The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon brought its first season to a close with “Coming Home” written by the team of Jadon Richman and Laura Snow and directed by Daniel Percival. This was a completely satisfying ending to a really terrific first season. It feels like there is a LOT of story still to tell. Are we all agreed that Carol (Melissa McBride) is on that boat? Did everyone cheer when she got out of that car??? But, I’m getting ahead of myself. A LOT happened before we got there, so let’s take a closer look at this fantastic episode…
The episode begins on the beaches of France with dead American soldiers. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one waiting for them to reanimate! They don’t, but they do become important later in the episode. This is just another example of how much better the writing is on this series than every other TWD spinoff. It was just a brilliant way to throw us a little off kilter, and remind us of other wars that have been fought on this shore.
And then we’re right back where we left off with Daryl (Norman Reedus) in the arena facing a drugged, super-charged walker and Codron (Romain Levi) shouting at Daryl that he’s going to pay for killing Codron’s brother. They let the walker go and somehow, with Greg Nicotero on walker duty, even these completely new walkers still feel like our walkers. We get a great sequence of Daryl fighting the zombie while Isabelle (Clémence Poésy) prays and tries to shield Laurent (Louis Puech Scigliuzzi). But Laurent is completely sure that Daryl will win.
I loved that after he lost his weapon skewering the walker, Daryl grabs a flag from the wall. First he uses it to spike the walker and cartwheel him through the air, and then – brilliantly! – he plants the French flag in the walker, killing it!
Genet (Anne Charrier) is not amused and asks the Dr (François Delaive) if that’s the best he’s got. He assures her that he was only the first. The doors to the arena open and they come in and drag the corpse out. Then they bring in Quinn (Adam Nagaitis) and chain him wrist to wrist with Daryl. They leave two weapons. Daryl tells Quinn he’s not going to die in there. Quinn tells him he’ll be quick. They foolishly think that they are fighting each other. The lights go off, and suddenly go back on – there’s no way there was time to attach four walkers to the walls, but we’ll let it go because it was just such a cool scene. Now Laurent is praying hard for God to protect Daryl.
All four walkers are shot with darts to super charge them. One of them does not have a good reaction. This was absolutely brilliant. It starts with a bulge in the neck and then goo oozing out of the head. The walker is shaking. Quinn looks at is and says “What the fuck is that” – this completely reminded me of John Carpenter’s The Thing – in a really good, very subtle, homage kind of way. Naturally, the head explodes, and then I love the way that Quinn and Daryl just turn away to focus on the other walkers…
Meanwhile on the balcony, Fallou (Eriq Ebouaney), Sylvie (Laïka Blanc-Francard), and Emile (Tristan Zanchi) take up positions around the gallery. Isabelle takes hope when she sees the three of them. In the arena, Daryl tells Quinn to follow his lead – and suddenly Quinn’s his friend as he says “Sure thing, mate.” Before the first walker can get to them, he’s tackled by another, who rips his jaw off! They then use the chain to their advantage, closelining and tripping the walkers. Daryl takes the leg off of one. One of them has a piece of metal on its head, making it very difficult to kill! It gets Daryl down and he uses the chain through its mouth to hold it off himself while Quinn tries to beat its brains in. Quinn helps pull it off Daryl just as the one legged walker attacks him. It’s hilarious as Daryl reaches for his dropped weapon only to be pulled away from it. Quinn does succeed in bashing in the brains of one, but then the other gets him down. Daryl can’t reach is weapon so they use the chain, wrapped around the walker’s neck to rip its head off!
The crowd goes wild and starts chanting “Dixon! Dixon!” Genet is not happy with the Dr. Daryl picks up the head and throws it up on the balcony where Genet was sitting. She tells her soldiers to end it, but before they can shoot, Fallou and his men shoot the guards. Genet is furious with Capo (Maxime Lefrançois). She tells him to take Codron – who she believes is motivated to kill Daryl – with him. She takes Isabelle and Laurent with her into the tunnels.
Daryl and Quinn escape into the tunnels. As they’re hiding from the guards, Daryl notices that Quinn has been bitten in the back of the shoulder. Quinn insists it’s just a burn – it’s nothing and he’s fine.
