Rick Grimes/Daryl Dixon

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Pairing
Pairing: Rick Grimes/Daryl Dixon
Alternative name(s): Daryl/Rick, Rick/Daryl, Rickyl
Gender category: Slash
Fandom: The Walking Dead (TV series)
Canonical?: No
Prevalence: Very Popular
Archives: see §Rickyl Communities & Fansites
Other:
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Rick Grimes/Daryl Dixon, commonly known as Rickyl, is a popular slash pairing in The Walking Dead television series fandom. Their canon relationship is close, although many interpret their interactions as purely platonic. They are portrayed as having a tight bromance that is strictly platonic, to a one-sided relationship, to full romantic partners. As of 22 July 2017, they are the largest pairing in the The Walking Dead fandom.[1]

Fandom

Character Portrayals in Fanworks

Rick Grimes

Rick Grimes is shown in canon as being in a difficult marriage with Lori Grimes at the start of the apocalypse. Rick and Lori have one son, Carl Grimes and Judith Grimes is often considered to be Rick's daughter as well, even though her parentage is in question with the possibility she could be the daughter of Shane Walsh. Rick's family, particularly Judith, have a huge role in fanworks.

Due to Rick's past relationship with Lori Grimes, his relationship with Andrea, from The Walking Dead comics and his Season 5 flirtation with Jessie Anderson, many in fandom consider him to be straight. The Rick/Daryl community often interprets Rick's sexuality as bisexual, gay for each other, or repressed gay. Justification for the gay/bisexual interpretations are:

  • Rick's constant trust in Daryl and how he seeks Daryl's advice in difficult situations alongside Daryl's unwavering trust in Rick's leadership, even in the face of decisions that he feels are wrong.
  • Quotes from both characters as to how each other are "family," "brothers," etc, alongside quotes such as "I need you."
  • Close physical proximity, close talking, and a high level of eye contact (especially when it is taken into account that Daryl is often shy of physical contact).
  • The ability to talk without talking through whistles, eye contact, hand motions, and body language.
  • The especially close relationship at the beginning of Season Three, where it is canonical that they spent time together alone in the woods on runs.
  • Reactions when one is separated from the other or when one thinks the other is dead. For example, Rick's often high levels of aggression when Daryl is not present, Rick being the first name Daryl says when he thinks the others are dead, and Rick leading a charge back into the highly armed Woodbury for Daryl.

Many works explore Rick's tendencies towards other negative traits such as aggression, anger, and violence that he displays in canon. Because of this, Rick is often shown to be the more aggressive partner in action and decision-making, as well as a sexual “top”. Conversely, there are Rick/Daryl stories that portray Rick as a “bottom” partner due to Rick's need to let someone else take control.

Daryl Dixon

Daryl Dixon is a fan-favorite and in the Rick/Daryl community, he is often seen as more alternative in regard to his sexuality. Due to the introversion of the character and the way that Norman Reedus has played Daryl, he is frequently viewed as gay, bisexual, asexual, or on the gray asexual[2] spectrum. During frequent talks of Daryl's sexuality, creator Robert Kirkman stated that “Daryl Dixon is being somewhat asexual on the show”, but went on to say that “Daryl Dixon is actually straight”.[3]. This is contrasted, however, by the actor's portrayal of the character where many fans see him interacting on a closer and more intimate level with men rather than women and the fact that Daryl has not been canonically paired with either Beth or Carol, who seem to have feelings for him. In addition, Norman Reedus himself has stated that "If that is the story they gave me I would rock that story!" and has made hints that he has been playing Daryl that way from the start.[3]

Thus, fanworks often consider Daryl to be gay, although some state his sexuality as “gay for you”, straight, bisexual, or gay repressed. A smaller number of works consider him to be asexual, particularly gray-asexual/homo-romantic in which he still enters into a relationship with Rick, but has little or no sex or their sexual relationship develops only after romantic feelings are involved. It should also be noted that there is a widely circulated work in the fandom where Daryl is portrayed as a transgender female transitioning to male.[4]

Daryl's sexuality is further complicated by the division in the fandom related to his experience level. Given that Daryl has never mentioned any past relationships and has not entered into any romantic relationships in canon, he is often shown as being a virgin, inexperienced, or socially/sexually awkward. There are a large number of fans, however, who portray Daryl as the opposite—that is, experienced, sexually well-versed, confident, and flirtatious. Regardless of experience level, though, Daryl is often shown as the bottom partner during slash sexual acts and as tending to be more submissive. Conversely, bottom-Rick shippers give Daryl the power in the relationship to take the pressure off Rick.

In addition to his sexuality, fanworks tackle Daryl's past. Daryl grew up with his brother, Merle Dixon, in an abusive household and many fics deal with the emotional, mental, and physical abuse Daryl received. His childhood is portrayed with various levels of detail both in terms of abuse and neglect and the long-term effects of that treatment. Merle Dixon's role in Rick/Daryl fanworks is complex. He is shown as both Daryl's abuser and his supporter/friend. Many No Zombie Apocalypse AUs use Merle as the catalyst for Daryl and Rick's interactions.

