Why it’s hard to buy Daryl and Rick’s sudden feud in season 8
The failure to capitalize on the core trio and on the banishment storyline became even more frustrating when suddenly, Daryl and Rick began to act like rivals in season 8 and ended up in a truly strange fist fight. This was mostly based on a very contrived and not very credible evolution of Daryl, from the likeable and complex character he used to be, to a sort of ruthless, single-minded killer bent on immediate revenge and unable to listen to reason.
There was no true justification for this sudden change. We are simply left to assume that being a prisoner at the Sanctuary changed Daryl’s personality overnight. We must believe that suddenly, the very sense of loyalty and self-sacrifice that gave him the strength to resist Negan’s torture and manipulation is being thrown to the wind, for the sake of a selfish project of personal revenge. As said above, the impact of his imprisonment and torture were never really addressed, so we just have to fill in the blanks ourselves. Never mind that Daryl’s core characteristics used to be completely at odds with this, as he was never shown to be selfish or prone to holding grudges.
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This abrupt change in Daryl’s character allowed the writers to suddenly create a conflict with Rick. As a result, this conflict seemed to come out of nowhere and just left many viewers rather puzzled. And once again, the consequences of that fist fight on Rick and Daryl’s relationship has never been addressed. They both acted like it had never really happened, before being distracted by other events.
This is a pattern that seems to repeat itself constantly, and it is truly frustrating for viewers who are into carefully built character development – and who expect the writers to build on previous events instead of artificially taking the plot from one point to another, and taking the characters along with it.
It is also a rather clear illustration of a complaint that has become more and more common among fans: the feeling that the core characters are being neglected, while too much screentime is being devoted to interactions with secondary characters that viewers do not care about as much. Rick, Daryl and Carol are now the only survivors of the Atlanta group. Arguably, Michonne and Maggie have also earned this “core character” status and deserve more attention too. Maggie, in particular, should have been at the core of season 7 after Glenn’s death. As for Michonne, her relationship to Rick and Carl make her central after the tragedy that just happened in episode 809 and she has more than enough charisma to also have her own evolution as a character. There is enough potential in these five characters to carry the story and keep fans emotionally invested. Let’s hope Carl’s death can lead the series back to focusing on its core characters, and not only 2 episodes before they are killed off.