Spoilers ahead for Season 6 and 7 of The Walking Dead!
Much like HBO’s Game of Thrones, AMC’s The Walking Dead has earned a reputation for not being afraid to knock off main characters in order to advance the story. Last season was no exception, as fans saw Rick’s new love interest Jessie, her son Sam, and her other son Ron (Carl’s nemesis) get eaten, hacked with an ax, and impaled on a sword in quick succession. And while fans may have been appalled at the grisly ways that the Anderson family members met their end, they were probably also relieved that fan-favorite characters like Abraham, Sasha, Carol, Morgan, Glenn, and Daryl managed to survive another week. However, with the arrival of new villain Negan, it’s only a matter of time before another beloved main character bites the dust. So who will it be?
[Update, 10/24/16: As revealed during the season 7 premiere, Abraham and Glenn were killed by Negan. However, Daryl isn’t out of the woods yet since Negan took him hostage after letting the rest of the group go free.]
The obvious choice seems Glenn, since he dies by Negan’s hand in the comics. Glenn also seems to have a death wish and has repeatedly put himself in harm’s way in order to help other people. Even in the recent episode, “No Way Out,” Glenn almost gets eaten by walkers while saving Enid and his wife Maggie, and then nearly gets killed by Abraham and Sasha’s friendly fire. However, as fans familiar with the comics know all too well by now, the TV show doesn’t always follow the comic storyline. That being said, we do believe that Negan will kill a beloved main character in order to establish his vileness to the viewers and give Rick’s group a reason to form alliances with other groups of survivors. Here are four reasons why we think Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) will be the next main character to die on The Walking Dead.
1. Daryl’s story has run its arc
Remember Season 1 Daryl? You know, the anti-social survivalist guy who was fiercely loyal to his racist and possibly psychotic older brother Merle? And then there was Season 2 Daryl, who formed a bond with Carol, a fellow victim of abuse. Daryl continued his evolution in Season 3, when he chose to return to the group, rather than stick with his brother. In Season 4, Rick declared that he and Daryl were “brothers,” and by Season 5, Daryl has become a highly respected leader of the group who even occasionally acts as a moral counterbalance to Rick’s nihilistic tendencies. So what does this all mean?
Basically, it means that Daryl has traveled the classic character arc: from a distrustful loner to a productive member of society. Which leaves us wondering: Where can Daryl go next? Call it pessimism, but the only place we see this character going is down — as in dying — most likely by the bat-wielding Negan. Which brings us to our next point…
2. Daryl made it personal with Negan
“No Way Out,” the midseason premiere episode, had one of the best opening scenes in the show’s history. Abraham, Sasha, and Daryl are stopped by a group of hostile and heavily armed bikers who steal their possessions for the unseen Negan. Then, just when it seemed that one of our protagonists would be executed for daring to ask questions, Daryl emerges from behind the fuel truck and blows the whole group of bikers to smithereens. And we thought Daryl with a crossbow was cool.
Unfortunately, Daryl’s ultimate moment of Daryl-ness may have sealed his fate. Eagle-eyed viewer Vinnie Gorham (via Uproxx) spotted a mysterious car rolling off in the distance behind the bikers. Could that be Negan? If so, Daryl just provided the perfect motivation for Negan to want to bash his skull in with a baseball bat. Although Negan seemingly chose to kill Glenn at random in the comics, it wouldn’t be a stretch for the show writers to give Negan a more personal motivation for murder, while simultaneously providing a tragic exit for a character whose story has run its natural course.
3. Hints from the cast
The death of a major character like Daryl would most likely be saved for the season finale, so fans will at least get to enjoy Daryl’s presence until the end of Season 6. And recent comments from other cast members seem to support the theory that something unbearably horrible happens to one of our favorite characters on TWD. Just read what Andrew Lincoln (Rick Grimes) had to say to Entertainment Weekly about the season finale. “I felt sick to my stomach when I read the script. It was the first day in the whole six years of working on The Walking Dead that I was late for work because I woke up in the middle of the night and I couldn’t get back to sleep. I was so angry and frustrated and I felt sick. And that was just after reading it.” Yikes.
Lauren Cohan (Maggie) didn’t exactly reassure us either. “It took a really, really long time for everybody to feel okay again after the finale, let’s put it that way,” she told EW. Still not convinced? Then consider the fact that Norman Reedus (Daryl) is already working on a new show for AMC called Ride With Norman Reedus that will air later this year. A premiere date hasn’t been announced yet, but we’re guessing it will premiere right after The Walking Dead Season 6 finale, as a sort of consolation gift for shell-shocked Daryl fans.
[Update 5/18/16: Fans will have to wait until the start of Season 7 to find out who Negan kills. However, Daryl is still a potential victim of Negan’s wrath.]
4. Daryl doesn’t exist in the comics
Weirdly enough, one of the most popular and longest-surviving members of Rick’s group doesn’t even exist in the original story told in the comics. And while this doesn’t necessarily mean that he has to die in order for the story to advance, creator Robert Kirkman has previously noted that Daryl’s existence presents ongoing issues for the TV show’s writers. “I like that when we sit down to write the show one of the first things we deal with is: ‘How does Daryl Dixon change this story?’” said Kirkman via Blastr. “Because we always start from: ‘Ok, we like this part of the comic. How are we going to do it?’”
Although the showrunners probably wouldn’t kill a fan-favorite character just to smooth out the differences between the two platforms (after all, Kirkman did say he liked dealing with the Daryl effect), taken with the other reasons outlined above, we believe that Daryl will not be long for the world of walkers. Oh well. At least we’ll always have the ear necklace to remember him by.
[Update, 8/15/16: Added new Season 7 clip (see below).]
Bonus: Dwight has Daryl’s motorcycle and leather vest
— The Walking Dead (@TWDBreakingNews) August 15, 2016
In yet another ominous sign for fans of Daryl, a new clip from Season 7 of The Walking Dead shows Dwight — a member of Negan’s Saviors group — riding Daryl’s motorcycle down a highway and rolling it past a group of walkers. Even worse, it looks like Dwight has managed to also get his hands on Daryl’s iconic “angel wings” vest.
Follow Nathanael on Twitter @ArnoldEtan_WSCS