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‘The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon’ Review: Another Enjoyable Spin-Off

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If the primary “Walking Dead” spinoff following the finale of the flagship sequence, “The Walking Dead: Dead City,” appeared to mark the start of a brand new period for the franchise, the second definitely appears like a continuation — tonally, if not chronologically. “The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon,” which premieres on AMC on Sept. 10, builds on the tentative good will established by “Dead City,” even arguably bettering on a few of its strengths. 

“Daryl Dixon,” like “Dead City,” is a six-episode, largely self-contained story that includes a beloved core character transported to a brand-new setting. The place “Dead City” noticed Maggie and Negan journey to New York Metropolis, this present sends the title character (performed by Norman Reedus) throughout the Atlantic Ocean to post-zombie-apocalypse France. 

Within the opening moments of “The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon,” Daryl wakes up on a seashore in southern France. He finally lands within the care of a convent, the place he meets a nun named Isabelle (Clémence Poésy) and her cost, a precocious tween named Laurent (Louis Puech Scigliuzzi) whom the nuns consider is destined for greatness. Daryl is enlisted to guard Laurent and Isabelle as they journey north to an outpost referred to as “the Nest” in trade for assist discovering a ship again to the States.

Daryl and his prices journey through checkpoints manned by an ecumenical community of faith-minded communities who all consider in Laurent’s messianic potential. After all, the trail can be beset with antagonists. A totalitarian chief named Genet (Anne Charrier) has sensed Laurent’s potential as a risk to her energy and has set her guerriers on the group, together with Codron (Romain Levi), a battle-hardened soldier with a private grudge in opposition to Daryl. Naturally, there are many zombies as nicely (right here known as “the hungry ones”), together with the brand new, super-fast variant beforehand hinted at within the remaining moments of “The Walking Dead: World Beyond. 

Precisely how Daryl wound up in France is initially unclear; all can be revealed in due time, although as soon as we do study why, the explanations aren’t terribly germane to the plot. Certainly, Daryl himself isn’t terribly germane to the plot for a lot of the six-episode run, although it’s good to have him there, if solely to growl “I don’t speak French!” on the prime of each scene, thereby minimizing the variety of subtitles the viewers need to learn. Although a couple of heart-wrenching scenes within the remaining episode lend shocking new depth to his character, Daryl primarily serves as a catalyst for Isabelle and Laurent’s story. 

Arguably, Daryl was all the time at his greatest on this actual capability all through his tenure on the unique “Walking Dead” sequence; the departure of Andrew Lincoln’s Rick Grimes left a leading-man vacuum that Reedus, and Daryl, typically appeared to have issue filling. His personal spinoff, sarcastically, returns him to the extra snug co-pilot place — by no means absent from the motion, however not precisely at its nucleus. The truth that the preliminary pitch of “Daryl Dixon” featured Daryl and greatest buddy Carol (Melissa McBride) sharing the motion signifies that this has been fastidiously thought-about from the start; the eventual remaining product, although it doesn’t characteristic Carol, ensured that Daryl was not referred to as upon to hold all the present himself. (By the way, followers who miss the Daryl/Carol dynamic is not going to be completely shut out; McBride makes a couple of cameo look over the course of the season, and Carol may simply have a bigger position in future seasons.) 

In a by-product, asking viewers to care extra concerning the new characters than the previous ones is a dicey proposition, however briefly order, Isabelle establishes herself as one of many higher characters the franchise has launched lately. A sophisticated backstory, informed through flashbacks and present-day run-ins with a determine from her previous, helps the viewers get to know her as completely as they know nearly any character from the unique sequence. Poésy, primarily recognizable to Individuals from her position within the Harry Potter movies (she performed Fleur Delacour), provides depth together with her nuanced portrayal. Her chemistry with Reedus is an integral piece to the puzzle; Isabelle is greater than succesful as a foil to Daryl Dixon’s gruffness. 

“The Walking Dead: Dead City” set a precedent for setting-as-character, which “Daryl Dixon” has expanded and improved upon. The place “Dead City” often needed to stretch to include uniquely New York components whereas filming on a soundstage in New Jersey, “Daryl Dixon,” largely filmed on location, is as jam-packed with French factors of curiosity as a Rick Steves travelogue. Sojourns by way of the Paris Catacombs, Père Lachaise Cemetery and the seashores of Normandy underline the deadness of this world, whereas the vine-covered facade of Notre Dame and the twisted metallic wreck of the Eiffel Tower function stark reminders of the earlier than instances. There may be by no means any doubt that Daryl and his compatriots are in France, and no probability this story may happen anyplace else. In consequence, the general tone of the sequence is markedly totally different from its predecessors. 

Past the hyperspecificity of the setting, this universe’s consideration to element is astonishing, with no visible components wasted — each bizarre zombie-related set piece the group encounters will finally obtain a corresponding rationalization that furthers the general plot. Showrunner David Zabel has fastidiously thought-about the environment and the way they might affect any given “Walking Dead” state of affairs: as an illustration, Daryl makes use of a medieval flail as a weapon as he fights his method out of a fort moat crammed with the undead. In Episode 3’s chilly open, a really twisted zombie tableau underscored by Ravel’s “Bolero” places French aptitude on a tried-and-true “Walking Dead” trope. 

Nevertheless intricately shot and well-acted the sequence could also be, it does endure from among the identical pitfalls as its predecessor spinoff. Specifically, as with “Dead City,” “Daryl Dixon” takes far too lengthy to construct to the great elements. The atmospheric premiere episode accommodates lengthy stretches of silence punctuated by Daryl’s trademark grunts, and it takes many of the second episode to set him on the hunt that varieties the primary arc of the season. 

With solely six episodes during which to inform a kind of full story, there needs to be no room for a gradual burn, but “Daryl Dixon” doesn’t discover its true rhythm till it hits a soap-opera-worthy plot twist halfway by way of the third episode. On condition that the one folks probably to present this sequence a shot to start with are franchise devotees who’ve endured lots worse from earlier “Walking Dead” sequence, this appears a comparatively inconsequential hurdle. However sooner pacing within the early moments would have elevated this sequence from “enjoyable” to “classic.”   

“The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon” premieres on AMC on Sept. 10, with new episodes airing weekly.

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