‘The Walking Dead’ Showrunner Previews Daryl’s Bigger and Better Role In Season 9

There’s no replacing Rick Grimes, but the responsibility of a certain kind of leadership will be thrust upon Daryl Dixon once Rick Grimes is out of the picture, says The Walking Dead showrunner Angela Kang.

“In some ways, I think of Daryl as a loyal knight. He’s not somebody who would aspire to be the king. He is so loyal, but in some ways the loyalty has come at a cost to his character,” Kang told Rotten Tomatoes.

“There are times when he went along with decisions that he didn’t totally agree with, even though Daryl kind of does what Daryl does — when he goes rogue sometimes, and that’s what we love about him.”

An 18-months-later time jump found Daryl overseeing operations at the Sanctuary, home of the Saviors, a post Daryl took issue with. When Daryl raised those issues with Rick, it was clear the relationship is strained.

Daryl has grown more confident and will continue to better express himself following limited lines of dialogue in recent seasons, Kang previewed.

“I think part of the evolution of his character is he is not a man of many words usually, but across time he has built these very close relationships with certain characters who he’s very loyal to. Daryl and Rick look at each other like brothers. That can be a complicated relationship, but he is developing ways of being more open about what he feels. That’s part of his growth as a character,” she said.

“He’s growing up, and he’s able to express these things that used to sometimes come out as rage, and he’s able to talk about it and form a plan while still very much being the Daryl that we know and love.”

Daryl has openly refused a leadership role, telling the Sanctuary’s Laura he won’t get on a stage and make a damn speech like “him” — “him” being jailed former Savior leader Negan, who embraced his role as a theatrical dictator having everyone’s ear.

“He was referring to Negan, and that part of the leadership of Negan where he would gather everyone together, stand up on the catwalk and say, ‘Look at what we’ve brought for all of you!’ That was part of Negan’s political genius, that he always reminded people, ‘Hey, we’re the ones providing for you! Yes, you may live under these rules, and yes, there’s different classes of people, but you get everything you need, right?’” Kang said.

“But in some ways, Daryl, he’s also watching as Rick gives speeches. So even though he’s referring to Negan in the moment, we see that Rick also has a kind of political skill. We’ve seen Rick give a fair number of speeches over the years. He is good as a charismatic leader who’s able to rally the troops. Daryl knows himself, and he knows he is not that type of leader, nor does he aspire to be.”

While Daryl won’t exactly be filling Rick’s boots, he will be looked to when there’s no longer a Rick Grimes to give orders.

“It’s part of his arc for the season, as people look to him more and more as a leader in certain situations. It’s something he struggles with, because he doesn’t feel like he’s a person who likes to give speeches. He’s a person who likes to be out there on the road, in action,” Kang said.

“But that in and of itself is a different type of leadership. He’s going to find what it is that he’s comfortable with and go forward with that.”

Reedus has already denied his Daryl will be replacing Rick Grimes or actor Andrew Lincoln, telling TV Line, “Rick is the quarterback of this football team, he’s always been, he always will be.”

Instead, the series will continue to focus on its ensemble once Lincoln has exited, with even bigger roles for its core characters moving forward.

“I don’t think anyone’s gonna step up and be Rick,” Reedus told ComicBook.com.

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“Everybody on the show is gonna step up and elevate their game and fill that hole. I don’t think there could be a new Rick. I know the internet’s like, ‘Screw, Norman! Who does he think he is?’ I’ve just got to sit there go, ‘Oh, whatever.’ Everybody sort of steps up to the plate.”

The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.