At 12am PT on Sunday, September 10th, the premiere of The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon aired on AMC+. The spin-off, announced before The Walking Dead finale aired in November of 2022 and reviewed favorably when the embargo lifted on September 5th, has been anticipated for a while now. Finally, audiences can tune in and see Daryl Dixon’s epic journey through (and eventually out of) France.
I watched the premiere on AMC+, which, in a recent schedule change, will be getting the episodes every Sunday at 12am Pacific Time, 18 hours before they air on AMC. I am pleased to say that the pilot episode of the Norman Reedus-led series was an entertaining and welcome addition to the growing Walking Dead franchise. Though I’m not yet fully sold on Daryl’s new quest, the exciting setting, some excellent supporting cast members, and an intriguing mystery will certainly bring me back week-to-week. Here’s my spoiler-free review.
This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the series being covered here wouldn’t exist.
Bienvenue en France
Daryl enters Marseille in a shot that mirrors Rick Grimes’ trip to Atlanta in The Walking Dead pilot.
The most exciting departure in Daryl Dixon is a literal one. For the first time in the franchise, The Walking Dead takes viewers beyond the borders of North America. In this episode, “The Lost Soul”, Daryl washes ashore in France, mostly wandering the countryside before settling in an abbey with a group of nuns.
His travels are beautifully captured by Tommaso Fiorilli’s cinematography. The extreme range of the shots shows the vastness of the rural areas. They show how dehydrated and lost Daryl is. As with the entrance to Marseille, some shots have cinematic parallels to iconic moments from the franchise’s past, an extra treat for longtime viewers.
The Walking Dead has often been criticized for dragging its feet in flat woods and dilapidated suburbs, which have frankly grown boring to look at. In Daryl Dixon however, viewers feast their eyes on sprawling countryside, and tourism-worthy architecture, like the interior of the convent which houses the nuns, shot to feel deep and alive. And beyond its walls, France’s empty towns and markets are beautiful, filled with untamed plants which have reclaimed vehicles and markets.
The People of Marseille
The nuns in Daryl Dixon in their Resistance-inspired attire.
Despite there being so few people left within its borders, the France Daryl finds himself in is alive with culture. Daryl encounters a young woman named Maribelle and her grandfather early in the episode. Maribelle was instantly a highlight for her sense of humor, greeting Daryl by asking him, “What’s cracking noob?” Her grandfather touches on the history of French and American co-operation in World War II; comparing a prospective alliance between them and Daryl to the joint efforts of La Résistance and GIs in Nazi-occupied France.
In Marseille, the spirit of La Résistance is alive and well. The survivors here are depicted as being inspired by the wartime Resistance in fashion, firearms, and fighting tactics. It’s a highlight to see the French people’s resilience on display in a way that’s incorporates the country’s real history; though, the real politics of that Resistance are absent.
It’s also fascinating to learn how French society addresses the Walker threat in a country with far stricter gun laws than the United States. They fight the walking dead — and each other — with medieval melee weapons, and antique firearms that seem like they belong in museums. This makes for really unique and exciting action.
All of these details in this new corner of the Walking Dead world create an aesthetic that almost feels like Daryl and the viewer have been transported to a different time.
The Factions in France
Codron, with one of his “Guirres”
There are two main factions in this new show. One of them is The Cause, the villains. They are led by a woman named Genet, and command a brutal paramilitary group which the Nuns call “The Guirres”.
The Guirres’ aesthetic and presence enable some great action and set pieces. But beyond that, they’re fairly generic and boring. The motive of their leader, Codron, is a very shallow quest for vengeance. Most of his subordinates are similarly undefined — aside from Philippe, who has a standout scene I won’t spoil here. The Guirres read to me like the waves of enemy minions in video games: they just exist to eventually be killed.
The leaders in The Cause are a more mysterious antagonist faction. All we know so far is that they’re well-armed, well-organized, and are doing scientific experiments with Walker test subjects. Hopefully as we learn more, they’ll become more present on-screen. Because right now, the most prominent antagonist is the Guirres; and so far, they fall flat.
Granted, their presence does lead to some admittedly epic fight scenes with literal killer nuns. The nuns, mentioned earlier, are the most compelling new characters by far. They’re part of a network called l’Union de l’Espoir”, which translates to Union of Hope. The Union of Hope is an interfaith group dedicated to restoring people’s faith, raising their spirits, and reclaiming France from the dead. Daryl is introduced to them by Isabelle, a stand-out character in the episode. There will definitely be some iconic visuals as they fight The Cause and the undead until blood covers their white outfits.
Currently, though, their main purpose is to protect and nurture Laurent.
The Young Messiah
Laurent calculates how much of France has survived the Wildfire Virus Outbreak
Laurent is a gifted young boy who was raised in the Apocalypse by the nuns, born from a mother who died in childbirth. Laurent is hailed as a potential messiah, and prophecy says that he will be escorted to another community which will help raise him to be a great leader who will help conquer the dead.
Thus far, I haven’t found his character very compelling. He seems too perfect to be relatable or real, and his performance is somewhat dry. Especially compared to his scenes with Norman Reedus (Daryl) and Clémence Poésy (Isabelle), who both give excellent performances.
The Promise of Potential
From the trailers, sneak peek after the episode, and the quality of the pilot itself, it’s safe to say we’re in for a fun season. Like any good pilot should, this episode left me satisfied, yet eager to learn more. I’m hoping we see more of the Variant Walkers introduced in the episode. I can’t wait to see how (if at all) the undead in France differ from those that fans are used to seeing in North America.
From the trailers, fans can look forward to visiting even more exciting locations as Daryl makes his way through France. I can’t wait to see AMC’s take on rural castles, the urban sprawl of Paris, and the world famous Eiffel Tower. With the intrigue already built, and the promise of even larger scale and set pieces, I look forward to diving deeper into Apocalyptic France every Sunday.
The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon airs Sunday at 3am EST on AMC+ and 9pm EST on AMC.
For more on The Walking Dead, check out 10 Things AMC Wants You To Forget About The Walking Dead.
- THE GOOD
- Incredible Visuals
- Unique Setting
- Great New Characters
- Exciting Action
- Compelling Mysteries and Expansion of Franchise Lore
- Norman Reedus Adds New Depth and Subtlety to His Performance
- THE BAD
- Uninteresting Villians
- Laurent Falls Flat
- Shoehorned Big Bad
The premiere of The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon shows a new corner of The Walking Dead world, full of great visuals, action, and character.