Norman Reedus As Daryl Dixon, ‘The Walking Dead’s’ Outlaw Drifter-Turned-Hero [Opinion]

Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon captured the imagination of fans early in the series. Who was The Walking Dead’s Daryl, before circumstances — namely the zombie apocalypse — made him a hero?

Norman Reedus and Robert Kirkman created Daryl Dixon, who was not in the comic books. Norman Reedus started out as just a recurring cast member with a small role to play. It was Norman’s skill as an actor that created the character fans have boosted to nearly top billing among the cast.

Daryl Dixon says it best in his own words from Season 4 Episode 12. In some of Norman Reedus’ finest acting on The Walking Dead, Daryl Dixon and Beth Greene (portrayed by Emily Kenney) come upon a broken-down home that reminds him of the home he grew up in.

Norman Reedus speaking as Daryl Dixon on The Walking Dead is quoted from Season 4 Episode 12 by Wet Paint.

“You wanna know what I was before all this? I was just drifting around with [Merle Dixon], doing whatever he said we were gonna be doing that day. I was nobody. Nothing. Some redneck a**hole, and an even bigger a**hole for a brother.”

Norman Reedus is quite the heartthrob these days, and a guy like Daryl Dixon is just the person one wants to stand next to in the zombie apocalypse of The Walking Dead, but what about Dixon in the world before the zombie apocalypse? He probably wouldn’t have been nearly as popular.

Andrew Lincoln’s Rick Grimes was a small-town law enforcement officer, while Norman Reedus’s Daryl Dixon was a biker. It is easy to imagine Daryl and his brother, Merle, blowing into town and being jerked around a bit, if not by Rick then more likely by Shane.

How would The Walking Dead’s Rick Grimes and Daryl Dixon’s relationship have played out if there was no zombie apocalypse? It is hard to imagine they would have been pals.

Andrew Lincoln and Norman Reedus of The Walking Dead

Norman Reedus portrays the son of an alcoholic single father living in poverty amid a dysfunctional family. Daryl Dixon had only his brother, Merle, to count on and often not even that. Merle was an outlaw who always stayed in trouble. Merle and Daryl dealt drugs, according to Popsugar.

Norman Reedus’ character, Daryl Dixon, was born on the wrong side of the law. Nothing short of a zombie apocalypse would have brought him together with the rest of The Walking Dead’s cast of characters.

Norman Reedus has a lot more fans than detractors, but still, there is one in every crowd who sees Daryl Dixon for what he is and wants to put him down. Daryl was once that kid standing quietly, head down staring at ragged sneakers that once came from the dollar store, before being donated to the salvation army.

Daryl Dixon on The Walking Dead would have been like that kid most people remember from school who didn’t have a proper coat but somehow never shivered. Perhaps he pretended not to notice he was always the outsider, and as the zombie-fighting outdoorsman, Norman Reedus portrays a character accustomed to rejection.

Norman Reedus, Daryl Dixon on The Walking Dead looking handsome

Even Norman Reedus’ good looks would not have been enough to make the younger self of The Walking Dead’s Daryl Dixon popular with most girls under normal circumstances, nor would it likely occur to him if a girl was interested in him. The rugged hunter seemed unaccustomed to being accepted in the early seasons. As Design & Trend points out he was very much a lone wolf during the first few seasons, before gradually warming up to Carol and then the rest.

Daryl Dixon had suffered the irrational abuse of an alcoholic father, and a frustrated older brother saddled with child rearing. Reedus revealed the whip marks Daryl received from his father in the “Home” episode according to The Richest.

Through all of this, though, Norman Reedus’ character learned to survive just about anything, long before The Walking Dead’s zombie apocalypse scenario. Dixon was a man who spent more time outside than in, a rugged outdoorsman usually out of necessity. Daryl was already a hunter and a scavenger before the zombie apocalypse.

Norman Reedus’ character was having an apocalypse all his own long before the first walker turned. Daryl Dixon’s life had always been an apocalypse — it’s just that with the zombies, everyone else joined him in being a homeless drifter, without roots, without decent clothing and dirty all the time.

Norman Reedus as The Walking Dead’s Daryl Dixon is quoted in Wet Paint.

“I’m just used to it, things being ugly. Growing up in a place like this.”

Norman Reedus became wildly popular not long after embodying the rugged misfit known as Daryl Dixon. Logically, too, few of The Walking Dead characters would have survived without Dixon’s old-fashioned survival skills.


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Norman Reedus over the past seven years has built Daryl Dixon from a small recurring character into the legendary zombie killer and survivalist of The Walking Dead. Daryl is almost everyone’s favorite.

Daryl Dixon is easy for fans to relate to, admire, and adore. Norman Reedus portrays him so eloquently, revealing just a little at a time, the heart of Dixon.

Norman Reedus as The Walking Dead’s Daryl Dixon is representing the outcast, finally welcomed into the fold and becoming a vital part of a group that needs him.

[Featured Image by Mike Windle/Getty Images]