The fifth series derived from the franchise arrives today on the shores of the Kingdom of France. And it’s the best season of the saga in ages.
“God loves you”. But what could that possibly mean? Daryl Dixon obviously didn’t take French as a second language in high school. So he takes out his little translation dictionary, looks at the poster stuck on a sign post “Direction Pau / Lourdes”, before understanding out loud: “God loves you“. Welcome to France. Welcome to The Walking Dead in the land of berets.
The horror franchise unveils its brand new series today on OCS. A hexagonal variant in which Daryl Dixon, who went looking for Rick and Michonne – as he promised Judith in the last episode of the original series – finally ends up on a beach… in Marseille! Suffice to say that his rescue mission was not a complete success. Here he is now 6000 km from the Commonwealth, in totally unknown territory. Fortunately for him, the French are much more gifted than him in foreign languages and can guide him through our beautiful regions. From the Old Port to the Cévennes via the Pont du Gard, the biker will enjoy a tourist journey in the form of a sauce postcard madmax. On his way, he will come across some not very friendly survivors, but also a group of nuns who believe they have found the new Messiah, the one who will save Humanity from the end of time. With Sister Isabelle and the little one
Jesus Laurent, Daryl will therefore embark on a vast excursion towards Le Havre. Not to deliver the chosen one to Edouard Philippe, but because it is the only port in the area still active. And since it’s on the road (or not), the American tourist will pass through Paris and Mont-Saint-Michel!
This umpteenth zombific adventure at least has the merit of trying something else. To change the frame. To break the codes. To change the rules. To the point of evolving the immutable undead – the “burning” as they are called here – who now calcine the skin of the living with a simple touch! Finally leaving the endless roads of Georgia or Virginia, the production took particular care to film on location, in real locations. And the added value is immediately obvious. Daryl’s first steps in a ravaged France, in “post-apo” landscapes of Provence rarely seen on screen, or in a sumptuous Arlesian Abbey from the 10th century, bring a refreshing breath of fresh air to a saga which was beginning to feel putrefaction from going around in circles. Admittedly, our perspective is a bit skewed. We observe through a Franco-French prism, with a little smile on the corner of our lips, the transposition of the enormous Rican blockbuster in our beautiful country. Especially when all the characters are called Michel, Philippe or Henri and they fight with bailillonettes, muskets and flintlock pistols from the Napoleonic era…
The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon often teeters towards the ridiculous and sometimes has the air of a B series. But the production is sufficiently careful, diligent, consistent, to avoid tipping over. She manages to make the most of her Gallic tableau. She even assumes to speak French a good part of the time. She also knew how to cast local actors who go with these meticulous sets. And in the middle, the pragmatist Norman Reedus proves that he was overall the only actor in the original franchise with real charisma. With his phlegm and his air of a grumpy bad boy with a big heart, he crosses France with undeniable strength and the pride of the Yankee who intends (again) to save France! Really fun.
So obviously, this fifth spin-off does not renew the genre from top to bottom and remains in the spotlight of Walking Dead. There are still hordes of zombies hiding in warehouses that need to be impaled in the head. There are always sinister big arm militias who reign terror on the roads, before paying the price for their greed. And the narration remains limited by a rather glaring lack of emotion. But this time, we’re ready to get back to it. Perhaps because of misplaced patriotism or perhaps because we want to continue to see what France would do during the Apocalypse. Whatever. This new version of the zombies manages to whet our appetite. And it’s been a long time since that happened with Walking Dead. Let the impure blood of zombies water our furrows.
The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon, season 1 in 6 episodes, to see on OCS from September 11, 2023.