates his own support system and lends a hand whenever the group needs him. Daryl is often the hero and helps the group escape from crises.
Layers of personality reveal different aspects of Daryl’s persona.
- Independence is one of Daryl’s greatest strengths, yet his empathy and passion always lead him back to helping others.
- Daryl may convey a carefree attitude but underneath he cares more than he lets be known.
- Although he may be skilled in using his crossbow, which is synonymous with his character, his emotions are out of line with his talents.
His physical attributes outshine his emotional side. Throughout the series, Daryl proves his physical survival but rarely taps into his emotional wellbeing.
Daryl only lets his guard down with people he holds close to him. Daryl’s worst moment is, arguably, witnessing the turn of Merle into a walker – his only last blood relative gone. Although he and Merle often disagreed, Daryl puts family and friends first, especially when it comes down to his emotional, gut responses to situations.
Overall, he’s a character whose tough exterior belies a sensitivity beneath. It’s the context that makes this feel particularly original and powerful, a character whose emotional core is continually tested by the environment’s extremity.
Multi-dimensional characters have particular ways they connect with people. These characters have their strengths and weaknesses, but their talents or overarching charisma are at the forefront of what they do.
The people they are close to is with whom they show their true personality. Multi-dimensional characters have qualities that are attractive and overall likeable, in order for the audience to relate to them.
Daryl Dixon from The Walking Dead has multiple layers to his personality.
- His internalized values overpower his tough exterior, making him a rare gem.
- The group always fall back on Daryl, whether it’s a job they need him to complete or acting as the much-needed leader when Rick is not around.
Throughout the show, Daryl’s actions are determined by his internal beliefs. Daryl naturally fits the role of father figure for Judith when Rick is not there, for example. He also fits perfectly into the role of leader and how he reacts to crisis situations in past seasons foreshadows this rising fate.
His exterior and interior are often at odds and this is what makes him feel multi-dimensional as a character.
Daryl Dixon’s Relationships
Daryl has an introverted personality. His presence speaks more than any words can say and he has more action scenes than dialogue. Copious dialogue doesn’t really suit his character. His displays of affection for other characters are more along the lines of heroic saves and getting them out of trouble.
In this way, Daryl Dixon from The Walking Dead is a superhero in his own right. And he’s the superhero of The Walking Dead. As seen across the series, it takes time for characters to earn Daryl’s trust. But once on Daryl’s side, he can be fiercely loyal and a crucial backup when faced with danger.
Daryl has survived the likes of Terminus, The Claimers, The Wolves, The Saviors and The Whisperers. But in many ways, for Daryl, the living pose a bigger threat than the hordes of walkers. Daryl has breakdowns, sees the passing of main characters and experiences the change in scenery more than any other character.
Overall, it’s the human experience that challenges him the most. This is key in making him an empathetic character. Amidst all the surreal and fantastical challenges the ones we can most relate to are the ones that ring truest to our own lives.
Rick Grimes and Daryl Dixon
Daryl Dixon and Rick Grimes have a tumultuous relationship. From bros to foes and back to bros, Daryl and Rick never quite see eye to eye.
- The relationship is tested in their fight scene in season 7 and in season 9 where the boiling tension over Rick’s plans end in near-death experiences for both characters.
- The introduction of Negan in season 6 brings Daryl and Rick closer, putting them on common ground against a powerful antagonist.
Although both characters have their fair share of heroic moments, Rick and Daryl share a deeper bond. They go from acquaintances to frenemies to brothers.
Ultimately, their bond dominates and controls their power struggle as throughout the series both characters are leaders in their own right. And perhaps Rick serves as the positive role model brother that Daryl needs, a stark contrast to Daryl’s real brother, Merle.
Merle Dixon and Daryl Dixon
Daryl is heavily influenced by his older brother, Merle, in the earlier seasons. Merle is a tough character to break and like Daryl, he has bounced back from obstacle after obstacle. But Merle lacks the empathy and decent respect for people that Daryl naturally has.
Daryl has the best of both worlds; he learnt the skills to hunt from his brother and uses them to survive but also knows how to treat people. Even if it does take him a while to develop the courage to break free from his brother’s path. Merle is a brilliant contrast for Daryl in this respect, highlighting Daryl’s distinct traits.
As a survivor, Daryl had an important decision to make, stay with the group or leave with Merle. He eventually showcases his inner resilience by breaking free from his brother’s grasp.
Daryl starts a new life even if it is post-apocalyptic, leaving his brother to join the group. However, the real brotherly bond is only truly broken when Daryl knows he will never see his brother again.
Daryl’s relationship with his brother is perhaps his defining relationship overall. It’s the one he struggles to escape the shadow of and the one that he continues to wrestle with throughout.
Carol Peletier and Daryl Dixon
Daryl Dixon’s love life is somewhat of a rollercoaster. Fans have seen him with Beth Green, Carol Peletier and Leah in season 10. Daryl’s relationship arc starts with Beth as his first love, with Carol as an eternal love interest and Leah as his new love.
Stuck between friends and lovers, Daryl and Carol have a natural bond where they have never feel the need to explain what they have.
