The actor recurred on the critically-acclaimed series during its first season, in which he was portrayed more as an antagonist to Andrew Lincoln’s Rick Grimes, before being promoted to series regular for the show’s second season. The character has since grown into becoming Rick’s right-hand man and even a favorite among longtime fans, so much so that people have (somewhat jokingly) claimed to riot if the character ever dies on the show.
Interestingly, unlike virtually every other character on the series, whose deaths can be traced back to some point to the comic book series that the show is based on (such as Steven Yeun’s Glenn Rhee), Daryl is an original character that was created by the series’ original developer Frank Darabont specifically for the show and for Reedus. So, there’s no telling how or when Daryl would kick the bucket, but if he were to die, the actor has an idea of how he would like it to happen.
In an interview with Cnet, Norman Reedus discussed what initially drew him to The Walking Dead and how he’s shaped his character over the past seven (and future eight) seasons. Although he doesn’t know — or perhaps won’t reveal — how Daryl Dixon dies on The Walking Dead, if it were up to Reedus, he knows how he would like his beloved character to go out:
“I think you’d see a sunset. I would walk up over a hill and then a little wolf puppy would come out of the woods and follow me up. And people would just go, ‘Whatever happened to that guy?’”
Considering how popular the character is with audiences, that type of ending may not be acceptable to many people, and the idea of a character merely walking off into a sunset simply doesn’t jive with the rest of the series’ tone, namely the brutal ways characters are killed off. However, that type of ending almost happened to one character: Carol Peletier, played by Melissa McBride. In season 4, Rick had exiled Carol for murdering two people, but she ended up coming back later that season, and actually saved Rick and the rest of the group during the season 5 premiere.
Having said that, seeing Daryl walk off into the sunset (or ride one of his motorcycles down an empty road) sometime during the show’s eventual series finale, after everything’s all said and done, could actually be something that fans would accept. It would be a satisfying conclusion to a character that has fought long and hard to survive and protect the ones that he loves and cares for. We’ll just have to wait and see if that happens.
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