Oliver Twist’s Artful Dodger isn’t 13 anymore: He’s an adult. And being an adult comes with more grown-up problems.
Early on in the AMC horror series The Walking Dead, Dr. Edward Jenner told Rick Grimes that French scientists were the last to hold out for a cure. And in a post-credits scene from World Beyond, a couple of passing words further implied that the whole zombie virus started in France.
And now, somehow, Rick Grimes’ right-hand man, Daryl Dixon, has ended up at Ground Zero.
The stoic hillbilly has washed ashore near Marseille, France, following his escape from a mysterious kidnapper’s boat. And all he really wants to do is get back to the United States so he can continue his search for the missing Rick and Michonne Grimes, the latter of whom likewise left to look for her husband.
While looking for some mode of transportation back over the Atlantic, Daryl saves two survivors from some ne’er-do-wells. They thank him by knocking him unconscious and stealing his stuff.
That’s when Daryl wakes up in an abbey, surrounded by nuns. They’re a small colony that’s part of the Union of Hope, a cluster of religious survivors who welcome all messages of faith.
One of the nuns, Isabelle, tells Daryl that she believes he’s a “messenger” who has been sent to escort a young boy, Laurent, to another Union of Hope colony in Paris. This colony, Isabelle states, will help Laurent be ready.
“Ready for what?” Daryl asks.
“To be the new messiah.”
Isabelle believes that Laurent will somehow bring about the revitalization of humanity. As for Daryl, well, he’s never been one for religion. And he’s not too keen on making straight a highway for Laurent.
Daryl’s about to head off on his own when some men arrive at the abbey, looking for him. It turns out that the aforementioned baddies Daryl killed were their men. And the holy place soon becomes a place of desecration, with only Daryl, Laurent, Isabelle and one other nun surviving the attack.
And perhaps Daryl feels a little responsible for the events at the abbey, because he agrees to escort the survivors to Paris—provided that Isabelle can lead him to a city on the north side of France that allegedly has a functioning port.
And maybe, just maybe, Daryl will be able to get a boat back to the States.
If you’re reading this review, it’s probably because you’ve either already watched The Walking Dead or are just surprised that the franchise is still pumping out spinoffs.
If so, you won’t be surprised to hear that Daryl Dixon contains the spilling of a whole lot of zombie and human blood and guts. At this point of the apocalypse, most people have resorted to using melee weapons, since bullets are mostly a thing of the past—making those who do have ranged weapons all the more dangerous. And in this iteration, there’s a bit more mandatory subtitle reading with the occasional swear word.
Sensuality also poses an issue. One episode contains a post-apocalyptic nightclub filled with men and women in lingerie and other revealing clothing. We’re also introduced to a drag queen.
The Walking Dead has always toyed with religion and philosophy, but Daryl Dixon’s first episode indicates that the series just may dive into the deep end of it—and not exactly in a positive way. Laurent is seen as a second messiah foretold by prophecy, and Daryl is described as his “messenger,” casting Norman Reedus’ character essentially in the role of something akin to John the Baptist.
And the community Daryl’s supposed to lead Laurent to falls firmly in a sort of “all religions are true” belief system. Indeed, we’re told that the person who leads the French nuns and identified Laurent’s messianic status was none other than a Buddhist man.
Religious themes are central to Daryl Dixon. But it seems the only thing the show got (somewhat) right is that the dead will be raised again. And the show’s resurrected walkers—the franchise’s word for zombies—aren’t being raised in glory.
Captured by enemies and forced to fight in an arena filled with superpowered zombies, Daryl must escape if he and Laurent hope to make it safely to The Nest, a safe haven for Laurent.
We see a flashback of soldiers dead on the beaches of Normandy during World War II. Later, we see a cemetery dedicated to them.
Many men are shot and killed, and others are beaten to death, both complete with sickening sprays of blood. One man has his hand cut off. Another man is found gurgling to death after having his throat cut. A woman is stabbed, and a man is hit in the head with a wrench. Plenty of zombies are likewise dispatched; one has its leg chopped off and another is decapitated. One zombie, given super strength from a strange serum, rips another zombie’s jaw off. A zombie’s head explodes.
A leader of Isabelle’s religious community claims that “We are led to believe in the belief of a supreme being, but God does not exist unless we believe in God.” The community is filled with people who practice different religions, and we see one man in Buddhist robes and another wearing the Jewish kippah. The place contains a pile of various religious ornaments. Someone cites Aristotle for saying that rationality is what makes us human.
