The Walking Dead returned with yet another spinoff: Daryl Dixon. And I think they may have finally gotten it right. The first episode, “L’âme Perdue” was written by creator and showrunner of the series David Zabel (Stumptown, Detroit 1-8-7, ER) and was directed by Daniel Percival (The Man in the High Castle, Strike Back, Death Comes to Pemberly). As everyone knows by now, the show is actually shot in and around Paris, France, adding ambiance and another interesting layer to the story. We and Daryl (Norman Reedus) experience a different landscape and culture.
The episode begins with Daryl washing ashore, tied to a small boat. In true Daryl fashion, he manages to scavenge up weapons and supplies. We get a flavor of how the apocalypse has been going in Europe when he finds a recording of an Irish man recounting his own journey with his wife and daughter – all, we can presume, now dead. Daryl leaves his own message, which naturally turns out to be a mistake…
Daryl uncharacteristically and stupidly ends up getting swarmed in what looks to be an old indoor market. He manages to kill them all, but it turns out that these walkers appear to have acid for blood, and Daryl ends up injured after one grabs his arm.
As he makes his way, Daryl sees a person (Clémence Poésy as Isabelle) watching from a cliff. He uses a French/English dictionary – scavenged – to translate a message: God loves you. The woman on the cliff is putting them up. Daryl then stumbles across a young woman – Maribelle (Carmen Kassovitz) and “lame,” “blind” man – Gullame (Bernard Bloch). They speak to him in French and he says he doesn’t understand them, but Maribelle speaks English. She offers him food. Two soldiers show up. When one tries to drag Maribelle off, Daryl fights back, cutting one’s throat. Daryl is shot, but they still get the upper hand and Maribelle kills one of the soldiers, telling Daryl not to shoot him and save his powder. Daryl asks for his medical bag, but at that point Gullame, who isn’t blind or lame, hits him over the head and he and Mirabelle steal his stuff. Daryl sees the woman on the hill as he passes out.
Daryl is feverish and ill, lying in a bed, and he has visions of Judith telling him he deserves a happy ending too and Carol. As he lays in bed, a nun (Isabelle) burns his arm where the walker grabbed him. When he finally wakes up, Isabelle tells him that he is a guest and that they cauterized his wound because that’s the best way with a wound from a “Boiler.” She’s listened to his tape recording and knows he’s from the Commonwealth. He tells her that he got there through a bunch of bad decisions – but we still don’t know the details – which is a good way to engage us.
Daryl falls asleep in the bath and dreams of drowning – is this a re-birth of some kind? A baptism? It is a bit on the nose… Isabelle returns to tend to his wounds. Daryl has been looking at their wall of devotion. He tells her that he doesn’t take much stock in God – she counters that God does in him. They then compare scars… She tells him he should get some air – and we see that once again, Daryl has an iconic look – this time adding suspenders…
Daryl asks about the boy he say – Laurent (Louis Puech Scigliuzzi). The other nuns are afraid of him, and Daryl tells her that he’ll be gone soon. There is quite a well stocked armory. There is a radio, and Isabelle tells him that she hasn’t got anyone in a while. She tells him that she got there through a bunch of good decisions – it’s a nice echo of his own comment.
As Daryl eats a meal outside, Laurent sits across the courtyard, mimicking everything the does. The nuns discuss Daryl. An older one asks Isabelle if he is the one – and insists he can’t be as he doesn’t believe in God. Daryl is amused by Laurent.
Laurent brings Daryl a rubics cube and tells him his record is 3 minutes and 12 seconds. He tells Daryl it’s his turn, but Daryl tells him that he’s not good at that shit. Laurent boasts about his accomplishment and then introduces himself. Laurent tells him how few people he thinks are left in France – and corrects Daryl’s grammar. He tells him it will take 6 generations to re-populate France. He senses that Daryl is homesick, and then he shocks Daryl by echoing Judith’s words, telling him he deserves a happy ending too.
