This is a banner episode for Daryl Dixon, who owes a lot to season two. Say what you will about season two, but it’s where we get a better definition of the character and the rigid guidelines he operates by. For a long time he’s been about himself and Merle, and now he realizes he has something else to fight for. He has a goal to strive for, and he’s dead set on finding Sophia. The Daryl from season one would tell everyone to fuck off, but here he’s saving T Dogg from being chomped by a horde of walkers, he’s out bonding with Andrea, he’s giving pep talks to Carol. And now he’s going all Rambo to find a trace of Carol’s daughter.
This is an episode mostly focused on what Daryl thinks and what he tells himself day in and day out, and we’re granted the great appearance by Michael Rooker who helps provide insight in to the character of Daryl Dixon. It’s great to see that slimy son of a bitch back and causing trouble, even if it’s some manifestation of Daryl’s doubts and insecurities. It’s not surprising that the bully has been bullied, and that the hot headed redneck is really just the byproduct of another hot headed redneck that has kept him under his thumb for so many years.
Merle’s antagonizing of Daryl is a top notch series of moments for the episode, because we’re able to see wounds and scars within Daryl’s personality that he keeps well hidden from the group the moment we meet him in episode two in season one. Here Daryl takes out the horse from Hershel’s farm to seek out Sophia on his own. Rick is still weak from his blood giving, and Shane is hobbled, so he sets out to find her all alone, and it takes a nose dive in to disaster very quickly. It’s a miracle Daryl didn’t die during this mission to find Sophia, as he takes a massive beating during his quest. He’s knocked down, battered, and very nearly eaten by two stray walkers in a creek, and he definitely acts on his toes. Even more he has to become primal and dominate the world around him.
It’s another character evolving to see the world in a new shade of light. Perhaps Daryl is another character that’s lied to himself a lot, and now sees that the rules have changed. All illusions of humanity are gone, and goddamn he has to resort to primitive tactics and become a warrior, or else he could end up exactly like Sophia. On the flipside, I really like the flashbacks the episode doles out, as it’s reflective of the flashbacks from the comic books, though not as intense. We get a better glimpse in to the bond Lori and Shane share, and see that they’ve also come across the Peletiers.
It’s business as usual, even in the apocalypse as Carol is threatened by Ed with a beating for simply offering Carl something to eat, and Shane is able to garner a true glimpse in to the destruction inflicting Atlanta. Damned if the napalm did much of anything to solve the problem, but it’s definitely a striking and disturbing visual to see Lori react as whole neighborhoods and shopping areas go up in flames. Darabont’s take on the storyline is fascinating. I wonder what else he would have supplied audiences with and what flashbacks would have served to emphasize the apocalypse of key relationships. The rest of the episode pretty much feels like filler, from Lori’s pregnancy scaring Glenn, to Andrea being even more eager than ever to shoot something.
Seriously, I think the writers confuse eager and annoying with taking the initiative and this definitely makes Andrea an irritating element of the episode simply for her eagerness to shoot down Daryl when she mistakes him for a walker. Kudos on the shot, but acting beyond all logic for one lone walker really made me smack my forehead in annoyance originally. We get it, you can shoot well, now shut up. There’s being a bad ass and there’s being a blithering idiot. Guess which one Andrea is. “Chupacabra” is that key episode for Daryl Dixon lovers, and it’s a definite testament to Norman Reedus’ growing acting ability. He really transforms Daryl in to a likable anti-hero with every passing episode, and he kills it here.