With over a decade of screen time to his name, The Walking Dead‘s Daryl Dixon has given viewers plenty of memorable moments, but a few of them stand out as his very best. Played by Norman Reedus, Daryl was created for the AMC horror-drama series and has no source-material analog. In fact, the show’s writers penned the role with Reedus in mind. Thirteen years and two series later — one of which is a spin-off centered on Daryl Dixon — the character has become synonymous with The Walking Dead‘s legacy. A fan favorite, Daryl even became the key protagonist of the parent show’s last three seasons.
Of course, Daryl Dixon wasn’t always beloved by Rick Grimes’ (Andrew Lincoln) crew. Living in the shadow of his brother, Merle (Michael Rooker), the survivalist was merely tolerated by the rest of The Walking Dead‘s central characters, namely because of his proficiency with a crossbow. With Merle out of the picture, Daryl gradually let his guard down around the show’s other survivors, including his now-closest friend, Carol Peletier (Melissa McBride). A man of few words — even fewer shots — Daryl Dixon always makes his screen time count, which is why picking Norman Reedus’ best The Walking Dead moments is quite the challenge.
10 Daryl Dixon Finds A Four-Legged Best Friend
Daryl & Dog Were Ride Or Die
The former pet of Leah Shaw (Lynn Collins), a high-ranking member of the Reapers, Dog ends up accompanying Daryl Dixon when Shaw disappears. As a puppy, Dog darted off into the woods and found Daryl, which led to Leah and Daryl’s brief romantic relationship. But Dog is more than just a skilled wingman. Brave, loyal, and a skilled tracker, Dog is a lot like Daryl, and that’s probably why the two form such a deep bond. In addition to being just the kind of buddy The Walking Dead‘s favorite loner needs in his life, Dog is a reminder of Daryl’s softness, even in the face of post-apocalyptic hardship.
9 The Many Moments Of Daryl & Beth’s Relationship
Daryl Teaches Beth How To Use His Signature Crossbow In TWD Season 4
Introduced in The Walking Dead season 2, Beth Greene (Emily Kinney) is Maggie’s (Lauren Cohan) younger sister and one of Hershel’s (Scott Wilson) children. Created by the sophomore season’s showrunner, Glen Mazzara, the always-optimistic Beth is the perfect foil to Reedus’ jaded Daryl. When Rick’s group scatters in the wake of the Governor’s assault on the prison, Daryl rescues a catatonic Beth, who’s just witnessed her father’s beheading. After Beth calls Daryl emotionally detached, the two get drunk on moonshine and discuss their traumatic pasts. Eventually, Daryl teaches Beth how to wield a crossbow. Even though Beth dies in season 5, she leaves an indelible mark on Daryl Dixon.
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8 Daryl Kills Leah In The Walking Dead
Their Relationship Status Is More Than “It’s Complicated”
Stoic and incredibly traumatized, Leah Shaw is as broken as they come in Robert Kirkman’s apocalyptic, Walker-ridden wasteland. Although she’s cautious of Daryl at first, the two eventually fall for each other. Of course, things get complicated: not only are the pair separated for some time, but Shaw is revealed to be a member of the Reapers — a hostile, cult-like group who worship their leader. Eventually, Shaw and the Reapers come to blows with Maggie’s group. When Leah tries to kill Maggie in the woodsy cabin where the Reaper first met Daryl, Reedus’ character tracks the pair down and shoots Leah in the head to save Maggie.
7 Daryl Finds His Zombie Brother
Merle Is Reanimated As A Walker
Volatile and bigoted, Merle Dixon loves toying with others, especially his younger brother, Daryl. After being abandoned by Rick’s group, Merle joins forces with the ruthless Governor (David Morrissey), and does his bidding at the expense of Rick, Daryl, and their allies. In their final conversation, Merle tells Daryl, “People do what they gotta do or they die.“ Although he’s not very likable, Merle does save Michonne (Danai Gurira) and kills eight of the Governor’s soldiers. After Morrissey’s villain kills Merle, he reanimates, forcing Daryl to take out his own Walker-brother. One of The Walking Dead‘s most emotional moments, Merle’s death is a turning point for Daryl.
