To celebrate the Oct. 22 Season 8 premiere of The Walking Dead — the series’ 100th episode — Yahoo Entertainment will be posting a new TWD-related story every day through the season opener.
And your choice is… Daryl. Of course, Daryl. Norman Reedus’s apocalyptic hero was far and away the biggest vote getter as you helped us narrow down the top 35 characters from The Walking Dead to a list of the top five, and then to your No. 1 pick.
Are we surprised that the character whose potential death has sparked a whole series of posters, T-shirts, stickers, and buttons that threaten a riot is the fans’ favorite? Nah. Reedus and the writers early on established Daryl — who doesn’t even exist in the comic book — as one of the characters we most loved getting to know. From the surly, defensive loner we met in Season 1 to the still sometimes surly, but also fiercely protective, more open leader he’s evolved into throughout the series’ first seven seasons, Daryl is the people’s choice.
Among Daryl’s greatest moments — and but a few of the reasons you voted him as your all-time favorite character on The Walking Dead:
The big gun
Season 6, “No Way Out”
A group of colorful Saviors on motorcycles threatened to take everything Daryl, Abraham, and Sasha had, and then to kill them. But Daryl put a big ol’ RPG stop to that when he snuck up on the gang and unleashed on them the rocket launcher Abe found. Sure, the Saviors would all too soon get even with Daryl personally with those dog food sammies and Sanctuary janitor duty, but let the record show, Daryl took out a whole squad. Badass.
Lil’ Ass Kicker
Season 3, “Say the Word”
Poor Carl had to kill his mom before she became a walker, then had to watch his dad melt down, all the while worrying about his newborn baby sister. He even tried to come up with a name for his sibling, and when he couldn’t land on one, Daryl stepped in. With the baby scooped up in his arms, Daryl decided the only suitable moniker for a life that came into the world under such trying circumstances was: Lil’ Ass Kicker. “That’s a good name, right? Lil’ Ass Kicker,” Daryl suggested to Rick’s group, before talking to LAK herself. “You like that, huh? You like that, sweetheart?”
Season 3, “Hounded”
Daryl was there for Carl again after Lori’s death, when he did some rare sharing and told Carl about the loss of his own mom, who died when she fell asleep with a lit cigarette and burned to death in their home. “Fire trucks everywhere … it was my house they were there for. That was my mom in bed, burnt down to nothing,” Daryl said. “That was the hard part … she was just gone, erased. Nothing left of her … just made it seem like it wasn’t real, you know?”
Carl told Daryl that he had to shoot his mom. “I ended it,” he said. “It was real. Sorry about your mom.”
Daryl: “I’m sorry about yours.”
Season 3, “Home”
What began as a fight about Daryl volunteering to help a Hispanic family threatened by walkers (then stopping Merle from stealing from the family afterward) turned into a long-simmering emotional bout in which Merle learned his little brother has a back full of scars from where their father abused him, while Merle finally revealed to Daryl that the reason he’d left home — and left Daryl alone to contend with their father — was that he was afraid he’d kill the man if he stayed.
Ice water? Make his a Slurpee.
Season 2, “Chupacabra”
Daryl can be a very funny guy, and he’s often at his funniest when he’s also at his surliest. His one-liners often come with a nifty pop culture reference attached, like when Beth’s boyfriend Jimmy laughed at Daryl’s assertion that he had run into a chupacabra. Daryl was already ticked off at Jimmy’s “braying” at him, so when Jimmy demanded something before he would join Rick’s gang in the hunt for Sophia, Daryl was unsympathetic. “If I’m going out, I want [a gun],” Jimmy said.
“Yeah, and people in hell want Slurpees,” Daryl responded.
Never have I ever
Season 4, “Still”
Daryl was alternately sad and angry when he and Beth took up shelter at an abandoned shack he had found in the woods and began a game of “Never Have I Ever.” Fueled by moonshine, Daryl said he’d never gone on vacation, never even been outside of Georgia. But when Beth responded in a way that made it clear she assumed Daryl had been to jail at some point in his life, she sparked a hurt and angry Daryl to go on the attack, telling her he also hadn’t ever eaten frozen yogurt, owned a pony, or gotten a gift from Santa, all things Beth had experienced. He eventually calmed down and opened up to Beth about how painful and lonely his childhood had been, and when they left the cabin, they set in on fire and flipped their middle fingers at it as they ran away.
He ain’t zombified, he’s my brother
Season 3, “This Sorrowful Life”
Just when Merle had finally done something selfless, deciding to take out the Governor so Daryl and his friends could continue to build their community at the relatively safe prison location, this happened: Merle’s plan failed, and when Daryl found him, Merle had already turned into a walker. Daryl’s official goodbye to his sibling involved repeatedly stabbing him in the head, and then falling to the ground in sobs.
Season 7, “Hearts Still Beating”
After finally escaping his tortured time at the Sanctuary, Daryl was reunited with BFF Rick at the Hilltop. An uncharacteristically emotional — teary, even! — Daryl fell into Rick’s hug, burying his face into his pal’s neck as the two embraced.
Season 7, “New Best Friends”
And in another all-around teary reunion, Daryl visited Carol at her house outside the Kingdom, where they happily hugged each other. But then he pushed her away, and as his voice cracked, asked her, “Why’d you go?” Carol explained she’d needed to get away because she couldn’t stand losing anyone else, and sensing that hearing the truth about life in Alexandria would crush her, Daryl lied to her about Glenn and Abraham’s deaths.
Season 5, “Forget”
One of the most endearing things about Daryl is that he has no pretensions … what you see is what you get. And that includes table manners, or lack thereof. We saw back in Season 4 how he scarfed down that meal he made of a grilled snake he caught in the woods. In his “Forget” dinner with Aaron and Eric, he attacked a plate of spaghetti with the same enthusiasm, shoveling huge forkfuls of pasta into his mouth, complete with slurping noises and wiping his mouth on his sleeve, as his amused dinner companions tried not to chuckle.
Daryl Dixon, movie buff
Season 2, “Nebraska”
We’ll say it again, surly Daryl can be the most fun Daryl, especially in the early seasons, before Mr. Dixon had developed a little more tact in dealing with people. Like when Lori was trying to talk him into going to find Hershel and Rick. He said no, she called him selfish, and well, that didn’t sit so great with Daryl. “Selfish? Listen to me, Olive Oyl. I was out there looking for that little girl every single day,” Daryl said, still crushed that the search for Sophia led to the discovery of zombified Sophia in Hershel’s barn. “I took a bullet and an arrow in the process. Don’t you tell me about me getting my hands dirty! You want those two idiots? Have a nice ride. I’m done looking for people.”
Another pop culture-related quip from D.D.: in Season 1’s “Tell It to the Frogs,” Dale chastised Daryl for kicking at a dead walker body. “What do you know about it, old man?” Daryl snapped back at the bucket hat-wearing Dale. “Why don’t you take that stupid hat and go back to On Golden Pond?”
On Golden Pond is not a movie we would have guessed was in the Dixon home video library.
For the record, the top five TWD characters, in the order you voted on them: Daryl (41 percent), Carol (23 percent), Glenn (15 percent), Rick (14 percent), and Michonne (7 percent).
The Walking Dead Season 8 premieres Oct. 22 at 9 p.m. on AMC.
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