Monday 12 December 2011

It's Hard To Say I'm Sorry

Daryl comforting Carol
An apology is defined by Merriam-Webster as “an as admission of error or discourtesy accompanied by an expression of regret.” provides a more detailed definition: “a written or spoken expression of one's regret, remorse, or sorrow for having insulted, failed, injured, or wronged another.”

The act of apologizing, however, goes far beyond these barebones definitions. In their book The Five Languages of Apology, authors Gary Chapman and Jennifer Thomas call apologizing “a cry for reconciliation restoration of the relationship.” Dr. Claude Steiner, PhD offers an expanded explanation of this concept in his paper Apology; The Transactional Analysis of a Fundamental Exchange. Steiner writes “When, in the course of everyday life, one person injures another in minor or major ways, almost always in the form of some sort of violence - emotional or physical, subtle or crude - an apology, with amends if necessary, is a powerful transaction which can deliver peace of mind and healing for all parties involved.”

Both theories share a common element: We don’t apologize so much because we feel regret; we apologize because we know we have damaged our relationship with the other person and we wish to repair it. I view such a reconciliation motive as Daryl’s primary reason for apologizing to Carol. Daryl isn’t exactly the kind of guy who regrets any of his actions or words; he’d have to apologize in every other sentence if he did. Apologizing to Carol demonstrated that he cared about the connection between them.

In interviews, actor Norman Reedus has often explained that connection as an example of how “damaged people are drawn to other damaged people.” There is no doubt both characters are deeply damaged. Daryl has just begun to build relationships of ANY kind and when his outburst undermined the first one in which he has invested, an apology was imperative to saving it. If Daryl had not done so, the delicate link between these two damaged souls may have been irreparably severed. That he would make such an effort to preserve that bond shows how important it is to him.

We’ve seen many small examples this season of Daryl’s tentative steps toward bonding with others in the group. Yet the final scene of Pretty Much Dead Already demonstrated the depth of his bond to Carol. Just as Rick had to be the one that put down Sophia, Daryl had to be the one that held Carol back. No one else had earned to the right. Daryl held out hope for Sophia the longest and he was the only one who could protect Carol from herself and truly comfort her when the hope they shared dissipated like mist in the morning sun. And it was a move of comfort as much as protection. He held onto her long after she stopped struggling. Perhaps in the face of lost hope, he needed the human contact as much as Carol did. This scene draws me back to the same question I always ask myself when analyzing this character: would the Daryl of Season One have done the same thing?

Some fans have viewed his growing tendency toward bonding as somehow a violation of Daryl’s badassedness. (Yes, I made up that word.) But as the writers have written him and Reedus has portrayed him, being a badass is only part of why Daryl charms us. From the beginning, we’ve seen his obvious tough exterior, but we’ve starting to see a gentler side of Daryl. We’ve seen that he’s not just fending for himself; he’s also capable of expressing himself and connecting with others in the group. A friend tells me that he thinks Daryl has always been capable of these things, they were just things he’d never done because of Merle. This is very possible, but without more back story we’ll never be able to say how much Daryl held his true personality in check because of Merle and how much was an actual change in Daryl’s personality.

Looking forward to the second half of Season Two, how will Daryl react to Sophia being lost forever? Any theory I may had was negated when Reedus said in a recent MTV interview that losing Sophia pulls Daryl back into himself and away from his developing relationships with the others: “It sets him back in certain ways, in that the hope's gone. That little girl that he's looking for, if she's one of them, he doesn't really give a crap anymore...So you find out that Daryl sort of separates himself a little bit. He reacts violently to anything emotional revolving around that story line.” It appears the kinder, gentler, Daryl is going bye-bye and there will be a return to the angry country boy full of piss and vinegar.

Daryl’s return to pure badassery (yes, I made up that word, too) will be welcomed by many viewers. I’m somewhat torn. I love the badass Daryl, but I also see his giving up hope as a huge step backwards for the character. I’ll accept it, though, because it is believable for Daryl. As much as I want my characters to experience growth and change for the better, I want even more for them to react like real people would if they were in the same situations. (As consumers of fiction, we can only truly suspend our disbelief about bigger things like the dead walking the earth because the characters still act in believable ways.) It’s good that the writers are doing this, especially since I’ve openly complained that they were not doing so with other characters. It will undoubtedly be entertaining to watch and I’m confident the best part will be watching Reedus show Daryl’s regression while still giving us the small hints of his humanity that still lie beneath it.


  1. Wow Great blog! I just can't wait for the show to return.

  2. Awesome blog Lisa. I agree that he is a loveable badass and I too want to see more of the gentle softer side of Daryl Dixon. The comment you made that Daryl had "earned the right" shows us just how far this badass loner has come since the loss(hopefully not forever) of his big brother Merle.

  3. 1. Badassery is a great word.
    2. Great insight again into a great character. I can't wait to see what direction Daryl goes.

  4. Daryl may regress backward a little during the days ahead. In the preview, he yells at Shane: "Don't tell me how to get my hands dirty!" And he ends up with another Walker Ear necklace that Carol finds that could change her impression of him.