No two characters have been through as much as fan-favourites Daryl and Carol. Both are strong-minded characters and show they are independent survivors. They are perfect examples of what constitutes a fan-favourite – memorable, likeable characters that are put through a lot and come out the other side.
Carol and Daryl have amazing transformations and character journeys, individually and together.
- Carol was initially portrayed as a weak mother stuck in an abusive relationship.
- Whilst Daryl was the skilled hunter stuck in his brother’s shadow. But both found their inner strength to overcome their obstacles.
Their lows have taught them valuable lessons, but their highs define their character strength. Carol makes a fighting comeback after losing her daughter. And Daryl finds his individual style and inner solace after shaking off his brother’s shadow. Additionally, their similar journeys teach them to better understand each other.
In essence, the apocalypse has suited their characters. Without it, neither Carol nor Daryl may have escaped their lifestyles. They have used the apocalypse to their advantage to set them free from the people holding them down. Ultimately, Carol and Daryl always seem to end up together no matter the crisis.
Daryl Dixon’s Journey and Character Arc
Daryl experiences multiple setbacks with the group and his journey is never straightforward in this regard.
- In season 3, for example, after Daryl and Merle leave the group, Merle attempts to convince Daryl that the group will never accept them if they return because their violent ways of handling situations don’t align with the group’s values.
- Daryl struggles to decide whether to stay with his brother or the group.
- This huge decision is the melting point of their brotherly bond and the breaking point moment for Daryl’s journey.
- Although this big change affects Daryl immensely he quickly bounces back and hardens his character further.
Another big change for Daryl occurs when Negan holds him prisoner to torture him mentally and physically. Daryl’s breakdown is a turning point where he no longer wants to be fully part of the group because it leads him to constant trouble and setbacks.
During season 3, an opportunity for Daryl to step in as leader proves a success. During the rise of the Governor, Merle returns to the group, reuniting the brothers. Daryl somewhat changes Merle’s perceptions and Daryl’s empathy outshines him. Here Daryl waves a final goodbye to his violent past and from there on his new lease of life begins.
Daryl takes on a transformational arc over the seasons. He begins as an unruly, violent, and troublesome boy who lives in the background of his brother’s shadow. And he turns into a skilled, loyal, and empathetic man who is a valued member of the group. From this, he then develops into a strong-willed leader in control of his emotions.
This kind of transformative arc is what great characters are made of and is why he shines so brightly from within the series.
Daryl Dixon’s Strengths and Weaknesses
Ultimately, Daryl Dixon from The Walking Dead has the ability to thrive when the people around him understand him. And it takes a lot to get in Daryl’s good books. This makes him a character who is not easy to get to know but all the more rewarding once you do.
He has his own unique style that makes him stand out from the other survivors. And he is not afraid to stand up for himself and what he believes in.
Daryl has the ability to diffuse any crisis situations because of his undeniable skills.
- Daryl has grown up surviving. He is the ultimate survivor for an apocalypse. And in this, he’s someone everybody would want to have by their side.
Furthermore, Daryl has an ability to understand people better than they understand themselves – an innately likeable quality.
- Daryl has the ability to see through people and guess their next actions.
- Not only is he a fast-thinker but he is skilled in using weaponry to his advantage.
- This is a double whammy – allowing him to guess the other’s actions and act swiftly in response.
Empathy – Weakness Into A Strength
Daryl’s ability to understand people could be his weakness. Empathy is the biggest difference between Daryl and Merle, for example.
- In season 3, Daryl flees the group with Merle.
- They find a family in trouble and as Merle hesitates, Daryl helps them.
- This action shows the character’s morals. Daryl did not want to regret leaving a family when he could have saved them.
- His heroics are hidden and Daryl does not have to boast about them because he does it for the internal reward, not the external recognition.
These qualities of empathy make Daryl inherently likeable and identifiable for an audience. Empathy is an aspirational characteristic and this is particularly the case when it’s not always the most practical one, given the apocalyptic circumstances.
In a show drenched in the loss of humanity, Daryl demonstrates how such humanity can break through even in the most challenging of circumstances. This is why he represents such an original character.
He’s someone who in his existence argues for humanity in the bleakest of circumstances. And it’s not through impassioned dialogue that he does this but through the nature and complexity of his actions and character arc.
Daryl Dixon’s layered personality makes him a complex character. His unrelenting loyalty to the group and his tough upbringing mixed with his innate empathy creates an original character.
Upbringing defines characters and their journey onwards. Daryl’s childhood environment and younger years with his brother Merle provide him with useful survival skills equipped for the apocalypse.
Daryl displays empathetic qualities, particularly in emotional situations. Although he quite often hides his emotions and feelings he always seems to hold others’ interests higher than his own.
The selfless survivor is a rare character, particularly in the apocalypse, where self-preservation is arguably the most required quality. But Daryl Dixon from The Walking Dead is the epitome of the survival of the fittest.
- He demonstrates a lot of strength, enviable skills and ruthlessness.
- But underneath this hard shell is a core of goodness and empathy – a core that is not always easy to access but is there, just about visible.
He’s the character we aspire to be like in such extreme circumstances as well as the character we’d most like to have by our side. His circuitous route to this kind of character is what makes him perhaps most identifiable and most original.
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This article was written by Hannah Taylor and edited by IS staff.
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