Why does The Walking Dead keep recycling Daryl Dixon’s storyline?

Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon - The Walking Dead _ Season 11, Episode 4 - Photo Credit: Josh Stringer/AMC
Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon - The Walking Dead _ Season 11, Episode 4 - Photo Credit: Josh Stringer/AMC /

The Walking Dead has taken Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) through many growing pains throughout the series. We’ve watched this character grow and become a leader and family member to many people he would have never encountered before the outbreak. So, with all this growth and potential for greatness, why give him the same tired storyline?

Daryl Dixon grew up in a very dysfunctional home with neglectful and abusive parents. The only other person in this life was his older brother Merle who warped his views on society and the line between right and wrong. This required Daryl to build a barrier between himself and anyone who tried to get close to him. The three people he should have been able to rely on all let him down.

In his own eyes, his life was worthless, and so he lived in the shadow of his brother for years, drifting from one place to another with no purpose to their lives.

Daryl Dixon’s storyline repeated in The Walking Dead

Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon in The Walking Dead Season 11, Episode 4 – Photo Credit: Josh Stringer/AMC
Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon in The Walking Dead Season 11, Episode 4 – Photo Credit: Josh Stringer/AMC /

Fans of The Walking Dead have recently torn apart an episode of season 11 titled “Rendition.” This episode started with the POV of Daryl the night the Reapers attacked Maggie and the group out on the food run mission. Daryl ends up on his own and is eventually captured by the Reapers, reunites with Leah, and is tortured and then accepted into the Reapers group. Sound familiar?

We can remember when Daryl reunited with Merle after thinking he died; this made viewers believe he would return to his old ways. Daryl spent much time with Rick and his group to see a different lifestyle than what he knew with his brother. Daryl quickly decided that he didn’t want to live that same life with Merle and returned to the prison with Rick. This is mirrored in “Rendition” when he reunites with Leah, most likely remembering their time together, pulling at those memories.

Two other times we have seen Daryl captured and tried to be pulled into the new group. First with Joe and his Claimers and then with Negan and the Saviors. These groups see something in Daryl and want them on their side. Although he is quiet and keeps to himself, he is resourceful and a good fighter, someone you would rather be on your team than against you.

So, why would the series continue to play out this story once again, this time with the Reapers?

I think it shows that despite everything Daryl has been through, he just wants to be accepted.  When he met with the Claimers, he had just lost everyone he held dear at the fall of the prison, and then Beth was snatched from him as well. This was a new group, the men most likely reminded him of Merle, and it was familiar. It was an easy situation to slip right into.

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Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon, Christine Evangelista as Sherry – The Walking Dead _ Season 7, Episode 3 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC /

The Saviors situation was a completely different story. Daryl took this as repentance for his part in Glenn’s death. The fact that he caused Glenn’s death was not lost on him. The look on his face was pure horror at this realization. Negan wanted Daryl because he saw someone he needed to break down for his own use. He couldn’t have a rogue member of Rick’s group willing to sacrifice himself at any given moment.

Now, we see a similar situation with the Reapers. But, this time, Daryl has a plan, as we can all see. He is getting close to Pope to most likely kill him.

But, the real focus with the Reapers is Leah. Did Daryl love her? Or was she a distraction from his pain of losing Rick? Rick was the first person to accept him as he was, faults and all. They were true brothers who had each other’s backs and deeply cared for one another. This was a hard loss for Daryl. When he met Leah, he was very vulnerable and needed to feel something. So, was it love or convenience?

Now, she is with a group that has hurt someone else dearer to Daryl than Leah, Maggie. I can’t see Daryl siding with Leah over Maggie. Another question that is out there is, does Leah agree with everything Pope is doing? Perhaps she is in over her head and wants out? But, that is another topic for another time.

Do the writers have an ultimate reason for reusing this story template for Daryl? Is there an end game to this? Or, is Daryl just an easy character for this type of storyline since he is generally the one who is off on his own and easy to be taken up by another group?

Next. The Walking Dead: Was Elijah captured by the Reapers?. dark

The Walking Dead “Out of the Ashes” airs on AMC on September 19. This episode is now available to stream on AMC+.