Daryl Dixon hasn’t exactly had it easy on The Walking Dead. Over the course of the last seven seasons of AMC’s hit series, he’s lost family, friends, and loved ones. He’s also faced torture and isolation at the hands of Negan, the sadistic leader of the Saviors.
When we first met Daryl, he was grouchy and standoffish. These days, he’s found a place for himself with Rick’s group, and plays much better with others. But as we head into Season 8, that could change — and the decisions that Daryl makes could ultimately mean that he once again could find himself in some serious danger.
1. Daryl can’t let go of what happened last season
In the Season 7 premiere of The Walking Dead, Glenn Rhee met a grisly fate at the hands of Negan and his beloved baseball bat, Lucille. And it was, in large part because Daryl tried to throw a punch at the Savior leader after he killed Abraham.
We already know that Daryl dealt with some major guilt about the role he played in Glenn’s death. His moment with Maggie, where he broke down with grief, was a Season 7 highlight.
According to The Walking Dead executive producer Robert Kirkman, Daryl still has some healing to do. When asked whether Daryl will still be grappling with remorse over his friend, Kirkman said the issue will be a plot point in Season 8. Daryl’s grief isn’t the only thing he’ll be working through, either.
2. He sees his imprisonment as unfinished business
It was hard enough for Daryl to deal with the loss of his friends. But he also spent the first half of Season 7 as the Saviors’ prisoner. During that time, he was kept in isolation, fed dog food, and forced to listen to the same horrifically upbeat song on repeat.
This torturous treatment didn’t sit well with Daryl. And according to star Norman Reedus, he’ll be looking for payback. The actor told Entertainment Weekly that his character “wants to have revenge.” And we all know that Daryl isn’t one to sit back and wait.
3. He’s going to be a man on a mission
Everyone in Rick’s group has a bone to pick with Negan. And Daryl’s plan for personal revenge will be, in many ways, what drives him in Season 8. According to Reedus, “There’s no gray area right now with him. He’s on a mission to do one thing.”
That thing is, of course, get rid of the Saviors once and for all. The added pressure of a personal vendetta — and a history of acting out of anger — could mean that Daryl won’t want to wait for a group strategy before acting.
4. Daryl will be going rogue in Season 8
Daryl is always willing to fight the good fight with his friends. But even though he’ll never stop being Team Rick, we’ll see him put his own needs first in Season 8. At least, as far as vengeance is concerned.
Reedus told Entertainment Weekly that Daryl is “kind of going rogue a little bit in the beginning.” The Walking Dead actor didn’t specify what exactly that will look like. He said, “Sometimes for the good of the group, you veer left a little bit, and he’s still veering right.”
In other words, it’s safe to assume Daryl will be taking a different tact than his friends where the Saviors are concerned. The tracker has a long history of going it alone, from trying to find Sophia to scrounging for supplies. But this solo mission could end up being a lot more dangerous.
5. His break from the group could mean he gets reckless
What does going “rogue” mean? In Daryl’s case, all signs seem to be pointing to a scenario in which he tries to go after Negan alone. Carl did something similar in Season 7 and lived to tell the tale. But that’s mostly because the Savior’s leader admired the teen’s gumption.
We know that there’s no love lost between Negan and Daryl. So trying to take him, or one of the other Saviors, on isn’t the smartest idea. After all, the Saviors know Daryl. And they know what he’s capable of. That means they’d be very unlikely to show him any mercy.
6. Daryl could try to recruit Saviors to Rick’s cause
There could be another explanation for Reedus’ rogue claims. Daryl spent enough time in Savior territory to pick up some intel. Most importantly, he learned that not everyone is totally on board with Negan’s sadistic leadership style.
Daryl may find it useful to let Rick know that their best weapon could be a Savior of their very own. And he’ll know just who to start with: Dwight and Sherry. If Rick isn’t on board with poaching Negan’s foot soldiers, that may not stop Daryl from trying to coax them over to Alexandria. It would be a productive reason for him to go it alone, albeit still a very dangerous mission.
7. Daryl isn’t safe from the fallout of the war with the Saviors
Even though Daryl will be on his own a bit in Season 8, he won’t be breaking away from the group for good. Reedus told Entertainment Weekly that his character’s rogue tendencies crop up “in the beginning.” So that means he’ll have plenty of time to get back on the same page with Rick. And he’ll likely play a crucial role in the war between the Saviors and the allied forces of Alexandria, the Hilltop and the Kingdom.
That also means, though, that even if Daryl does survive his solo adventure, he could face peril in the fights to come. Because we know by now that no one is safe where The Walking Dead is concerned — and the upcoming season will likely be every bit as bloody as the last.
The Walking Dead Season 8 premieres on Oct. 22, 2017 on AMC.
Follow Katherine Webb on Twitter @prufrox.
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