Isabelle and Laurent are locked in a cell. Laurent tries to escape, but is easily pushed back in. Genet scoffs “Messiah?” before leaving them. Isabelle asks what Laurent was thinking, and he tells her that he was trying to think what would Daryl do… aw – WWDD (and a meme is born). Laurent worries that God has abandoned them. Isabelle tells him that now is when they must most have faith… and then she produces the key to the cell! She’s picked the guard’s pocket! She tells Laurent its something she learned long ago… Is it something Quinn taught her? Does he get to be the hero twice in the episode?
Quinn is starting to fade and sits down, telling Daryl he needs to rest. Daryl tells him again that he’s not dying there. Quinn asks what does it matter, and Daryl says it matters to him. He tries to break the chain. Quinn tells Daryl he was terrible to Issy and had wanted to do better the second time around. Daryl points out using her kid to get her likely wasn’t a good idea. Quinn says it doesn’t matter now because it’s too late. Daryl tells him it doesn’t have to be – he could buy Daryl time and help save Issy and Laurent. Just before Daryl chops off Quinn’s wrist, Quinn asks for one favor – that Daryl tell Isabelle what he’s done for her. Quinn races at the enemy when they come on them, so that Daryl can get away.
Daryl is about to steal a car when he meets up with Fallou, Sylvie, and Emile. Daryl says he thinks Isabelle and Laurent are in the cellblock. Fallou will get a car running, and Emile gets the chain off Daryl’s wrist.
Daryl quickly meets up with Isabelle and Laurent, but they are on the other side of a locked gate. It looks eerily like the dream Daryl had. Naturally, when a walker comes around the corner, it’s Quinn. He comes at them and Isabelle hits him, but he’s too strong for her. He pins her up against the wall. Another walker comes at Laurent who is pressed up against the bars in front of Daryl. Daryl skewers it over Laurent’s head. He then gives the weapon to Laurent and tells him to save Isabelle. He tells an appalled and hesitate Laurent that he can do it, shouting encouragement. Finally, he tells Laurent that God will forgive him. And Laurent kills his father. But really, he was dead already, so surely that doesn’t count?!?!?
Fallou and Emile say goodbye to the others – they have to go where they are most needed. Sylvie stays with Isabelle and Laurent. Laurent has the watch, and Daryl attaches it to the rearview mirror. Daryl tries to comfort Sylvie, and tells her that Fallou won’t let anything happen to Emile. She asks Daryl if he’s ever been in love. He doesn’t answer.
Isabelle tells Laurent in the back seat that she’d always protected him, but this time, he protected her. She tells him she’s sorry he had to do it. Laurent, very sensibly, points out that it wasn’t him anymore, and he was never his father, and sometimes you have to do horrible things because you don’t have a choice and God will forgive you. Like with my mother. And then the car dies…
Daryl works on the car while Sylvie and Laurent sleep in the back. Isabelle tells Daryl that her father tried to teach her how to change a tire once and gave up after two hours. Personally, I belong to the same Automobile Association as my Dad and call them if I have one! Daryl tells her that his dad used to have them take apart engines and if they couldn’t put them back together, they got no dinner. I love the contrast in their childhoods here. He admits it was hard, but his dad was hardly ever around. His father grew up without a dad because his father (Daryl’s grandfather) went off to war and never returned. Isabelle says, he gave his life for France – and of course, this explains that first scene. Daryl tells her that his family – the pregnant wife he left at home – fell apart. Daryl thinks it hardly seemed worth that to save France. Daryl tells her it wasn’t even much of a fight. He never made if off the beach…
Isabelle then remarks on how much Laurent has changed since he met Daryl. Daryl shrugs it off, telling her kids grow up and he didn’t have much to do with it. Isabelle points out that Laurent has never had that kind of influence in his life, but growing up with no father was better than Quinn. Daryl tells her Quinn thought about her before he died. She knew Quinn though and asks if Quinn asked him to tell her that – he says no, he just thought she should know, but there’s a nice bit of acting here as Isabelle smiles, clearly knowing Daryl is lying.
Isabelle admits that at first she was afraid of Daryl – she could tell he’d been through stuff. I mean anyone who hasn’t been living in a nunnery has, right??? She could tell that he was dangerous – and could help get them where they needed to go. I like their dynamic, but don’t find it remotely romantic, and I hope the show doesn’t force it in that direction. She then says she has something else to “confess.” Daryl is now under the car. She tells him that she lied about the picture on the beach – she asked Laurent to draw it after Daryl arrived at the Abby. Daryl looks neither surprised nor upset by this. She says it was stupid, and he says he doesn’t know. He’s there now – and it had nothing to do with the picture anyway.
