The most recent episode of The Walking Dead found our intrepid heroes finally (at least for a moment) able to breathe, perhaps for the first time since the beginning of season four. Perhaps since the zombie apocalypse happened! As they settle into the suburban-esque apparent paradise of Alexandria, each of the Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) gang stakes a position. Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus), Carol (Melissa McBride), Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green), Michonne (Danai Gurira), Glenn (Steven Yeun), Carl, Noah, and Rick himself take measure of their respective places in this inviting community.
Rick, who beneath his seeming acceptance of Deanna (the wonderful Tovah Feldshuh–part Jewish mother, with a touch of scary, horror-movie mom), seems to have plans B, C, D, and E held closely to his shiny new constable’s vest. Carol, whose housewife demeanor, learned from years at Ed’s abusive dominance conceals an agenda known only to her. She’ll play the part–the consummate ’50s housewife, that is, until she needs to throw off her super-heroine costume, pick up a machine gun and re-emerge as the badass we all know and love. Michonne and Glenn, both weary of happy to have been rescued from despair are more trusting (how much, we do not know). They both desperately want this to work; they hope there is no alternate agenda. Because if there is, the entire group is done for. Sasha, still breaking down after her own horrible losses is on a hair-trigger. “Trust no one,” must be her nightly mantra.
Then there is Daryl Dixon. Never before in The Walking Dead has there been a squarer peg for a round hole. Unlike his compatriots, his life before the zombie apocalypse was far from “normal.” None of them likely lived in the quiet of an affluent, suburban community, but all of them lived in relative comfort and security: a farm, a quiet residential area of Atlanta. Carol, though living through the hell of an abusive marriage, had the illusion of the “normal” home life of a housewife. She knows enough to play the part (and perhaps even take some comfort in the role, especially sans abusive husband).
Daryl, living in the shadow of abuse and neglect, following puppy-like behind his bigger, tougher, meaner brother had found meaning and purpose in the apocalypse. His skills: hunting, keen observation, and a finely tuned internal radar are assets in this new world. He’d gotten respect, admiration, brotherhood, and a family life he’d never before experienced. A virtual rock star at the start of season four, he’d been legendary for rescuing lone survivors, hunting game and providing security for all in the community’s prison home.
We find Daryl in Alexandria, perhaps at his lowest point in the time we’ve known him (and that includes losing Merle, and his time with the Claimers). Still reeling from Beth’s death, he is already fighting despair. And now, when his comrades all seem to fit this new reality of (possibly illusory) safety, Daryl couldn’t be more the outsider. He has nothing, no measure, by which to “fit” himself. Although all of them are more “outside cats” than house cats at this point, the hallmarks of the life “before” signal them to fall back into old routines (albeit with warier, wiser eyes). But what is Daryl’s “before”? Certainly not this.
So he refuses to come in from the outside (in more than one way); he can’t trust the unreality of running water, four walls, and a roof. Not now. And if this place is truly safe for them, what use is he? There’s food; there’s security. Where does he fit in? Does he become a supply runner, playing second fiddle to Deanna’s son? We saw how that worked with the much more accepting Glenn and Tara. For Daryl, this entire environment is so foreign, it doesn’t even register within any semblance of his reality.
So he retreats, becoming as reticent as he can be. He withdraws into himself, realizing there is no place for him; he has become (at least in his own mind) completely irrelevant. I think it hits home for him when he sees Carol (playacting as she is) fit too comfortably into her role. His best friend–the closest to him now comes from an entirely different universe–a universe in which he cannot reside.
What will Daryl do as everyone settles in? Michonne and Rick as cops (yeah, that will settle well with Daryl); Carol being “mom” and cooking up meals for the elderly; Carl hanging with the community’s teens… Will he bolt, running for the more dangerous familiarity of the woods? I can totally see that happening, watching his friends from the outside, finding it impossible to fit into a role for which he has no model.
On the other hand, perhaps it will be Carol (Will she actually hose down Daryl in his sleep?) to help Daryl through this crisis, deal with his grief, and the potential for this, even greater, loss–the loss of all he has gained. I’m hoping she will confide in him, tell him what she’s thinking, and reassure him that his place is still (and perhaps even more) crucial to the group’s survival. But what do you think?
Be sure to tune in tonight at 8:00 p.m. ET to Blogcritics Radio’s Let’s Talk TV to discuss. And…what do you think will happen now that Rick, Daryl, and company are “safely” in Alexandria? And be sure to vote in our poll! Add your vote, then comment on your answer in the space provided. The poll will be open for one week. (If you do not see the poll, hit the dot at the bottom of the advertisement.)[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00MI46VVS,B00DERIV8Y,B00QHC32CS,B00MJ8IO54,B00FBR8130]