There were plenty of awesome aspects to the recently released Comic-Con trailer for The Walking Dead Season 8, but let’s be honest: Daryl Dixon took the cake. From watching him chill out on the roadside while he nonchalantly watched a hoard of walkers come his way to seeing him zip around on his motorcycle to the Dropkick Murphys, the newest trailer was the perfect reminder as to why Daryl has been such a long time fan-favorite.
An original character made just for the show, Daryl wasn’t meant to be the major character he is today. Now, fans claim they’ll wreck havoc if he’s killed off. To properly prepare for the upcoming Season 8, bulk up on your knowledge one of the most essential Walking Dead characters: Daryl Dixon.
15 He’s Strictly for TV
Don’t expect Daryl Dixon to pop up in the comics anytime soon – or ever, according to The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman. He got fans’ hopes up on April Fool’s Day back in 2014 when he posted a joke comic book cover with Daryl on the front. However, Kirkman was quick to clarify that the cover was a joke, saying in an interview with MTV that he’ll never bring Daryl to the comics. The creator cited Daryl’s “immense popularity” as the main reasons that he’ll never write a crossover, explaining that despite the fact the television show is based on the comics, the two are on different paths and have core differences as a result. Unfortunately, Daryl just happens to be one of those differences.
14 He’s the Longest Living AMC-Original Character
One saying has existed amongst The Walking Dead fans almost as long as the show itself: “If Daryl dies, we riot.” Thankfully, there’s been no need to descend into anarchy just yet. Daryl certainly isn’t the only character who was written just for the small screen (Sasha, Beth, and Daryl’s brother Merle are some other examples of TV-original characters that played a big role in the series) but Daryl’s lasted the longest out of them all. Daryl first appeared back in S1E3 “Tell It to the Frogs” and has endured trauma after trauma, having watched many characters he was close to suffer violent deaths. But considering how badass he looks in the recent trailer, it's fair to say he’s still going strong. Let’s hope Daryl can keep up this record in Season 8.
13 You Can Buy His Crossbow on Amazon
That’s right, you too can own Daryl Dixon’s very own crossbow. Okay, maybe not the exact one – but the same model (the Horton Scout HD 125) can be easily ordered from Amazon. This model was used by Daryl for the first three seasons and was replaced by the Stryker Crossbow in subsequent seasons after the first weapon was taken from Daryl when The Governor captured him. Rick has his Colt Python, Negan has Lucille, but it’s hard to beat Daryl’s iconic crossbow. Deadly precision, recyclable ammo, and a silent strike: it’s an excellent choice of weapon when you’re busy hacking down walkers. If you choose to buy it, not only would you be able to get all decked out for the zombie apocalypse à la Daryl, but it turns out it gets pretty good reviews, too.
12 He Has a Custom Motorcycle
To make Daryl even cooler, not only does he have a crossbow and ride a motorcycle – he rides a custom motorcycle. Apparently, once actor Norman Reedus was cast as Daryl and heard that the producers were shopping around for a motorcycle for his character. From there, Reedus went to Classified Moto (a company he knew well, having already bought a bike from them). The company then worked with executive producers from The Walking Dead to craft a custom bike just for Daryl Dixon’s purposes. The 1990s CB750 Nighthawk was chosen as the foundation and, after that, Classified Moto mechanics went to work denting, scuffing, and scratching the bike to make it look appropriately battle-worn. It also has a false kick-starter, a crossbow mount, and a custom upholstered leather seat.
11 His Poncho Was Inspired by The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Daryl’s poncho, which was a new costume addition back in Season 3, has some pretty cool ties to one of the most infamous onscreen characters of all time: Clint Eastwood’s The Man with No Name. Eastwood’s silent and stoic character was from a trilogy of spaghetti westerns by Italian director Sergio Leone, with the most famous being 1967’s The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. One of the most iconic aspects to Eastwood’s cowboy is his southwestern patterned poncho. The Man with No Name is one of the earliest iterations of the strong, silent type in film that Daryl is modeled after. Producers wanted to emphasize the ties between Daryl and his roots, so they gave Daryl a poncho that is heavily reminiscent of The Man with No Name’s costume.