And then Daryl asks for a wrench and gets no answer… as Codron has found them. As Daryl comes out, Codron hits him with the wrench. Daryl immediately starts pleading for the others, promising to go with them. Codron tells him it’s too late: they’re all dying today, starting with Laurent. They stab Isabelle when she tries to save Laurent, and then Capo makes his big mistake. He gives the gun to Codron and tells him to shoot Laurent. Daryl continues to beg while Isabelle prays. Laurent simply looks at Codron, and pretty calmly tells him that “God loves you.”
Codron shoots all the other soldiers! Sylvie and Laurent rush to Isabelle, and Daryl tries to shield all of them as Codron still has the gun on them. He tells Daryl not today – next time. Codron picks up the watch and recognizes St Michel – and asks the Nest? He tells them it is barely a days walk. He keeps the watch and tells them to burn the truck – it’s easy to track. They do it – but it’s night before they set out, with Daryl half carrying a wounded Isabelle.
We get some really gorgeous views of St Michel as the group makes their way there. The gate opens and they are greeted by cheering and clapping crowds who place garlands around their necks before taking Isabelle to the infirmary. Their leader, Losang (Joel de la Fuente) accompanies the others into the city. It turns out that Losang is from Hoboken, New Jersey. He came to Paris in the 90s to go to school. Losang is clearly upset when he learns his friend, Azlan, didn’t make it. Daryl tells him that Genet is coming for them. Losang says that they’ll pray not but be prepared if it happens. As they walk up the street, Sylvie puts her arm around Laurent and says they’ll go pray for Sylvie. Right behind them, we clearly see a Jewish man and a Muslim man. It was a nice, subtle way to show that all faiths are welcome and respected – something we desperately need in THESE times. There’s some really beautiful cinematography here too.
Isabelle wakes up in the infirmary – and it’s clear that Daryl has been sleeping beside her bed. She goes to the balcony and sees Daryl below her, running shooting drills. Laurent is playing with the other children, but comes to Isabelle as soon as he sees her. She waves to Daryl to who smiles up at her.
Losang walks through the streets, talking philosophy with Laurent. And then we cut to them enjoying a meal – Daryl toasts ‘chante’ which is likely a shortened ‘enchante’ meaning nice to meet you in French. ‘Chante’ actually means to sing – but can also mean ‘boulder’ and is used to tell a child to be strong. I wonder if they put that much thought into it? Regardless, Daryl’s toast is to the table, but finishes with Isabelle, and the next scene has Sylvie and Isabelle pausing in their own work to smile at Daryl sitting with Laurent, playing with the rubics cube. Next, Losang is leading a group in a religious discussion, while across the room Daryl sits with a crowd peeling potatoes. He and Isabelle share a smile across the room.
Isabelle is bathing her wound when Daryl walks in. He apologizes and is about to leave, but she asks him to stay and help her with the wound on her back. He comments that it’s quite a battle wound for a nun, and she laughs “killer-nun.” She asks if he likes it there. He says it isn’t what he expected. She asks what he did expect, and he jokes a bunch of Amish people running around. She tells him she likes it there – it feels like home.
Losang tells Daryl that he was sceptical about Laurent, but he went on a pilgrimage – and who does THAT in the middle of the zombie apocalypse???? – and when he stopped at the Abbey and met Laurent, he knew. Daryl just replies that he’s a good kid. Losang says Laurent it there because of Daryl and looks up to Daryl. Losang says they’re grateful and will be sad to see him go. They’ve kept their word and there’s a vessel coming to the North coast in two days to take Daryl to England and then to Newfoundland.
Daryl will need to leave at dawn, unless he’s changed his mind. Daryl says he’s got people waiting for him at home. Losang says there are people there who want him to stay. Daryl tells him it’s not that easy. Losang points out that there’s no way to predict the future – and he clearly implies that “home” might not still be there – and they need him there. Daryl tells him that Pouvoir isn’t his fight. Losang suggests that it’s not the fight that is making him feel torn – they can see Isabelle and Laurent from where they are standing, so his meaning is clear. He goes on to point out that sometimes when someone is away from ‘home’ they can find that they belong somewhere else. Daryl is clearly considering his words.
