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Sunday, September 17, 2023

L'âme Perdue |SERIES PREMIERE| The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon

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TWD Universe continues it's season of spin-offs with the long-awaited The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon, which has already pleasantly surprised skeptics and is already heartily filling the vacuum that was left behind since the flagship series had its finale almost a year ago. We can already tell that Daryl Dixon's journey through France will be one to watch.
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David Cameo:
Rachael Burt:
Bridget Mason-Gray:


  • Bridget has been very busy on her YouTube channel!
  • Dave also wanted to remind everyone of the last blog, just prior, containing video & audio from the panels we moderated at The Camp - featuring Mo Collins (AKA Sarah Rabinowitz), Colby Minifie (AKA Virginia/Ginny), Robert Hayes (AKA Paul Wells), and Ethan McDowell (AKA Ira Washington) - has dropped and you should definitely check it out!

  • It's also worth mentioning that Takeerah just started her own YouTube channel.

  • Rachael's first impressions: like The Walking Dead: Dead City, she was a little guarded (since the series finale of The Walking Dead), especially knowing that Daryl Dixon ends up in France and would want to know how he got there (so thank goodness the show didn't waste too much time exploring that). Dave didn't want to forget to mention, amidst Rachael's first impressions: last Tuesday night, he attended an advanced screening, held by Rooftop Films, in (Industry City) Brooklyn for the first two episodes. All this to explain to Rachael that it seems more answers on how Daryl ends up in France will be revealed as the series progresses. She also likes that Daryl has actual purpose.

  • Takeerah jokingly suggests that the reason why the answer to how and why Daryl ends up in France are because Daryl barely talks, which is something Dave was concerned about during our discussion on Melissa McBride's departure from the proposed spin-off series. It's nice to see Daryl act as a springboard for new characters and reacting to his environment as our avatar into this universe. Takeerah also loves some of the more comedic breaks (what's crackin', n00b?), even Daryl's reaction to more serious moments like Isabelle telling him how Laurent is training to be the messiah and that Daryl is his messenger.

  • Bridget's take, clearly a fish out of water story. She also drills down on some of the critiques of this series, thus far, particularly the comparison to The Last of Us: it's unfair because shepherding someone with (knowledge of) the cure is a trope in post-apocalyptic media that precedes it. Bridget sees Laurent been a figurative symbol of hope rather than the cure, especially since the (biblical) rapture was not supposed to be like this.

  • We drift to the subject of religion: how France is rife with religious iconography while the people themselves treat it as feast or famine (really religious versus super atheist). La Union De L'Espoir (Isabelle's order, The Union of Hope) might've been originally part of greater order that had to expand or reimagine itself when it lost contact with The Pope and/or the greater hierarchy and in order to be more inclusive. We also work out that their mission is to take Laurent to Paris, not the port in Le Havre (the latter which Daryl is eager to reach, in order to return to The Commonwealth). They may end up in Mont Saint Michel, if the title sequence is any indicator (should they continue traveling further north of Paris).

  • Parallels to The Walking Dead:
    • Don't Open | Dead Inside = Attention! les Affamés Ici

    • Maribelle & Gauillaume, the grifters Daryl meets, are a mirror of his first encounter with Dwight & Sherry, who took everything he had, even after having saved them.
    • The Pouvoir Des Vivants group (assuming that's what Codron's group is called) sounds a lot like The Saviors in that they've established their version of order, but most likely using authoritarian means.
    • And, come on: Daryl posing like Rick Grimes with his Colt Python, after having just blown the head off of the recently reanimated guerilla soldiers.

    • Lastly, Bridget says the rage Codron feels towards Daryl (wrongfully alleged) for killing his brother, Michel, is how Daryl felt towards Philip "The Governor" Blake after killing his own brother, Merle Dixon. Rachael goes as far as to say that she's not ready to consider Codron a bad guy, just yet, even though Dave points out evidence to the contrary.
    • Focusing on the fact that the convent has kept Père Jean around as a walker, it reminded Bridget of Hershel Greene's barn full of walkers and how he thought these were still people who could still be saved.

