As Maggie returns to the world of The Walking Dead, fans will surely revisit the death of her husband, Glenn, at the hands of Negan. A confrontation is on the horizon for Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). There is no doubt that Maggie squarely blames Negan for the death of Glenn. After all, Negan literally killed Glenn. However, for many viewers, there is the fault of another when it comes to Glenn’s death. That fault is on Daryl.
When fans describe Daryl Dixon, an array of words come to mind, words like strong and fearless and loyal. When he first met the group he was an untouchable figure, scoffing at their naivety and inexperience and hidden behind layers of personality and anger formed to keep people at a distance. As the seasons went on, however, Daryl began to form bonds with the people around him and we saw his layers begin to peel away to expose an almost vulnerable, but still incredibly strong character. It seemed that Daryl saw emotion as a sign of weakness but as the strangers from the beginning became his family, he realized that sometimes a sign of strength is caring about other people.
In the season 7 premiere of The Walking Dead, the vulnerability of Daryl is the thing that changes him forever as he can no longer take the taunting from Negan and strikes him after he teases Rosita. In the moment, Daryl wasn’t thinking “Glenn is going to die if I protect Rosita” – the truth is, no one knew what would happen with Negan; this is his ballgame now. What Daryl did know is that he needed to protect his family and to stand up for Abraham, and in that moment, it seemed like his only option.
Entertainment Weekly did an interview with Norman Reedus about what that life changing scene means for Daryl and how it resulted in Glenn’s death.
EW: After watching Daryl’s role in what happened to Glenn in the premiere, I’m really worried for that dude’s psyche going forward. Knowing him, he’s gonna blame himself for what went down, right?
Norman Reedus: He goes into a very dark place. He completely takes the weight of that and just carries that with him. He never forgives himself and he takes full responsibility. Although the thing is, Daryl didn’t say “Oh if I do this, they’ll kill Glenn.” Nobody knows what’s going to happen with that guy with the bat. Nobody knows anything. But what he was doing was protecting Rosita. Negan had that bloody bat, waving it in her face, yelling at her, and it’s right in front of my face too. We were right next to each other. And he was picking on Rosita and Daryl stood up for her and he stood up for Abraham. The outcome of that, nobody knew that was going to happen.
In the moments that follow his strike at Negan, you see Daryl lose what strength he was clinging to as he’s pulled down to the ground before being taunted himself and then thrown in the back of a van like nothing more than discarded trash. Negan is relentless, in a bad way, and stops at nothing to make the group kneeling at his feet feel worthless; he strips away everything about them that made them who they were – no one will ever be the same.
The hardest part of this for Daryl’s character is how his transformation into being a man who allowed emotion and compassion into his heart is seemingly what got him to where he is now, like in some twisted way he’s being punished for caring about these people. Even more heartbreaking than that is that he thinks he deserves it. Guilt is written all over his face as he’s seen before being tossed into the van and it’s evident in the preview for episode 3 airing this Sunday; he’s a shell of a person now.
Norman: So he was kind of apologizing for it. But the truth is that whole group on that show would have done anything to protect any of us, and that guy’s crazy with the bat. The weight of Glenn’s death is going to weigh on Daryl heavily, I know it does. He gives up, he loses the fight, he’s keeping to himself, whatever’s happening to him, he thinks he deserves it. He’s going to let it happen, which is crushing. To take somebody wild like that — a wild, pure, honest fighter like that — and just strip him of his desire to fight back or fight for anything, it’s crushing.
Norman does go on to shine a little bit of light in a hopeful situation towards the conclusion of the interview with EW as he talks about heroes and how they become bigger heroes.
While the fan reaction to Daryl’s move has been mixed, this interview, as well as statements made since the premiere, just prove that Daryl wasn’t thinking of making things worse as he struck Negan, in fact, he probably wasn’t thinking much at all. In the moment his mind and heart cried out for vengeance and season 7 seems to be a power struggle as to who is capable – or rather violent enough – to make sure their vengeance is met.
While at the moment the words that would be used to describe Daryl are reflective of a man struggling with inner turmoil and self-doubt, his strength – even while tested – has always been larger than sometimes he was even aware of and we hope that strength reigns powerful once again.
Of course, three seasons later, the dynamic between Negan and Daryl has changed. No one would classify them as friends, but they are definitely necessary evils to one another. They both have something the other needs. Negan needs the groups so that he is not alone in the world. Daryl needs Negan as another capable warrior. That may be as far as it goes. What may change that is the arrival of Maggie. A newly released table read of an upcoming episode in 2021 reveals a bit of this confrontation, along with Carol explaining to Maggie why Negan was needed and what Negan accomplished.
Where do you land on Daryl’s liability to Glenn’s death? And, do you expect this entire thing to be revisited in the six episodes we will get in early 2021?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
This article is a combination of a previous article from Ashley Dye and the current writer, updated.