10 You Might Be Reading into His Tattoos Too Much
Crossbow, motorcycle, tattoos – Daryl has all the “tough guy” bases covered. Daryl’s tattoos have been revealed on the show before, most notably in Season 3’s “Home.” Merle rips off Daryl’s shirt in the midst of a quarrel during the episode and reveals a host of scars over Daryl’s back. The point of the shot was to emphasize Daryl’s traumatic upbringing, but fans latched on to something else: what could Daryl’s devil-like back tattoos mean? According to Norman Reedus, not much. The actor has said that he opted out of covering his tattoos or giving Daryl his own unique designs and simply kept all of his personal tattoos for his Walking Dead character. Reedus also has several other tattoos besides the two revealed on his back: he also has his dad’s name (also Norman) on his chest, his son’s name “Mingus” on his right forearm, and several others.
9 He Has the Second-Most Screen Time Out of All the Characters
Not only is Daryl one of the most popular characters amongst fans, but he enjoys a lot of love by the camera too. Ranking second only to Rick Grimes himself, Daryl has a pretty significant amount of screen time. But this isn’t just producers trying to cater to the audience, there’s a legitimate reason so many scenes involve Daryl. Kirkman himself has said Daryl is an integral piece to the show, serving as an important player in moving the plot along. Daryl’s ascendance is one of the main reasons the show and comic books are on two different tracks and why Kirkman feels it’s inappropriate to bring Daryl aboard the comics. So there you have it, Daryl’s not there just for his cool looks, but is considered one of the most important parts of the series by the show runners themselves.
8 He Has the Second-Most Kills On the Show
The Walking Dead is certainly known for its blood, guts, and gore – one of the most notorious facts about the AMC series is that HBO turned it down for being too violent. The show has its fair share of death in terms of walkers and humans alike. When it comes to who has the deadliest character on the show, Rick and Daryl are in another close race. Rick beats Daryl out yet again, but that doesn’t mean Daryl’s kill statistics don’t warrant some bragging rights: Daryl’s killed a total of 185 walkers and 23 human beings (while Rick’s numbers are 230 walkers and 35 humans). Even though Rick edges Daryl out, Daryl’s still dangerous in his own right. One thing's for sure: Daryl's the guy you want on your side when the zombie apocalypse hits.
7 He’s in a Three-Way Tie for Being the Most Captured on the Show
Daryl has loads of cool points, as this list has pointed out. But even a motorcycle-riding, crossbow-toting character like Daryl has to have some flaws. As it turns out, Daryl is pretty susceptible to getting captured, as his less-than-stellar track record with being a prisoner points out. But he’s not alone: Daryl is in a three-way tie with Glen and Eugene for being the most captured character on the show, with each having been caught four times. Daryl was first captured in S3E8 and forced to fight with brother Merle. After that, Daryl was caught in S4E16 by Gareth at Terminus, and then in S6E15 by Dwight and the Saviors. The fourth time was in S7E1 when the Saviors recaptured him.
6 He’s Robert Kirkman’s Favorite Part of the Show
Daryl’s even won over the very creator of the series’ source material, Robert Kirkman. Kirkman has said in interviews that Daryl is his favorite element in the TV show, though that doesn’t mean that Daryl’s guaranteed to be safe. In fact, if anything, it might mean that Daryl is in more danger than other characters. Kirkman has also said when he chooses to kill off a character, he starts by reflecting on which one he likes the most. He explained in one interview, “[When] I find myself real attached to a character… I kind of realize that that means that audience investment in that character is extremely high, and I don’t want it to affect the story too much by focusing too much on that character. And that tends to make me want to kill them.” Daryl’s gotten himself out of a lot of tight spots before and he has made it all the way to Season 8, so he can be trusted to fight his way to the end – hopefully.
