Although Rick Grimes was obviously the driving force behind The Walking Dead from the very beginning, Daryl Dixon transformed from a one-dimensional side-character into arguably the main character of the entire series. And in looking at his evolution throughout the show, it’s not hard to see why.
Daryl started off as an aggressive, offensive, and selfish jerk who was still running cons with his brother despite the fact that the world had ended. But as time went on, he revealed himself to be a caring, sensitive, and heroic figure that often saved the lives of those he loved. How has Daryl truly changed through his time on The Walking Dead?
11 Season 1
Considering how much Daryl has evolved over the years, he’s borderline unrecognizable in season 1. Initially, he played little more than a supporting character, and there really wasn’t anything to like about the younger Dixon.
He was almost as off-putting as his brother Merle, and the later revelation that they were only sticking around the camp to rob them wasn’t particularly shocking. However, even at the start it was clear that there was more to the character than what was presented on the surface.
10 Season 2
Season 2 was the first time that Daryl’s inner softie began to show, although he still kept his guard up around almost everyone. Despite his prickly demeanor, it was obvious that he was extremely emotionally invested in finding Sophia.
And, while the ending to that search was tragic and Daryl momentarily reverted to his rudest self in response to it, this was also the very beginning of his friendship with Carol, undeniably one of the best relationships in the entirety of The Walking Dead.
9 Season 3
It took quite a long time for Daryl to fully assimilate into the group, but by season 3 he was clearly a part of the family. And while season 3 was a really tough road for everyone after Lori’s tragic death, Rick’s trauma at the loss of his wife also revealed a new dimension to Daryl.
When Rick couldn’t hold things together any longer, Daryl really stepped up into a leadership position, and he continued to be a guiding force when the group had to deal with the Governor for the first round.
8 Season 4
Like every other person at the prison, Daryl believed that he and the rest of the group had found some kind of safety and a place to call home. And just like everyone else, he was left emotionally wounded and adrift after the Governor rolled up on them, murdered Hershel, and destroyed everything that they had built.
Luckily Daryl wasn’t alone though, as he grew much closer to Beth Greene. And despite the fact that they were both devastated at their losses, they seemed to find a reason to keep going.
7 Season 5
Daryl isn’t typically one to show his feelings, which is why his emotional breakdown after Beth’s death was such a big moment for him as a character. The entire group had a very rough time after enduring the Governor and then escaping Terminus, but the back-to-back losses of Beth and Tyreese made it all the more difficult.
Things began looking up towards the end of the season though, with Daryl finally arriving in Alexandria and seemingly integrating well with the town.
6 Season 6
As is to be expected, the sixth season of The Walking Dead saw the Alexandrians facing off against many threats. Whether it was a massive horde of walkers, the Wolves, or the looming and mysterious threat of the Saviors, Daryl was once again a key part of his group’s survival.
But Daryl’s new mission to find people to bring back to the community inspires a lot of altruism within him, even if his kindness and generosity doesn’t always work out well in the end.
5 Season 7
Everyone in Rick’s family was completely gutted by the loss of Abraham and Glenn, but understandably, Daryl had an even more difficult time with it. Although he shouldn’t have blamed himself for Glenn’s death, he obviously did, and that suffering was compounded by the fact that he was literally taken and tortured by Negan.
Of course, he eventually escaped, but being on the run from the Saviors wasn’t easy, and grappling with his feelings over Glenn was even harder.
4 Season 8
Despite the fact that the surrounding communities have all rallied against the Saviors, the war isn’t easy to win. But, as one of the best fighters in Alexandria, Hilltop, or the Kingdom, Daryl is on the front lines in the fight against Negan.
His relationship with Dwight becomes even more complex, and Daryl really needs to swallow his feelings in order to work with the man who betrayed him and tormented him.
3 Season 9
Season 9 of The Walking Dead was a massive upheaval for everyone, Daryl included. Obviously, the biggest turning point of the season was the loss of Rick and the big time jump that came afterward, and it was clear that Rick wasn’t the only thing that had left Daryl wounded in the interim.
The ultimate revelation that he and Michonne had to kill children who had been indoctrinated to kill by Michonne’s old friend was shocking and heartbreaking.
2 Season 10
By season 10, obviously every surviving character had endured all manner of truly evil villains. However, Alpha and the Whisperers still managed to be a brand new kind of terrifying. The group incurred major losses in their efforts to defeat her, and Daryl is crushed when he believes that Connie is killed during the conflict.
Later on in the season, it’s surprisingly revealed that Daryl seemingly had a relationship with a woman named Leah shortly after Rick vanished.
1 Season 11
Although season 11 of The Walking Dead has just begun, Daryl is unsurprisingly at the forefront of the action and is out on a mission with the rest of the group.
Considering that AMC has already announced that Carol and Daryl will be getting their own spinoff after the conclusion of the mother series, it’ll be very interesting to see how the show begins laying the groundwork for wherever Daryl’s journey will be going next.