As Daryl fights zombies, Isabelle and Laurent pray for his safety. A villainous woman locks Isabelle and Laurent in a jail, doubting Laurent is the Messiah and saying that “God is not coming for you.” This causes Laurent to consider whether God has abandoned them, but Isabelle tells Laurent that faith is most important to have in difficult times. When Laurent struggles with having to kill a zombie, Daryl tells Laurent that God will forgive him for doing so. And Laurent takes the teaching to heart: “Sometimes you have to do horrible things, and no matter how bad you feel, if there is no other choice, God will forgive you.” Later, Laurent tells a man that God loves him.
Isabelle cleans her wounds with a sponge bath, and her bra is partially visible. A man and woman kiss.
The f-word is used twice, and the s-word is used once. We also hear one use of “h—.” God’s name is used in vain twice, including once in the form of “g-dd–n.”
Daryl and Laurent continue toward a supposed safe haven for Laurent. The way that Daryl ended up in France is revealed.
This episode is filled with religious ideas and references. Azlan, a Muslim man, mentions his faith several times and quotes from the Quran. Laurent asks Daryl if he’s read the Quran, and he finds it interesting that “there are many different names, but only one God,” suggesting that he believes that the religions are the same. Azlan also references God’s call of Abram to journey to a foreign land, and he insinuates that Daryl was likewise brought by God to France for a purpose.
Azlan asks Daryl if he’s a Christian, to which Daryl says he’s not. We hear a man reference God commanding Abraham to sacrifice Isaac before providing a sacrificial ram (a foreshadowing of the sacrifice of Christ), using the story to explain why he believes in redemption. We likewise hear the man appeal to God in the hopes that someone will forgive him:
“Everything happens for a reason—isn’t that what God’s all about?”
“God loves the sinner,” the woman replies.
“So, there’s hope for me, then?” He asks.
When Daryl starts to prepare a fish to eat, Laurent says that he doesn’t eat animals, explaining that he made a promise to God. “I think God will understand,” Daryl says, with Azlan likewise affirming Daryl’s statement.
Laurent prays for Daryl’s friends in America since Daryl “doesn’t know how to pray.” Isabelle also prays that God will keep Laurent and Daryl safe on their journey. Someone says “Remember what the Bible says about the meek” during a speech. A man spots a woman dressed in armor and compares her to Joan of Arc, quipping that he guesses “God told her to slay the Munchers.” woman, dressed in knightly armor, causes a man to say “Poor Joan…guess God told her to slay the Munchers,” referencing Joan of Arc. We see a painting of angels.
A few people are eaten by zombies. Someone is shot in the head, and the wound spurts blood. Others are beaten, and one is beaten to death offscreen. A woman holds a blade to her wrist as she contemplates suicide. A man is stuck to a telephone pole via a piece of metal that juts from its base, which causes him to say, “At least we know God has a sense of humor,” as his father worked in the telephone industry. Many zombies are shot or stabbed in the head.
A man and woman kiss, and they move to a bed to do more before breaking away and deciding not to. A man implies that he wants another man to give him a sexual favor in order to receive help.
Isabelle is given sleeping medication without her knowledge. People drink alcohol. Someone smokes.
The f-word is used five times, and the s-word is used three times. We also hear “b–ch,” “d–n,” “h—,” “b–tard,” “prick” and the British crudity “ponce.” God’s name is used in vain once and is immediately followed by “d–n.”
Daryl and Isabelle search for Laurent, who has made his way to the zombie-infested base of the Eiffel Tower.
Laurent prays, and the zombies walk around him. A woman proclaims that Laurent will save everyone (in a religious sense). A man says he’s given up on Christianity.
Many zombies are stabbed in the head, yielding various bursts of blood. People are shot, stabbed, burned or smacked with weapons, with some of them dying as a result. A couple of men are eaten by zombies. Someone is stabbed multiple times in the chest as a form of torture to extract information. Two men tangle in a fistfight, and one hits his head on a pipe.
A statue displays a naked woman. A nun struggles with romantic feelings for a man. A man and woman kiss. Characters drink alcohol.
The f-word is used seven times, and the s-word is used six times. “D–n” is used three times. God’s name is used in vain twice, and both times are followed by “d–n.”
The group arrives in Paris, but a part of Isabelle’s past threatens their plans.
Our survivors end up at a nightclub in the Paris catacombs. In it, men and women dancers wear revealing lingerie or underwear that hides little. One man is a drag queen. We also see a statue of a nude woman covering herself with her hands.
When Laurent greets someone, he says “Namaste.” We hear discussions about clinging to God in difficult circumstances. Isabelle tells Daryl that “God chooses our burdens.” Someone asks if a woman always wanted to be a nun.
Men fight, punching and choking each other, and one of them has a bottle smashed against his head. Another man is punched, and he has his nose cut with a knife. We’re shown a woman’s wrist scars from a suicide attempt.