5 Norman Reedus’ Initial Auditions Were for Merle, Not Daryl
Norman Reedus’ audition process for Daryl might be one of the best parts of the character. Reedus has said he’s a huge fan of AMC television shows, and after reading the script for The Walking Dead (which he described as being “so different” and “stuck out like a sore thumb”), he knew he had to do anything to get on the show. He told producers that he’d read for any part – just as long as he could get in the audition room. The gave him an audition reading lines for Merle and after that Reedus was given a call back to come read more lines of Merle’s. The most confusing part to these auditions was that Reedus knew Merle was already cast, with AMC having hired Michael Rooker for the part. Still, Reedus said he thought that maybe Rooker wasn’t able to do the part, and that producers were considering Reedus instead. As it turns out, this wasn’t the case – producers called Reedus up one day and said that he had been cast in an entirely new role: the character of Daryl Dixon.
4 Showrunners Created Daryl Just For Norman Reedus
There’s a simple explanation for why Reedus was cast without reading even one line of Daryl’s dialogue: Daryl’s character simply didn’t exist yet. But producers were so impressed by Reedus’ auditions, they wrote in a brother for Merle Dixon just to fit the actor into the show. Reedus said he found out that he had gotten a part on the show while he was walking home in New York City. When he found out that the legendary director Frank Darabont had written in a character just for him, he was overjoyed – so much so, that he started doing cartwheels right there on the street. Who knew this last-minute addition to the show would result in one of The Walking Dead’s most popular characters?
3 Daryl Was Originally Written As a Racist Drug Addict
It turns out Norman Reedus was an excellent choice to play Daryl Dixon, and not only because his talent shines through onscreen. Daryl was originally written as a harsher, more antagonistic character, akin to his brother Merle. Basically, he was just supposed to be another racist drug addict. Kirkman says you can see these characteristics come out the most in Season 1. However, Reedus wasn’t so convinced that this was the right choice for his character. As the show went on, the actor transformed his character from one exactly like his brother to one more resentful of his past and upbringing. Kirkman has said that it's Daryl’s complexity that fans enjoy so much today is all due to Reedus’ creative choices, so if you’re a big fan of Daryl’s character, you have the actor to thank.
2 Series Creators Debated Making Daryl Gay
Most are big fans of the Daryl/Carol relationship and are rooting for them to get together at some point. However, this was almost made impossible by the showrunners way back when the show was still being put together. Reedus has said that Frank Darabont was originally going to write Daryl as gay but decided against it and that, these days, Darabont denies he ever considered it. Kirkman has backed up Reedus’ story and told the same story in a letter column in one of his comics. Both Reedus and Kirkman’s stories caused fans to press those involved with The Walking Dead to clarify the matter: is Daryl Dixon gay or not? Kirkman finally gave an interview and gave an official answer. He explained that if anything, the show has worked to write Daryl with an asexual leaning due to his introverted characteristics. But ultimately, Kirkman said Daryl is straight. All those who ship Daryl/Carol, rejoice.
1 Norman Reedus Has a Special Process to Get Into the Daryl Character
Norman Reedus is just a big a fan of Daryl as his fans (maybe even bigger – he’s joked he’ll set his trailer on fire if the writers kill him off). The actor has a special process he’s honed over the years to prepare himself for Daryl’s scenes. According to Reedus, his method is simple but effective: he takes a ride on his motorcycle and hypes himself up to get all “grumpy and grimy.” The cherry on top? It’s all in the music: Reedus says he listens to a lot of Motörhead before scenes in order to get in the perfect Daryl-esque mindset. Reedus admits that it’s not too hard to fit right into Daryl’s shoes, because the two have some major similarities. He’s joked that many of his characteristics can be seen in Daryl, like that he'll "ride a bike and (give) people dirty looks.” But Reedus might be selling himself a little short. Between the complexities he’s brought to Daryl to the fact that the character was created just for him, Reedus has brought plenty to his Dixon character, creating one of the strongest parts of the show in the process.
The Walking Dead Season 8 will arrive October 22, 2017 on AMC.