Codron lies to Genet about being outnumbered and ambushed. He explains his own lack of wounds by saying that the boy had escaped and he was chasing him when the others were attacked. I love the use of painting in the show. Genet’s office has a painting which depicts war with greys and blacks and a splash of red – in contrast to Quinn’s waterlilies. She tells Codron that in the before times she worked in a museum at night. Alone with all the art (I assume the Louvre?), and that she learned to tell which eyes told the truth and which lied from the paintings. I find that a bit hard to believe – but the point is that she doesn’t believe Codron.
When she simply states, ‘You shot my men’ – Codron lights a cigarette, blows the smoke in her face and tells her that he simply couldn’t do it when he was ordered to shoot the boy. She tells him that the Union offers fairy tales and must be snuffed out because they weaken her movement, building the future. They have to do hard things. She wants to know where the Nest is and he just shakes his head. She tells him it will only get more painful…
Back at the Nest, Daryl is packing – and he DOES still have his vest!!! Isabelle shows up and is not happy he was just going without saying goodbye. He tells her that he made a promise to them, just like he made a promise to her. She tells him that she appreciated that he kept his promise to her. She reminds him that he left the Commonwealth because he was looking for something and maybe he found it there – even though he wasn’t looking for it there. Daryl tells her that this has always been the story. She asks about Laurent. Will he leave without saying goodbye, abandoning Laurent the way Daryl’s father abandoned him – that seemed like a low blow to me. Daryl says that’s not the same. She is astute, and says that she thinks he cares about Laurent and that scares him. She tells him that he thinks he’s escaping history, but he’s really just repeating it.
Daryl tells her that they believe different things. He also emphasizes that he respects her for her beliefs – even if he doesn’t share them. He says that he hopes the Nest continues to feel like home to her, but he has his own home to get back to. She tells him that she’s glad they met and wishes him Godspeed on his journey.
Daryl goes to where Laurent is sleeping. He leaves the Rubic’s cube on the end of his bed. Then we get another beautiful shot of St Michel as Daryl strikes out on his own. This is followed by more gorgeous shots of Daryl walking along the French coast and countryside. He spends the night in a leaky building, contemplating what he’s doing by a fire. He sees few walkers – really we see only one, stuck in tree.
And then Daryl sees a tattered American flag on the top of a hill. He goes to the top and stumbles upon a soldiers’ graveyard. And of course, he finds his grandfather’s grave. So, he does have family in France…Reedus is excellent in this scene as we see many emotions pass over his face – it’s clearly a profound moment for Daryl.
Daryl sees the ship and yells to it from the cliffs. It flashes it’s lights at him. And of course, his yelling brings out an entire army of walkers from the grass and dunes. Daryl isn’t his grandfather, however, and he’s not dying on the beach! It also echoes, his words earlier in the episode in the arena – I’m not dying here. And then Laurent is there, calling his name – and Daryl is torn. Does he stay or does he take Laurent with him? Does he take Laurent back? Laurent is also about to have a bunch of walker visitors… is he becoming the new Carl?!?!?
And then we switch to some nice biker boots on a motorcycle – Daryl’s motorcycle – but as the camera pans up, it’s clearly NOT Daryl. A car is coming up fast and the motorcycle guns it to get away. Was anybody in any doubt about who was in the car? The biker stops and shoots the mustang in the engine – effectively killing it. He demands the driver get out with their hands up – and it’s CAROL!!! She tells him she doesn’t want any trouble (but trouble does always seem to find her – and that’s why we love her). She’s just looking for a friend of hers – Daryl Dixon. The biker says he doesn’t know him, and Carol points out that he’s riding Daryl’s bike.
He tells her that he found it. She says she came a long way… He tells her to move back while he looks through her stuff. He has her open the trunk – and as he’s looking through it, she clocks him with the wrench she’s been hiding. When he wakes up, tied up in her trunk, he’s staring down the barrel of his own shotgun. He tells her that he traded some dudes for the bike. He tells her where to find them, and she tells him if he’s lying, she won’t be back and slams the trunk! Carol takes off on the bike… Oh Carol… How I’ve missed you!
This was a terrific end to the first season! There is no way, in my mind, that Carol isn’t on that boat. And I think we can all be certain that she will be on board with staying – at least for a bit – if Daryl wants to stay and help fight. There really isn’t any way that Daryl would take Laurent away from Isabelle. I can’t say enough good things about this series. It was everything that I’d hoped for. Great acting, great writing, and great effects. Every episode was wonderfully structured to maximize the tension and suspense, but still crafted some really wonderfully nuanced characters, skillfully brought to life by the cast. What did you think of the episode? The series? Will you be back for season two? I know I will be! Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!