A couple zombies are killed via stabbing or gunshot. Some zombies plummet from the top of an apartment building, splattering on the ground. One zombie is experimented on, and its head explodes on the side of a glass window. We also see a zombie child. An insane man shows off a “zombie orchestra” to Daryl and Isabelle : The zombies have been strung up with rope to hold up and “play” various instruments.
Isabelle offers bags filled with illegal drugs for trading. People drink various types of alcohol. A woman smokes.
The f-word is used four times, and the s-word is used once. We also hear one use of “a–,” “h—” and “p-ss.”
Daryl and his crew are kidnapped by a band of self-sufficient children, and Daryl discovers that the kids are in desperate need of help.
We’re treated to a few flashbacks to Isabelle’s life before the zombie outbreak: she’s seen dancing at a nightclub, drinking margaritas and snorting cocaine. She also steals some watches and credit cards, ingests some pills and smokes.
But as Paris begins to collapse, things turn a bit more violent: a couple men are bitten, and someone is hit by a car. One man crashes his motorcycle, and other vehicles are seen on fire. A priest holds up a Bible and crucifix in an attempt to exorcise what he believes to be a demon within a zombie.
In the modern day, when the children take in Daryl’s group, they’re initially standoffish until Isabelle and fellow nun Sylvie prove they’re religious by reciting “St. Joseph’s prayer for fathers and mothers.” Isabelle lies, claiming that Daryl is likewise a priest who was on mission in France when the outbreak began. To that end, they ask Daryl to bless a meal, causing Daryl to give the following prayer:
“Lord, I’m sure you have your reasons for turning the whole world upside-down. Maybe we deserve it for being so mean to each other. We probably do deserve it. But not tonight. No, tonight is good. And if this isn’t good enough for You, I don’t know what is. Amen.”
The kids say that they recite a prayer from Isaiah every day in petition for God to heal a sickly caretaker, and Daryl says that they can pray all they want, but the caretaker will die without medicine. Many people cross themselves. It should be noted that the children watch an episode of Mork & Mindy, a ‘70s sitcom in which an alien lands on Earth and attempts to fit in with the foreign society. The alien, Mork, is also initially mistaken for a priest, all of which stands as a general parallel to Daryl’s experience in France.
A man, strung up by a rope, is eaten by zombies below him. A mule is found torn open with its guts exposed and dogs biting at the beast. Many zombies are killed. Some zombie heads are seen on pikes. Someone vomits.
The f-word is used four times, and the s-word is used five times. We also hear five uses of “a–” and one use of “h—.” God’s name is used in vain five times, and four of those times are followed by “d–n.”
[Spoiler Warning] A woman passes away in childbirth, and the baby is then delivered via C-section.
Daryl washes ashore in France and seeks to return to the United States. But he soon is tasked with protecting an important child.
Some men attack a group of nuns. One nun is shot and killed onscreen, and one man is brutally stabbed to death multiple times by a nun. Others are shot, too, and we see multiple dead nuns and men bloodying the grounds of the abbey. Daryl stabs a man to death. Mercenaries beat and stab an elderly man to death. Two people knock Daryl unconscious. A woman is slapped.
The undead are stabbed and shot, resulting in various sprays of blood and guts. Some zombies are called Burners, and when one of them touches Daryl, it feels like acid on his skin. The nuns cauterize Daryl’s burn wound. We see plenty of zombie corpses strewn about the streets of France. Daryl is seen shirtless with scars all over his body, and he references the childhood abuse he received.
The abbey is filled with religious symbols of many religions. On one wall, we see symbols of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Taoism and Hinduism. The abbey is part of a group called the Union of Hope, which is “open to all messages of faith and perseverance.”
Daryl admits that he’s never put much stock in God, and Isabelle tells Daryl that God “put stock in you.” The nuns at the abbey are apparently led by an unseen Buddhist man who has identified Laurent as a second messiah; he has been prophesied to revitalize humanity.
Isabelle hangs up signs that translate to “God loves you.” The nuns debate whether Daryl is the “messenger” meant to escort Laurent, especially since Daryl isn’t religious. They also keep a zombie named Father Jean locked in a room under the belief that he will one day rise again. In a teaser for future episodes, Daryl prays to God.
We hear the f-word once and the s-word three times. “H—” is used twice, and “a–” is used once. God’s name is used in vain once.
Kennedy Unthank studied journalism at the University of Missouri. He knew he wanted to write for a living when he won a contest for “best fantasy story” while in the 4th grade. What he didn’t know at the time, however, was that he was the only person to submit a story. Regardless, the seed was planted. Kennedy collects and plays board games in his free time, and he loves to talk about biblical apologetics. He doesn’t think the ending of Lost was “that bad.”
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