  • Takeerah was particularly interested in finding out where in the ship's journey was Daryl thrown overboard and how did he end up on the shores of Marseille, floating through The Strait of Gibraltar and into The Mediterranean Sea, when the destination was the port in Le Havre in northern France?

  • Dave was more interested in what got him on the ship in the first place: in this episode, Daryl says he was looking for something. In the look-ahead sneak-peek into the remaining episodes of the season, he's seen telling Judith Grimes saying them. Many of us assume that the original goal was to find Rick & Michonne, but the something in his rant into the tape-recorder makes us think it's something bigger than just them. Dave reminds everyone what he said during our discussion on The Walking Dead's series finale, as Daryl heads out: the something could be a larger scale operation to what he initially set out to do with Aaron in Alexandria Safe-Zone, bringing in good people to The Commonwealth, now. Bridget says the writing is so vague and open-ended, no matter where it leads, the outcome will appear to be what was intended.

  • Being a person of faith, Bridget loves the more religious allusions on the show. Dave has always loved the way The Walking Dead Universe has handled religion: it just exists without judgment or indoctrination for the audience to decide to believe in or not (both can be seen as right and wrong). Schrödinger's God/Religion, basically.

  • Laurent as The Messiah/Cure/Symbol of Hope: This series is placing Laurent with Daryl in the center of it as many possible things, since Isabelle isn't completely clear about his purported role. First off, I think most of us don't enjoy the idea of a cure. Second, initially, it seems like most of us think he's intended to be more of a metaphorical figure, rather than a literal end to the wildfire virus, with Dave being the only one who thinks otherwise. Of course, we take a moment to laugh at the picture Laurent drew of Daryl in the ocean... or what could've been inspired by icons he's seen throughout the convent. Dave swoops in to add that Laurent also, word-for-word, use the same phrase as Judith about Daryl deserving a happy ending (which was also a quote from TWD's series finale). So, spooky-beta-shit, or can that be explained away, as well?

  • Speaking of drawings, poor or not, Dave was also lucky enough to receive a free tote bag from the advanced screening event, along with a free drink, popcorn that came in a box with TWD: Daryl Dixon branding, and even salvaged some cups with the logo on them. He also managed to pass out a lot of SQUAWKING DEAD stickers and discuss the episodes with a few fans, like Ritchie & Sean.

  • Daryl's response to Isabelle is to call Laurent creepy, but Dave was wondering if the gang thought so as well. Sure, he recites poems to an undead Père Jean, but the takeaway was, largely, that he was a charming, precocious young man who was sheltered by nuns with no true father-figure in the zombie apocalypse, so he's bound to be a little strange. Getting a little levity by watching him  endearingly pantomime Daryl is also nod to the French, who pioneered the artform.

  • Bridget addresses the noticeably incorrect reference to the fall of humanity having occurred only 12 years ago. Laurent is 12 years old, so he must've been born amidst, at least, France's collapse. While we joke about actors playing characters who are older or younger than them, one of the ways the ladies explain it away is by saying that it's possible that they didn't keep track of the days since the outbreak. Dave thinks it refers to something Doctor Edwin Jenner said in the original series, which was that France held out the longest: 12 years is probably correct and it just took them a year or two longer to collapse. One thing worth mentioning is that the Netflix release of The Walking Dead's final episode has the One Year Later title card removed, even though it's well-established that King Ezekiel Sutton (now Governor Sutton) and General Michael Mercer (now Lt. Governor Mercer) were celebrating the anniversary of the day they blew up The Commonwealth and reformed it.

  • Takeerah suspects that Isabelle, considering her scars, might've taken her vows a lot more recently, rather than many of the women who were there longer, some of whom were noticeably older. We go through some possibilities before Dave alludes to the fact that we will see more of her origin, as well as a flashback to the fall of Paris in the next episode (which there were cut-scenes of in the extended trailer).