    Some traumas we go through mark us for a time. I resigned myself to the fact that I would never allow anyone to get close to me because I was tired of being rejected. I enjoyed a stability of a sorts by being cool and closed off... And then two years ago everything went down. A trusted Co-worker who others relied on the be strong died at her own hand and it was up me to be there for them. I processed it as best I can and then over two months later, I had to report a shooting death on my doorstep that shook me up, but still, I appeared strong for others who needed me. After another couple of months, I started to reach out to others at the workplace and they did not like it. They misunderstood my reasons and I ended up leaving there. For over a year and a half, I grieved the loss of the place and yearned to return. I 'crawled back into my hole' and was closed off once again and this went on for a long time. I even promised myself, I would not get too close to a female co-worker whose company I enjoyed. I was actually relieved when they moved me from that location to fill in for someone. I spent all that time protecting myself and did not think of her often, even though I would see her at the main office most times I went there. She always treated me with acceptance and I failed to reach out to "Save face." One morning, I needed a ride to the East Valley location and knew that she would be my ride. I let down some walls and then spent some time with her the next time when I needed to go there again. When the transfer to a better job came through, i decided, i am growing a pair and allowing myself to make this connection. Enough of the "Lone Wolf" I had been. Things are still a work in progress yet I am continuing to take these risks to join the human race, no matter what obstacles lay ahead.

    Daryl may still be going though some more growing pains and one of them is coping with trauma and the risk of intimacy. Love and acceptance may be so new to him, that the fears of losing those he is getting close to may scare him into pushing people away. Daryl isn't the first time a fictional character has helped me gain these insights, there is also Good Will Hunting and As Good As It Gets...

    It takes a lot of balls to join the human race.

  5. And the woman I like also has some issues with intimacy, but she is working on it. Growing and changing everyday since before I met her. Putting some relationships (Like having a boyfriend) on the back burner, while dealing with others.

    We have Lived and We've Learned to be Strong.

  6. Glad you pointed out the hints of humanity surely to still be there...while I get the regression in Daryl, it would be such a blow to all the progression too if we didn't see even a tiny hint of it there.

  7. Great insight on Daryl's soul, it is a reflection of who he is and how he got there. Saying “I’m sorry” is one of the toughest things to do. I often heard that if an apology resolves anything we didn’t need laws…. Accept that you made a mistake and that you are sorry for it, apologize, and then ask for forgiveness is the hardest thing. Every time you say you are sorry despite the fact that you have to actually mean it and feel it, you have to demonstrate that you ARE truly sorry for what you did. But to forgive someone is toughest one of all. Even tougher when the one who needs to be apologized and forgiven is one self….

    I have to say that I "fall in love" with Daryl, not only because of his "badassedness" (yeah, gotta love and use that word), but because what he was really hiding. I mean, everyone in the camp said that he was the only one who will miss Merle, of course is his brother/family/only source of "love and affection" (can we really say that?). Also he was described like a "menace" and that they have to watch out for his nuclear reaction. But Daryl hide respect, when he “backed off” when Rick said that he (Rick) understand what he (Daryl) was feeling with Merle being missing, because he (Rick) just go through hell to get to his family. Daryl hides loyalty, when Glenn was kidnapped by the vatos and he was willing to die trying to get Gleen back. He hide compassion and forgiveness when he saved TDog from a walker, throwing a dead body over TDog, despite the fact that TDog was responsible for losing the handcuff key and Merle’s misfortune. He hide leadership, when he was tracking Sophia in the woods. And despite the fact that he said “hoping and praying don’t do good”, he hide HOPE when he was all alone, looking for Sophia, risking his life, once again for someone who wasn’t blood related or in other words “important” to him…

    Of course once Daryl knew about what happened to Merle,he react with anger but at first he didn't believe it. Then he fought back the tears, and then attacks Rick, throwing his stack of squirrels. Gotta admit love that scene, it not only show how strong (emotionally) Daryl is when he try to fight Rick and Shane with teeth and nails and his tears at the same time, but also how damage he is, when he goes from disbelieve, to pain to anger in 0.3 seconds.

    Daryl is such a complex character and the reason I love him so much, is that I see myself in him, and I know a lot of people see themselves in Daryl too. I mean using anger as the only “reaction” to every situation, fighting back tears and other feelings. Saying that hoping and praying, don’t resolve anything in life and alienating ourselves just preventing getting hurt. I know, and I’m sure that when nobody sees him, he cries. And he asks God why bad things happen. Sometimes our lives are so mess up that we construct a wall around us to leave hurt and pain out, but what we don’t realize is that we left love, joy, happiness and everything else out too.

  8. @ Jayme

    Jayme wrote [quote] It takes a lot of balls to join the human race.[/quote]

    Indeed, takes a lot of gonads to be back and be alive... Not everyone have the courage to get outside, especially when you took off the armor, letting people in and get yourself hurt in a million ways... It is horrible every time someone hurt you, but is unforgivable live life half lived with half-heart feelings and in fear... I know this because I’m trying to forgive myself for all those years that I lived a half lived, half-hearted life. Petrified by fear and not willing to risk anything… I know that feeling so well. The feeling that scare the poor life out of you… But also the burning desire that eat your insides just to feel something… It is scary and contradictory…

    So Jayme as a World Citizen, welcome to the human race I hope you find happiness, joy and love. After all love is all we need!!

  9. I am loving these comments so far, it's great to see everyone taking the time to leave a respectable comment here. Makes creating the site all the more worthwhile :-)

    Lisa, as you already know this is another fantastic blog! You truly do have a great fan base now and it's clear that everyone loves your writing style. So good to see that the blogs are getting more and more popular every time you release one!

    Thanks to everyone for the support and comments. Please do keep them coming, thanks!

  10. I absolutely love your blog and your writing style! Very intelligent and well put. :)

  11. What a wicked essay! Norman sent me here BTW.