18 October 2019 11:59

The absence of Rick Grimes has ushered Daryl Dixon into a new, exciting role on The Walking Dead.

The absence of Rick Grimes has ushered Daryl Dixon into a new, exciting role on The Walking Dead. For many years, Rick Grimes and Daryl Dixon have been almost synonymous with each other. Though the pair didn't exactly get along upon meeting each other way back in The Walking Dead's first season, the men would eventually form a bond based on Rick's thoughtful leadership and Daryl's unwavering loyalty. Season Two saw Daryl hesitantly taking on a bigger role among the survivors, but it was the third season that opened the door for the ultimate team player that Daryl Dixon could be. The season pitted the character's past – a tragic life of abuse and loneliness that equipped him with the necessary survival instincts to make it through a zombie-filled world – against his present and future.

The outcast life with his older brother, or the family life with Rick and company. Through thick, thin and more trouble than you could possibly imagine, Daryl and Rick formed a brotherhood. In large part, Daryl's loyalty allowed Rick to lead. Even when other members of the group were unsure of Rick's decision-making, Daryl was always there, faith unwavering. It wasn't until the series' eighth season that the relationship between Rick and Daryl became rocky, and the early episodes of Season Nine when we saw a true divide between them.

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However, even with their opposing ideals and conflict, the pair had much love for each other and a hopefulness to settle their differences. So, it comes as somewhat of a surprise that the absence of Rick Grimes from the series has paved the way for a better Daryl Dixon. Through no fault of actor Norman Reedus, who has layered Daryl with gruffness, internal pain and a deep emotional connection to other characters and the audience over the last nine years, Daryl's story had become unfortunately stale the last few seasons. Though typically lovable and an enormous selling point for fans, the character alternated between being underutilized and being entirely predictable. While the first several seasons offered Daryl a great amount of growth, recent years failed to develop the character beyond what we'd grown accustomed to. Thankfully, under new showrunner Angela Kang, Season Nine has brought Daryl Dixon roaring back to life in a big way. While the character may have disappeared into the woods for six years following Rick's apparent death (He never found a body, so he never gave up hope that his brother was still alive), the last several episodes have exposed Daryl to something he's always shied away from: leadership. RELATED PRODUCT Halloween Michael Myers Stylized 6-Inch Action Figure Buy Now! Buy Now! The survivors of each individual group – be it Alexandria, Hilltop or The Kingdom – have yet to face a threat as dangerous and deadly as The Whisperers, a vicious antagonistic clan that wears the skin of walkers to blend in among the dead. With that new enemy now out in full force, it's going to take someone like Daryl to lead the way. A protector with expert survival skills and instincts who doesn't hesitate to get his hands (or face, or anywhere really) dirty. Though the three core groups are currently at odds with each other, Daryl Dixon remains the common denominator. He's the guy that everyone trusts. The guy who would put his life on the line for anyone and everyone if it meant just one person made it home safely. As much as we love and miss Rick, Daryl is the leader that the survivors need right now. That newfound leadership works well for Daryl because he doesn't view himself as a leader whatsoever. He just wants to keep good people alive, and he doesn't hesitate in any decision making that has the potential to do so. He's not looking for leadership status, but he's quietly put that responsibility on his own shoulders. Daryl's new direction has made the character infinitely more interesting than in recent years, and we're loving every second of it. We're still holding out hope for a reunion between Daryl and Rick somewhere down the road (I need messy crying and a four-minute embrace, damn it), but the absence of Sheriff Grimes has proven one indisputable fact: Daryl Dixon was a leader all along, he just didn't know it yet. Catch new episodes of The Walking Dead at 9 P.M. EST on AMC. Are you enjoying the Whisperers storyline? Let us know in the comments. The Walking Dead star Seth Gilliam teases fans there are some shocking deaths to come in the series. The actor, who portrays the character of Gabriel Stokes, revealed this news on Sunday's Talking Dead. When host Chris Hardwick asked Gilliam regarding the remaining four episodes of The Walking Dead season 9, the actor simply replied viewers can expect some shocking deaths to come. While this could be depressing news, fans have already guessed this could happen at some point as no one is really safe. For instance, the fate of Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and Maggie Rhee (Lauren Cohan) remain unknown, though they're alive but elsewhere. Then, Jesus (Tom Payne) becomes the first major death in season 9 as was killed by the Whisperers, so it's very likely fans need to deal with more heartbreaks. Over the past weeks, the series also foreshadowed it would a borrow a major turning point from the comic books, wherein several survivors like Alexandria, the Kingdom, and the Hilltop might meet their end at the hands of Alpha (Samantha Morton) and the Whisperers. In an interview with ComicBook.com, showrunner Angela Kang said they have already started planning everything out at the beginning of the season, and they knew needed something "momentous" to happen so they could kick start the whole plot involving the Whisperers. It was also teased that another prominent character belonging to the Hilltop might be axed by the end of the season. Just weeks ago, Gilliam already warned devastation lies ahead in the coming episodes, so many fans speculated the priest may die before The Walking Dead season 9 ends. It can be noted that Father Gabriel's death was one of the most brutal in the history of the Walking Dead comics. He was killed slipping on a tower's ladder wherein he gets his leg caught and saw his bone protruded through his skin. But, his stomach sliced open by the leader of the Whisperers and left hanging only to get eaten by a herd of zombies. His death reportedly took over four pages in a single comic book. Furthermore, the four characters involved in the "love quadrangle" - Gabriel, Rosita (Christian Serratos), Siddiq (Avi Nash), and Eugene (Josh McDermitt) - might meet their "gruesome ends" while the storyline is unfolding. So it's very likely Gilliam's character might die at some point before the season ends. Meanwhile, the actor also revealed on the Talking Dead that he wasn't informed about his romantic relationship with Christian Serratos' Rosita until he read the script.