After The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon‘s great premiere, I was even more excited for this second episode than I was the first. With AMC teasing a flashback scene to the Outbreak in Paris, fans – myself included – were eager to tune in. That’s where this new episode starts us off. The Outbreak is beautifully shot, yet contains some truly haunting scenes.

And yet, Daryl Dixon still takes time to continue its present-day journey. As Daryl, Isabelle, Laurent and Sylvie’s journey across France continues, Episode 2 (“Alouette”) delivers both incredible action and heart. The episode’s quieter moments deliver further depth to its titular character, and revelations about the supporting cast which make them even more compelling than they were in the premiere.

Some of these revelations are important to discuss to add context to this review, so as such there will be spoilers from here on out. If you’ve yet to watch the watch the premiere, you can do so for free on the Official The Walking Dead YouTube Channel.

The Cold Open

AMC did much to market the Fall of Paris in the lead up to the episode. Flashbacks to the early days of The Walking Dead‘s Wildfire Virus Outbreak are always popular with fans, and this is among the best. While viewers are transported to this moment several times throughout the episode, it leaves the most lasting impression in a terrifying Cold Open. The episode starts on Isabelle, introducing her life pre-apocalypse. From outside an enclosed rooftop club, she looks onto the City of Paris. Seeing the city so alive and vibrant, knowing whats to come and how it is all lost is chilling; yet beautiful to look at. Isabelle enters the club, which blares a playlist including New Order’s “Blue Monday” – perhaps my new favorite needle-drop in franchise history – and energizing EDM. Isabelle’s life pre-outbreak is a far cry from her time with the nuns. She does Cocaine and dances with several wealthy men, whom she steals watches and credit cards from.

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The Fall of Paris in The Walking Dead

After she leaves the club, she sees the world begin to fall apart on her commute home. What makes the Outbreak so horrifying and effective is how real and personal it feels. The camera stays close on Isabelle for nearly all of this sequence, allowing viewers to re-discover the horrors of the end of the world with her. The first time we see walkers in Paris, they are singular and far away. Crowds panic, running and screaming in terror as the chaos – which to them has no precedent – unfolds.

The biggest threats in The Walking Dead have been the living antagonists for about a decade now. On this night, the Dead take center stage. They’re at their most terrifying in the set piece shown in the GIF above. A subway car arrives to Isabelle’s station, with a small pack of walkers ripping through commuters. They panic, practically running over eachother or smashing windows to try and escape. The flashbacks intercut through the episode give more of a look at France’s fall through the countryside, but the high points are definitely in the chaos shown in Paris’ dense blocks.

Father Daryl

In Episode 2, Isabelle gives Daryl the Alibi of “Father Daryl” when they encounter a new group. This new group lives at an old pre-school, and is comprised almost entirely of children and teens. The one adult in the group, their teacher, is terminally ill and remains unconscious throughout the episode. Seeing Daryl interact with children is really heart warming. Daryl is usually a stoic badass who grunts more than he actually talks. He gets the chance to do so here, blowing up a moat full of walkers and neutralizing a sniper. In this episode, he also opens up about his past to Isabelle, bonds with Laurent more, sympathizing with him as an outsider.

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Like in the Premiere, Norman Reedus gets to demonstrate his acting chops quite a bit this episode. In this spin-off, the character of Daryl really shines in his subtlety. When Daryl, Isabelle, Laurent and Sylvie first arrive inside the school, a group of small children runs between, through, and around Daryl. The Daryl from early seasons of the show might’ve been annoyed by this. Here, his face lights up with a rare moment of joy in this bleak franchise. Another highlight for me is when he watches an episode of Mork and Mindy with the kids. Again, he lights up like a Christmas Tree, before sadness washes over him. With no dialogue, you can tell he’s homesick, reflecting on the children he misses back home; especially his adoptive niece, Judith.

Revelations

The Walking Dead, The Walking Dead Daryl Dixon, Daryl Dixon Cast

In my review of the premiere, I said that Laurent didn’t work for me as a character. His characterization as a potential Messiah seemed far-fetched, unmotivated and unbelievable. In the Premiere, we were told Laurent is special, but we didn’t know why or how. In this episode, we see his very birth and the scene adds so much depth to his and Isabelle’s characters. Learning that Laurent is her nephew makes her motivations not just sensical but also compelling. Shortly after the Outbreak, Isabelle and her sister arrive at the isolated Abbey. Her sister turns into a walker in childbirth, and Laurent is delivered from the zombified woman via C-Section by Father Jean and The Nuns. In earnest, it is one of the most disturbing and tense moments of the entire franchise.

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It is also revealed in this scene that Sylvie was at the Abbey as a student, and her parents never arrived to pick her up after the virus spread. We can infer this tragedy is what brings her and Isabelle together. Alas, learning the details of this fateful night puts the latter’s motives into intriguing question. Does she truly believe Laurent could be the Messiah, or is she inflating the value of a nephew she loves to ensure his protection? Time will tell…

Verdict

Daryl Dixon started off strong with a great premiere, and it is followed up by a superb second episode. Set Pieces make for exciting action, and spawn imagery I can see becoming Iconic to the franchise. Norman Reedus shines as Daryl Dixon, and is backed up by an excellent supporting cast. Clémence Poésy steals the show this episode, proving she can confidently carry scenes as Isabelle without the support of her titular co-star. This episode follows up on the promise of the premiere, but the questions it both answers and proposes have me even more eager to watch than I was before.

THE GOOD
Cinematography
Terrifying Cold Open
Added Depth to Daryl Dixon
Supporting Characters Fleshed Out Further
THE BAD
Some Dips in Pacing Toward the End
9
Superb

Review Summary

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