I sincerely think that fan-favorite character Daryl Dixon’s days on The Walking Dead are numbered. There’s no question fans love him, but the character’s usefulness has passed. Taking a hard look at the comics that the show draws its overarching plots from, if not every character beat, I will argue below why I think Daryl will not last much longer. There are potentially large spoilers because I’m going to address the comics’ stories which are well ahead of the show. So if you don’t read the comics and want to remain ignorant of them, don’t read this article.
So we all know that the next Big Bad our team faces will be Negan. He’s been mentioned. We know he’s shaking down communities for their supplies. In order to be an effective villain, he’s going to have to get a big, devastating victory against our heroes. We can already see it being telegraphed. Rick and Maggie argued to Gregory and the Hilltop community that they will simply take down Negan. They argue that they’ve done it before. But if it was that easy, that would be boring. No, they’re overconfident this time and I’m sure they will make a mistake. In the comics, that mistake was huge.
In issue #100 of The Walking Dead, our team is quickly ambushed by Negan and some of his men and Negan proceeds to beat Glenn to death with a baseball bat. While that is still absolutely possible, I think the writers and showrunner Scott Gimple have laid out a different course. Because the comic readers could reasonably expect Glenn to die, we’ve been teased with this idea going back on the show as far as the season 5 premier (“No Sanctuary”) when Glenn had to kneel before a trough where captives were knocked out with a baseball bat and had their throats sliced. Glenn not only survived that but the infamous fakeout on killing Glenn from episodes 3 through 7 of season six. It appeared he’d fallen off a dumpster into a throng of walkers but ultimately we learn that he crawled under the dumpster and survived.
So would they fake us out like that only to kill Glenn later in the season? Maybe. But you may also end up confusing fans who wonder if it’s another fakeout. Instead of foreshadowing, I think it was turning Glenn into a type of Red Herring choice when Negan shows up to kill one of our main characters. Certainly in the comics Maggie has to continue as a single mother. But Scott Gimple told Entertainment Weekly, when asked about the Glenn fakeout death, that the season would take some “hard left turns” regarding Glenn’s story.
So even if Glenn isn’t killed, why would that point to Daryl? Well, mostly because Daryl’s story has run its course. He does not exist in the comics. So a lot of the role he’s taken on the show, as Rick’s #2, has cribbed from stories following his second-in-command from the comics: primarily Tyreese and Abraham. It’s been a great arc watching Daryl go from the outsider that hates Rick for leaving his brother, Merle, behind to becoming the most trusted and capable team member. But now we’re reaching a point where Rick’s entire crew has grown extremely capable and Daryl isn’t that much different from Glenn or Carol or Abraham. Honestly, for the last season and a half, he’s sort of just been hanging around with his own minor subplots. Off with Beth, or Carol. Now he’s just sort of hanging around in the background at Alexandria.
If anything, Carol has begun to take Daryl’s place as the outsider who’s grown into one of the most capable members of the group. Carol, similar in a way to Daryl, did not survive in the comics this long. She never really became a badass and went a bit crazy after dating Tyreese who cheated on her with Michonne (yeah, none of that ever made it to the show). In issue #42, while they were all still at the prison, she let a walker bite her and Andrea put her down. But on the show, Carol has overcome the loss of her family and exile from the group, only to repeatedly prove herself by being willing to make the toughest calls. She’s good in a fight but also fills a different role, blending in because people underestimate her.
So Daryl doesn’t have much to do, unless they start giving him Abraham and maybe Jesus’ storylines. But also, AMC has given actor Norman Reedus, who plays Daryl, an upcoming reality series about motorcycles. Could that be AMC’s way of keeping him in the family? And would he realistically have time for his reality show if he’s still doing Walking Dead? Also, he has about three movies coming up in various states of completion. So he’s pretty busy with projects outside of the show.
Look, maybe Negan kills Daryl, maybe he kills Glenn, maybe he doesn’t kill a main cast member. But I think he is likely to kill at least one of them, quite possibly more. And I think the signs point to Daryl dying in the season six finale on April 3rd.