Although the final episode aired 10 months ago, “The Walking Dead” was too valuable a commodity for AMC to let the franchise actually die. Instead, the network has splintered off various limbs under that banner, with “Dead City” now followed by “Daryl Dixon,” a slightly undernourished showcase for one of its best characters that could be subtitled “A Crossbow-Wielding American in Paris.”
After “Dead City” tried the novel approach of exploring post-apocalyptic zombie life in Manhattan (note: Watch out for what falls out of those skyscrapers), “Daryl Dixon” somewhat improbably plunks its eponymous hero (Norman Reedus) down in France, gradually explaining how and why he washed ashore there.
Daryl can’t dance, but he does have a way of getting out of dangerous situations, and he almost immediately angers some very bad people who, after their run-in, are hellbent on revenge. Daryl subsequently encounters a nun, Isabelle (Clémence Poésy), charged with protecting a young boy, her nephew Laurent (Louis Puech Scigliuzzi), who members of the convent believe to be a messianic figure.
Daryl thus grudgingly agrees to a cross-country quest – with the promise of sanctuary at the end of the rainbow – that takes him to Paris, exposes him to all sorts of shady characters and forces most of the cast to speak English because Daryl’s response to “Parlez-vous Francais?” is a steely-eyed squint.
Notably, “Daryl Dixon” was originally envisioned as another beloved-character team-up, on the order of “Dead City,” featuring Daryl and Carol (Melissa McBride), before McBride withdrew as a full-fledged co-star, with AMC explaining that the European shoot became “logistically untenable.”
While there’s still hope for that in a second season with the show having already been renewed prior to its launch (and the cat pretty well out of the bag that McBride’s involvement with the franchise isn’t over), her general absence leaves a conspicuous hole in this six-episode run that the supporting players simply don’t fill.
The spiritual component and glimpse of how events unfolded in a different country and continent add potential layers to “The Walking Dead” universe. Dropping Daryl in as the sole link to the original series, however, is an awkward fit, and while the character’s mix of grit, toughness and inherent goodness rightly made him one of the show’s key anchors, carrying this show as constructed feels like an undue amount of weight to place on Reedus’ shoulders.
For some, another dose of Daryl will surely be enough, and there are strong moments along the way; still, “The Walking Dead” distinguished itself in its early days by making clear the title referred more to the survivors, and the lengths and depths they would go in a lawless society, than the undead creatures that threatened them.
Seen that way, “Daryl Dixon” expands the geographic contours of the map, but it doesn’t add much to its underlying blueprint.
“The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon” premieres September 10 at 9 p.m. ET on AMC, its sister networks and AMC+.