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COLUMN: Long live Daryl Dixon as The Walking Dead returns

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By Linda Ireland

 Must-see TV at the Ireland home includes two shows that have little in common.

While my husband Bud cozies up to “Hell on Wheels,” “Pawn Stars,” “Storage Wars” and “Lizard-Lick Towing,” I have my own favorites – “The Walking Dead” and “Downton Abbey.”

Downton Abbey is a period drama shown on PBS as part of Masterpiece Theater. There are many beautiful costumes, witty repartee and household intrigue. 

I’m rooting for Bates and Anna and I love that snarky old dowager Violet played by Maggie Smith.

But I have to wait until January for the new season to begin.

Not so with The Walking Dead. The season premiere was Sunday.

In TWD, there are no beautiful costumes and the characters are too busy scrambling away from the re-animated dead to crack many jokes. 

The biggest difference in the shows – other than the obvious: The gritty characters on TWD are – in many ways – kinder to each other than the ones on Downton Abbey.

TWD is an apocalyptic tale on AMC about a handful of survivors trying to outrun billions of “zombies.” The zombies, called “walkers” in the series, are not too fast, not too bright – but there are a lot of them and they are really hungry. 

I don’t like TWD because of zombies. I like TWD because of Daryl Dixon.

He’s a tough, wiry survivalist – a man of action. He’s foul-tempered (who wouldn’t be, with a zombie hoard chasing you?), gruff, anti-social and appears to need a bath most of the time.

He lets his Harley, fists and crossbow do most of the talking for him.

But ... he shows a tenderhearted side with ladies in distress or missing children. An unlikely hero – but he’s just the fellow to survive a zombie apocalypse.

The sharpest weapon you’ll find on Downton Abbey is Lady Violet’s tongue. But that’s no challenge for Daryl’s crossbow.

I think part of his appeal is that we all know someone just like him.

Daryl is played by Norman Reedus – who you might recognize from “Boondock Saints.”

It’s funny – when I first started watching the show, I barely noticed Daryl except to think “ewwww.” His character has grown on me.

On the other hand, at first I wanted things to work out for Sheriff Rick and his wife Lori. Rick went through so much to find his family. He deserved a bit of happiness.

But after two seasons of watching that silly bird-legged drama queen misplace her young son, then run around demanding that everyone else search for him, I’m ready for her to be zombie-bait. 

The boy acts just like her. Last season, he went into the woods and annoyed a zombie by poking it with a stick. (Well, it wasn’t exactly like that but you get the idea.) It turned out badly for another member of the group.

As Hershel the veterinarian said last season, “It’s a wonder you people have survived this long.”

Poor Daryl stays busy just keeping those dumb characters alive. But his appeal may be all he needs to keep himself alive on AMC.