  • And who doesn't love the medieval weapons? Their presence reflects where we are in the world as well as in the timeline: bullets have all but run out and practically no means to manufacture them, as well as stricter gun laws in pre-apocalypse France. Also, Murder Nuns. The use of musket balls and flintlock pistols, surrounded by more (necessarily defensive) ancient structures than we're used to (and Daryl in suspenders) gives the show a very French Revolution feel to it. Speaking of French history, Isabelle mentions how Père Jean's grandfather fought with the Maquis, who were the French and Belgian resistance against the Nazi occupation of France.

  • Takeerah pivots back to discussing one of the nuns, Sylvie, and since the actress who plays her, Laïka Blanc-Francard, is 19, how much older/younger might her character be? This rekindles the hilarious reaction everyone had to when Ali Muhammad and Charlie were kissing on Fear The Walking Dead 7x10, Mourning Cloak because Dave made a joke about she and Laurent eventually smooching. In all seriousness, Sylvie is a badass we are happy to see more of.

  • After Daryl listens to Isabelle's diatribe regarding Laurent being the Messiah, he rightfully decides, like any one of us would (religious or not), that it's time to go. In the process, one of the funniest lines delivered this episode was how many weapons Daryl said he was going to borrow from the convent, as if he was ever coming back to return them. And, lest we forget, he picks up a mace, which just looks like an adorable version of the one he was swinging around in The Whisperer War. Bigger is better, right?

  • It was interesting to reflect on Isabelle's lie of omission about the broken radio: it shows how committed she is to her vows; however, it did enable Daryl to unleash an F-Bomb when he found out that the radio was never going to work. More so, the nuns didn't attack Codron's men until they were about to be shot - or at least in defense of their holy crusade of keeping Laurent safe. Even Mother Superior Véronique, after being mortally wounded during the attack on the abbey, begs Daryl to allow Codron to flee, impressing upon him (and us) the quality of mercy. Not all of us appreciate this moral virtue.

  • So now it's time to talk about the burner variant of walkers, brûlent. Firstly, Daryl's wound and how cauterization was the most efficient way to treat the affected tissue. The conversation comes down to the possibility that, if there was an infection, it's possible that cauterization was the cheapest and quickest way to stop Daryl's arm from going necrotic. Second, it's still possible that it is similar to the chemical burn in Fight Club: the fluid that was once the walker's blood turns basic (rather than acidic) and reacts to (moistened) skin, with the caveat that it might need to be exposed to oxygen to activate (since the walkers, themselves, would dissolve, otherwise).

  • We take a second to discuss the actual poem Laurent recites to Father Walker Père Jean: Liberté, by Paul Eluard. The sense we're getting is that not only will this series extol the value of hope in a hopeless world, but also a revival of the virtues of Liberty that, arguably, the French had already abandoned pre-apocalypse. The one prescient line in particular that is being recited is the following:
    • French: Sur chaque bouffée d’aurore / Sur la mer sur les bateaux / Sur la montagne démente / J’écris ton nom
    • English: On every breath of dawn / On the sea on the boats / On the demented mountain / I write your name
  • We further explore whether the nuns believe (not us, this time) that Laurent is the literal cure/messiah. Is it stories we tell ourselves or do they literally hold to this belief, in much the same way many Catholics do? If literal, do they think Père Jean will be restored or, at the very least, be redeemed and collapse like a ragdoll? In the midst of this, we wonder how he turned to begin with (that the nuns are attributing to some sort of wickedness that afflicts him) and whether it will be revealed in a future episode.

  • Rachael hates that the name Isabelle is being recycled, since her name is also used by the same character as former Civic Republic Military helicopter pilot and Althea Szewczyk-Przygocki's love-interest on Fear TWD (first seen in 5x05, The End of Everything). And speaking of love-interests and Isabelle, many people are already up-in-arms about the notion that the series is attempting to couple-up Daryl and Isabelle. Outside our emphatic belief that men and women can actually be friends, nobody seems to want Daryl and Isabelle to hook-up (Dave is ambivalent/not mad at it), but Rachael, in particular, doesn't enjoy the idea that she might renounce her vows. Dave goes the long way of explaining that, in a broken world where borders are erased and blurs the lines between good and evil, he can see her finding a space where she can inhabit both her faith and a space in Daryl's heart (while waxing on his own feelings on religion).

