Spoilers below for anyone who hasn’t yet watched the latest episode of The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon, so be warned!
As both a general TV horror-drama and a specific series spinoff, Norman Reedus’ France-set Daryl Dixon got off to a fun and exciting start with its first two episodes. But it was in the third installment, "Paris Sera Toujours Paris," when the creative team dropped an A+ whopper of a zombie-filled set piece that is arguably the most unique use of the undead in the entire Walking Dead franchise. And it didn’t involve any hordes or gruesome attacks, and perhaps most striking of all: no one died in the process.
In the first part of Ep 3, Daryl and Clémence Poésy’s Isabelle were on a side mission to gain information about a radio, which took them to the bonkers home of an artist character simply dubbed The Conductor, portrayed with erratic gusto by French actor Éric Frey. But as the protagonists and audiences soon discovered, this dude had a completely different idea of what kind of “radio” they were looking for.
Rather than providing a form of communicating with the outside world, The Conductor proved he definitely could have used more therapeutic visits from friends over time. His version of radio was, amazingly enough, a recording of Maurice Ravel’s increasingly layered “Boléro” accompanied by a full-on orchestra of brainless zombies semi-permanently affixed to their instruments.
The moment is pure gold, and looks like it would have been a total blast to film at the time. The walkers have obviously been front and center for a slew of memorable moments across The Walking Dead and each of its spinoffs, with Daryl Dixon’s predecessor-in-airdate Dead City providing a wonderfully grotesque mega-walker that was like a mutated amalgam of several bodies, which looked quite a bit like the souls of Freddy Krueger’s Nightmare on Elm Street victims poking through his chest. But for my money, I would throw actual money at experiencing a live performance from The Conductor and the Angers PhilharMOOOOAAANic. Boom.
While I think the harp is my favorite detail on display, I can’t ignore the craftsmanship of strapping a large stick to a walker’s head that hits various cymbals when it turns. Literally the only thing it’s good for is making random noise, but if that’s all you need, get to strappin’. As well, the mechanics behind the string section’s arms moving in tandem is magnifique. The game is on to see if any other upcoming Walking Dead shows will be able to top this freakish display.
Of course, what really puts the scene over the top is the authenticity that Frey brings to the performance, as The Conductor looks like he couldn’t be more emotionally moved and transfixed by the mayhem he created. Which is paired ever so perfectly with the complete and utter lack of reactions from either Daryl or Isabelle, who slip away without making a display of it. The only thing I would ding this episode for is that they didn’t spend any time marveling at the orchestra in the aftermath, and that they didn’t immediately tell everyone they met about it.
I suppose we all should have seen such a payoff coming after this was how The Conductor reacted to hearing Daryl speaking English:
Anglais? Sky blue. Grass green. Where is Brian? He is in the kitchen? Voilà.
The people quoting translation lessons are truly the maddest ones of us all, no? Now let’s take it again from the top.
The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon airs Sunday nights on AMC at 9:00 p.m. ET, and is available to stream the same day with an AMC+ subscription. Head to our 2023 TV premiere schedule to see what other big shows are on the way, even if none of them have the guts to also have zombie orchestras in one or more scenes.