6 Daryl Dixon Kills Alpha & Beta
The Loner Takes On The Ex-Leaders Of The Whisperers
Introduced in The Walking Dead season 9, Alpha (Samantha Morton) is the leader of the Whisperers — survivors who wear the skin of the undead as a disguise. One of the most brutal villains in The Walking Dead, Alpha is a highly intelligent, psychopathic killer who even aims to murder her own daughter, Lydia. Before she meets a bloody end, Alpha fights Daryl in one of the series’ best action sequences. Later, Daryl and Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) team up to defeat Alpha’s successor, the aptly named Beta (Ryan Hurst). While Beta is distracted by Negan, Daryl blinds the Whisperer with knives and kills him.
5 Daryl Dixon Destroys The Governor’s Tank
The Bad— Moment Is Clutch In The Prison Vs. Woodbury Battle
When the Governor leads the soldiers of Woodbury on an all-out assault on Rick Grimes’ group at the prison, he brings a tank to the battle. At first, the weaponized vehicle seems to spell certain doom for the prison crew, but, thankfully, Daryl steps up in one of his most clutch The Walking Dead moments. After mowing down some undead with a rifle, Daryl confidently runs toward the tank, pulls the pin on a grenade, and dunks the explosive into the vehicle’s barrel, causing it to explode. An unforgettable moment, Daryl Dixon’s tank take-down remains one of the series’ coolest sequences.
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4 Daryl Saves Carol In TWD Season 2 & Gives Her A Cherokee Rose
How The Walking Dead Cemented One Of Its Most Important Relationships
Before joining Rick’s group, Hershel gives The Walking Dead‘s core survivors shelter on his farm. With Carol’s daughter, Sophia (Madison Lintz), still missing, Daryl takes it upon himself to continue the search. Although he’s unable to bring Sophia home, the tracker spots a Cherokee rose. According to the episode, it’s an Indigenous symbol that means children are protected by the powers that be; as such, Daryl presents the token to a grief-stricken Carol. Season 2 also sees Daryl saving Carol and opening up to her in other ways. Not only does this moment cement their pair’s bond, but it foreshadows Daryl’s gradual change into a more emotive, supportive character.
3 Daryl Uses A Grenade Launcher
The Walking Dead’s Saviors Didn’t Know What Hit Them
When Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green), Abraham (Michael Cudlitz), and Daryl meet a group of Negan’s saviors, they get into some hot water. The Savior in charge tells them to hand over their weapons; after all, everything belongs to Negan. It’s an intimidating encounter that culminates with the Saviors training their guns on Sasha and Abe. Just when the Savior biker gang is about to open fire, Daryl whips out a rocket launcher. The RPG decimates the Saviors, much to Sasha’s relief. When Daryl appears, holding the smoking weapon, he nonchalantly says, “What a bunch of a–holes,” which is the cherry on top of a truly iconic moment.
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2 Daryl Refuses To Kneel To Negan
The Walking Dead’s Loner Sticks To His Guns
When Daryl and the group finally meet Negan, things get brutal fast. It’s impossible to forget Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s introduction to the world of The Walking Dead, which sees him intimidating Rick’s group with his barbed-wire-wrapped baseball bat, Lucille. After Negan kills Glenn (Steven Yeun) in front of everyone, the Saviors take Daryl hostage. At the Sanctuary, he’s tortured and force-fed dog food; when he tries to escape, Negan threatens Daryl with Lucille. Despite getting badly beat, Daryl refuses to kneel to Negan. Eventually, Daryl reaches something of a breaking point, but his defiance definitely leaves a mark on the menacing group.
1 Daryl Dixon Saves Alexandria
Fire & Walkers Mix Too Well
The Walking Dead season 6, episode 9, “No Way Out,” isn’t just the episode that sees Daryl blowing a group of motorcycle-riding saviors to smithereens, but the entry that features his other iconic RPG moment. When Alexandria is under attack, Daryl climbs on top of a truck and dumps gasoline into the town’s lake, only to set it on fire with his trusty grenade launcher. When it comes to the so-called “lake of fire,” the Walkers are like moths to a flame. This allows Daryl, Rick, and the rest of the group to clear out the murderous hordes and save their community from destruction.