The very existence of Daryl and Merle Dixon has changed the world of The Walking Dead.
Aside from the fact that Daryl is the most popular character on the show, eclipsing even Rick (nominally the main character) with many fans, there's the fact that every action they take has consequences that ripple through the show, making it more and more different from the comic books upon which it's based. After all, in the comics, the Dixon brothers don't even exist.
Well, this week, we get a major shift in the show's dynamic, as Merle and Daryl, finally reunited, take off into the woods together, leaving both Rick Grimes's group of survivors and the Governor's community at Woodbury behind.
And while Carol was sorry to see Daryl go (their budding romance has been some of the only real character development she's had), and social media felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of female fans suddenly cried out in terror, we actually think there's a lot of potential for The Walking Dead going forward with Daryl and Merle temporarily out of the group.
Because, let's face it, there's basically no chance this is a permanent arrangement. So just enjoy it!
Why are we glad to see Daryl go?
While Norman Reedus is a compelling actor and Daryl has always been a cool character, he didn't really pick up his major following until the beginning of last season when, while out looking for Sophia, he totally got out from under Merle's shadow by being the baddest badass on the block, trekking through the woods with nothing and surviving by his wits alone.
Here, we'll not only get to see more of that, but also how he interacts with his brother now that the two of them are equals. That likely won't end well, which will also be compelling TV.
It will push Carol to the brink
In the comics, Carol eventually gave up on life and committed suicide by zombie, during a delusional fit in which she may not have even known what she was doing. This week, we get a depressed and reflective Carol saying that the situation at the prison "doesn't matter." Could we see her story play out the same way on TV as it did in the comics?
Well, it's unlikely. This version of Carol has survived the loss of Sophia--something that would have absolutely crushed her comic book counterpart. But seeing our favorite characters pushed to the very edge of their limitations? That's the whole point of The Walking Dead.
It's just BEGGING for a Han Solo moment
Let's be honest--this is a season where things are going to get scary and hopeless. Our heroes are up against impossible odds. The minute Daryl walked away from Rick, I started thinking about what moment could bring him back, and the big way he would come through for the group and redeem himself.
So, yeah--remember that moment when, having taken his money and headed home, Han Solo comes back, proving he really is in it for the revolution? Look for a moment like that from Daryl in the third act of this season.
In the comics, Tyreese was not just a valuable part of the group and a love interest for Michonne--he was also Rick's right-hand man, especially in the days immediately after Rick lost his right hand.
And people have been wondering, with Daryl firmly entrenched in that role, how Tyreese fits into the picture. Well, this certainly gives us an idea...!
He makes everything too easy
Daryl is a bit like a video game cheat code. You want him in your arsenal, but he can make the whole thing seem a little too comfortable.
With a war impending against the Governor and his people, things are going to be tense for the rest of the season. At the end of the day, though, the survivors have always been able to fall back on Daryl, knowing that he's prepared for just about anything. Having him in the group is a bit like having Batman--you've got a guy in your camp who isn't scared of anything, who wins every fight he's in and who has, generally, had a pretty unfailing sense of right and wrong.
Also, he's such a fan favorite, it's a safe bet he's not likely to die. Combined with Rick, that makes for two lead characters whose safety is, more or less, guaranteed. In a show premised on the idea that no one is safe, it's sometimes difficult to keep a straight face while saying that when the characters fans care about the most are never in any serious danger.
All in all, taking Daryl away ups the ante in a big way. Suddenly the survivors really have to struggle. As Beth said this week, they're weaker without him, and other than Rick or Hershel, it's hard to imagine another loss that would do as much psychological damage to the group as Daryl.