Okay, so this post isn’t specifically about books, but it is about writing, so bear with me. I do have a valid point to make here, although some of you might not like it.
I’ve been rewatching some of my favourite TV of late, and perhaps it’s just the intensive rewatching in a short space of time, but I’ve been noticing a disturbing trend that actually pains me to point out – it’s when one character takes over to an extent that you start to get annoyed by them, and not only that, but it starts to change the character in ways that you don’t like.
Yes, I’m talking about TMCD – too much character development.
Or, ‘Why I think I hate Daryl Dixon.’
(It was a tank! A frigging tank!)
Case in point, and I run the risk of some friends disowning me here, but take Daryl Dixon from The Walking Dead. Daryl started out in season one as a real asshole, a hot head living in the shadow of his brother, incapable of keeping his temper and with a tendency to throw squirrels at people. I liked that Daryl. But now, four series later and the character is almost unrecognisable from what he was.
And while that’s not a bad thing, it’s seriously running the risk of turning Daryl into a bit of a joke. For instance, in season one he took on Rick and Shane at once, by season four he took on a tank!
It started really in season 2, episode 5 ‘Chupacabra’ which saw Daryl hallucinating after he fell down a ravine while looking for Sofia, then he pulled an arrow out of his own leg and we all thought, ‘Yeah, Daryl is a badass.’ But then came the ears, and the raw squirrel and the blood and the bullet to the head and somewhere along that episode it was almost too much for one man to be that awesome. Right at that moment it started to become ‘The Daryl Dixon Show.
The creators clearly latched on early to the fact that Daryl was a fan favourite, and they started to give him more screen time, let him do cooler things, see other characters go to him for the shitty, difficult jobs (like beating Randal, something that the old Daryl wouldn’t have thought twice about, but something that the new and improved Daryl might balk at, or at least have to listen to a heart warming motivational speech from Rick for half an hour first.
Things started to go from bad to worse when other characters started to lose out on plot or events because they were given to Daryl instead. Such as the death of Dale. This was originally an Andrea and Dale moment and was significant because of the relationship that Andrea had with Dale, and particularly how that relationship was changing. The moment was given to Daryl instead, and while I understand that it was important in order to further Daryl’s relationship with Rick, but it took away from another character. While I appreciate that sacrifices have to be made in the nature of a show, especially when the character involved was not an original character, I think it’s important to remember that there are other characters.
Season three saw further shift into making Daryl awesome. But now he had the crossbow, the motorbike, the leather, he was a proven badass with known daddy issues and a violent past, but dammit he was going to get that baby formula. Episode 5 of season three saw Daryl taking over while Rick had his little breakdown and everyone else just stood around looking gormless. I mean, no one even liked Lori, surely they weren’t all that upset? I watched that particular episode with a couple of friends, and three quarters of the way through there was complete silence in the room. It should be impossible for an unwashed man to look that sexy while holding a baby. But the fact was, there was no need for Daryl to be holding her. I mean, we have no reason to believe that he knew what the fuck he was doing – other characters there have actually had babies, surely it would have made more sense to pass her over to Hershel or Carol. But then we wouldn’t have had the sexy man with a baby fan service. So not only is Daryl a cool badass, he’s also great with babies.
And so it continues. Daryl is the one that people rely on, case in point is when Beth informs Carol that they are ‘weak without him’ and for some reason that angered me. Yes, okay, so Daryl is a badass, but everyone in that prison has already survived several years into a zombie apocalypse. They are all, in their own way, badasses. But no, let’s make it all about Daryl. A guy that none of them even liked. All the bad shit gets left to Daryl, but he also gets to do all the cool shit too. He might get beat on a bit, but you know Daryl is always going to win. And something about that annoys me.
The season 4 mid break finale created it’s very own Daryl meme which I think highlights just how out of control the badassery had become. This dude should have been dead by now with all the stupid risks he takes.
I think that’s why I liked to see him in season three episode 12 ‘Still’ – now, I’m not a big fan of sentimental serious thinking Daryl – leave all that introspective shit to Rick – but I liked to see him getting drunk and losing his temper again, a welcome return to the old days. I also liked his interaction with Beth, both getting equal screen time and equal importance – which was great because up until now all Beth seemed to have going for her was that she was a convenient babysitter with a great ponytail . It wasn’t the Daryl Dixon Show anymore. This was a welcome relief given that just a few episodes before he took out a tank by himself. See:
Now, while I appreciate that characters have to change and grow, sometimes when one character changes and grows too much it can take away from other characters. Rick and Daryl both suffer from the same issues in this. Although Rick has gone the other way, lost all of his hope and instead spends all of his time saying sentimental cringey shit to people who don’t want to hear it.
As writers we all run the risk of doing something similar, especially when we love a particular character, and often we don’t realise we are doing it until someone points it out to us, or until we reach the point where we realise that we are only giving lines to one character in a cast of ten. Now, some characters simply are more badass than others, and that’s fine. But what is it about the other characters that makes them relevant to the plot in the first place? If they aren’t getting lines, getting scenes, then maybe it’s time to cut them loose? Or maybe it’s time to take a good hard look at our main character who is desperately in danger of become a Sue and take action before it’s too late.
So, what do I think? Well, much as I loved seeing Daryl go all Mad Max, I think it’s time to rein it back a little. Make him a little more human again, give us something we can relate to as people, we don’t need him to be an action hero. Let him to stupid shit so Rick yells at him. Let him make mistakes. Let him fail at something again.
And for fuck sake give other characters cool things to do.
And just because she does have a really cute pony tail:
Happy Wednesday folks,