There’s a nice funny moment as Mirabelle and Gullame scoff at the expression ‘everything’s gone pear-shaped’ from the French/English dictionary they took from Daryl. They are then stopped by soldiers. Gullame pisses them off by asking for a reward for information on the other soldiers and Codron (Romain Levi) kills him. They take Mirabelle to show him where the other soldiers are.
Daryl finds Laurent reading to a Priest who has turned. Daryl is freaked out and determined to leave immediately. Isabelle stops him, insisting that he is the one. She shows him a picture that Laurent drew, before Daryl arrived. It looks a lot more like Jesus than Daryl… Isabelle tells Daryl that a prophet told them that Laurent was a prophecy, and that Daryl is the one chosen to get Laurent up north to really fulfill his destiny. Daryl helps himself to weapons, including a crossbow! Isabelle meanwhile tells Daryl that Laurent will be safe with this northern community until he is ready to take up the mantel of the new Messiah and lead the revival of humanity. Daryl looks non-plussed. And really? This is SO close to The Last of Us – and it is a rather over-the-top turn to religion for The Walking Dead.
Isabelle insists that everything happens for a reason and this is what Daryl was brought there for. She then confesses the radio is broken. She tells him that there are rumors of ships coming and going from Le Havre. Coincidently, it is also very close to the way that Laurent needs to go. Isabelle tells him that it will be difficult to get there, especially if you don’t speak French.
Codron finds Michel (Paul Deby), the soldier that Mirabelle killed, and it turns out is his brother. Codron is determined to find Daryl and kill him. He tells Mirabelle that his mercy is her reward.
Daryl is leaving and Laurent shows up to say goodbye. Isabelle tells Daryl that Laurent doesn’t know about any of it. Daryl insists that it’s not his problem and leaves. He hasn’t gone far when Codron and his men show up. Daryl hides and watches them head for the nunnery.
Mother Superior lets them in. Isabelle hides Laurent in the office. The other nuns arm themselves. Isabelle tells Codron there is no man there, and Codron shows her the fliers – her fliers that he found where his brother was killed. Codron is about to shoot his way into the office when he is called to the walker-Priest. Codron insists that one of his men kill the Priest. Phillipe (Elias Hauter) doesn’t want to do it – but does in the end. Laurent comes running out – and the Codron says they’ll take him with them. Isabelle goes to stop him and one of the soldiers is about to strike her when Daryl show up and kills him from behind and then darts away. A major fight breaks out between the nuns and soldiers.
Daryl takes out Phillipe and then fights Codron. Codron is about to kill Daryl when Isabelle saves him. Codron flees. Only Daryl, Isabelle, Sylvie (Laïka Blanc-Francard), and Laurent are left alive. Just an aside to mention that it was great to have Greg Nicotero back in charge of the visual effects and walkers.
Sylvie sings and Laurent plays the guitar as Daryl tells Isabelle how he got there. After he left on his own, he ran into some bad people and they put him on a boat – and it didn’t go well. He asks her to take him to the port to get on a boat. He agrees to take her where she needs to go first.
Codron is hurt – and doesn’t try to attack them – though he’s been hanging around while they bury the dead… just a bit of a plot hole… And we seem to be back to the CRM right out of World Beyond. Genet (Anne Charrier) seems like a clone from that show… regardless, we find out that Daryl has scuttled her plans and that he almost caused a mutiny on the ship carrying her test subjects. The Captain (Grégory Kristoforoff) tells her Daryl went overboard and is presumed dead. She orders her men to find Daryl if he isn’t dead.
So far this is still the best spin off of TWD. Daryl was maybe a little more talkative and forthcoming than we are used to, but I think Reedus is up to protecting his character. Poésy is good. We didn’t get enough of Charrier to make a judgment there. Codron is a bit stiff. Once again, TWD comes through with the casting of younger cast members in Louis Puech Scigliuzzi. He was solid in this first episode, and I look forward to seeing how he develops. I’m also hoping that Cailey Fleming (Judith) may make an appearance – especially now that it’s been announced that Melissa McBride will make some sort of appearance… What did you think? Are you along for the ride?