  • Jumping to the scene before the credits, we meet (last name) Genêt, which literally translates, in Google Translate, to broom, which Dave attributed to the cleaning implement used to sweep (not far off since these brambles were used as sweeping implements in the 15th century). In the comments of our YouTube video, Linda corrects us: it's actually a shrub known as broom which belongs to a tribe of trees, shrubs, and plants known as Genisteae. They are most diverse in the Mediterranean and is a common French surname, from North African origin.

  • Genet is giving off major CRM-like vibes. Dave isn't 100% convinced that she is of their ranks - in a post-episode thought, he thinks it may be the case that we wrongfully fingered Codron as leader the group spray-painting Pouvoir Des Vivants everywhere, but it might actually be more aligned with Genet, instead, since their logo appears on the anatomy book in the title sequence (more on that, later). Daryl may have spawned a mutiny and wrecked their lab, but Dave wonders why Genet is hellbent on capturing Daryl since this is obviously a scientific pursuit and it would be more productive to cut their losses and move on. Everyone else says for revenge, but Jasmine (in the chat) explains that it might be just to find out how he escaped in order to improve their security protocols. Just like Rachael's thoughts on Codron, Dave thinks it might be too early to consider Genet evil since there's no tangible indicator that she is (other than the mood of the scene and the possibility that their test-subjects, now walkers, were alive prior to these lab experiments).

  • One specific cut-scene in the title sequence shows an anatomy book written in Latin containing notes, marked in red ink, in French. One clearly written note in the top left of the left page says, Contrôlez la mort which means Control Death. Another note on the right side of that page, si en suit recharge cœur sa va se diffuser plus vite, means if you then recharge your heart it will spread faster.

  • Speaking of the title sequence, an interesting amount of fans did not like it. It seems to be the same proportion of fans who didn't like the change in The Walking Dead's title sequence when Season 9 rolled around or, more specifically, the dramatic shift in title sequence between FearTWD's 3rd and 4th seasons. We thought this one properly set the tone and really honed in on themes of hope and nods to French history and culture. The music seals the deal with a somewhat classical music inspired theme, much the same way The Walking Dead: Dead City's title sequence and music felt more appropriate for a show that takes place in New York City. In particular, the blood clouds in the streets of Paris could be seen as religious imagery (being cleansed in blood) or even the French Revolution (with the streets running red with blood).

  • We also find it upsetting that France, at the very least, has no way of watching this series, whatsoever, much in the way global markets had no way of enjoying Dead City and Tales of The Walking Dead.
  • Dave muses on Daryl's very Daryl reaction to translating Le Union de L'Espoir's flyer that says Dieu Vous Aime which means God Loves You. He's a man of few words, but his reaction pretty much lines up with how we think he'd react to anything religious.

  • When comparing this spin-off directly with Dead City, most of our hosts couldn't find a basis for comparison, since the storylines are so different. In terms of hype, though, there's an abundance of Daryl fans behind the mic and they were more excited for this series to release than Dead City, especially Bridget who feels an emotional connection to Daryl Dixon. Dave takes a stab at comparing the two, though, by stacking the white-knuckling frenetic energy of Dead City against the more calm, French countryside pacing of Daryl Dixon. Both were great, but he believes there seems to be more breathing room to tell a fully insular story with a beloved character, especially having had a chance to watch the second episode. It's a lot closer to what the majority of fans hoped we'd get from Tales of The Walking Dead.

  • Reflecting on Mother Superior's last words to Isabelle about her renewed faith in Daryl as The Messenger, it was a particularly beautiful moment when you consider how close she is to the nuns in her charge and even Laurent - as both her (grand) child and the possible hope for humanity (in whatever form that takes). Like a parent, what more could one ask for than the knowledge that the people she's cared for all her life are in safe hands before she leaves this world? Bridget's takeaway from this is how, in the bible, God's chosen ones (Moses, Jesus, etc) tend to be the unlikely choice, from our point of view. I can't think of someone less likely to lead a holy crusade than Daryl.

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