Fanworks also deal frequently with Daryl's relationship to Rick's family, in particular, with Judith, and to a small part, with Carl. Some feel that Daryl's responsibility for Judith in the episode “Say the Word”, led to Daryl being shown as parental, both in his care for Judith, and because he is often seen as the submissive partner, some feel that this shows him in a feminine light. The Grimes/Dixon family often consists of Daryl, Rick, and Judith in both apocalypse verse and alternative universe. Carl is sometimes in the family, or his existence in canon is ignored or his absence is explained by being with Lori. In some alternative universes, Judith is not Rick and Lori's biological child, but rather an adopted child of Rick/Daryl or, in mpreg fics, the biological child of the two. As most mpreg fanfics tend to place Daryl in the pregnancy state, some stories are written with him possessing more maternal attributes and “being more feminine”.

Common Tropes in Fanworks

Canon Universes and Alternative Universes

  • Canon, Canon Divergence, and Missing Scenes: A large portion of Rick/Daryl fanworks are set in the canon verse of the show and many are set in the time gaps between seasons, especially considering that there are large jumps of time between Season Two/Season Three and Season Three/Season Four. In addition, many works are set within the canon verse of the zombie apocalypse, but are considered canon divergence fics, meaning that there is a jumping off point within canon where the works start, but they do not anticipate remaining true to the canon events. Often works are set firmly in canon, but with certain plot elements left out and it is common to see fics canon compliant except that some characters do not die. There are also missing scenes, which take place between scenes in a particular episode, rather than in the time gaps between Seasons or canon divergent works.
  • No Zombie Apocalypse AU: Many fanfics are set in the modern world as AUs where the zombie apocalypse did not take place. In these works, it is typical to see Rick having marital problems with, going through a divorce with, or having recently divorced Lori Grimes. It is also common to see Daryl living with or having a very close relationship with his brother, Merle Dixon. Often tensions arise between Rick's occupation as a police officer and the Dixon brothers due to Merle Dixon's canonical illegal activities.
  • Pre-Zombie Apocalypse and Pre-Canon Relationship: Fanworks may also explore a similar modern setting between Rick and Daryl that is pre-apocalypse rather than no apocalypse, with the apocalypse starting in the fanwork or the assumption that it will start after the fanwork is complete. There is also a subset of fanworks that state that Rick and Daryl have known each other before the zombie apocalypse, contrary to canon (for example—Rick/Daryl as high school sweethearts, Rick having arrested Merle before, etc). In this way, the characters meet during the apocalypse with some form of pre-existing tension.
  • Alternative Universe: There are many forms of additional alternative universe fanworks in the community, including Magic AUs, Werewolf AUs, Vampire AUs, Firefighter AUs, Medieval AUs, High School AUs, etc. High School AUs are particularly prevalent, with many dealing with Daryl's childhood trauma.

Additional Tropes

  • Alpha/Beta/Omega: There is also a large subset of fanworks that deal with alpha/beta/omega (or A/B/O) dynamics. Some use A/B/O in combination with werewolf AUs, but the majority of Rick/Daryl fics create a purely human verse in which each character is assigned the status of alpha, beta, or omega. Often, due to the fandom's preference for bottom Daryl, Daryl is placed in the omega dynamic, while Rick is placed in the alpha dynamic. However, there are fanworks where Rick is defined as an omega, despite his leadership status among the group, and Daryl is the alpha. A/B/O may or may not also include mpreg.
  • Crossover: Rick/Daryl has its fair share of crossover fanworks, with one of the primary crossover fandoms being Boondock Saints due to Norman Reedus playing both Daryl and Murphy MacManus. These fics often slash Daryl Dixon/Connor MacManus to get around the incest pairing Connor/Murphy (Conphy). In some crossover fics, there is an element of Rick/Daryl and Connor/Murphy in which Rick and/or Murphy is jealous of Daryl/Connor.
  • Hurt/Comfort and Rescue Fic: Because The Walking Dead canon is so violent, fanworks often deal with hurt/comfort. In these fanworks, Daryl is often on the "H" side of H/C and Rick is the protective and caring partner. This also lends itself to Rick's darker more violent side in protection of Daryl and can be complicated with jealousy, anger, obliviousness, repressed sexual feels, etc. In addition to hurt/comfort, there is also a subset of works deemed "rescue fic" in which one character needs to be rescued by the other from a tense or harmful situation.
  • Prison Fic: Many fanfics are set within the canonical prison setting of the show, due to the relative calm that the prison setting offers and the convenient time gap between Season Three and Season Four. Often these fanfics will have additional tags such as "No Terminus," "No Woodbury," "No Govenor," etc., indicating that the villains and negative story arcs of the show have been taken out of the fanfic to allow the romantic relationship time to grow.

Relationships with Other Ships

Rickyl shippers generally do not have much contact with het pairings such as Beth Greene/Daryl Dixon (Bethyl), Rick Grimes/Carol Peletier, or Rick Grimes/Michonne (Richonne), although there is a subset of works with the threesome pairing Daryl Dixon/Rick Grimes/Michonne largely because Rick, Daryl, and Michonne are all fan favorites. There are many fics, as well, that do tackle past relationships/present negative relationships between Rick and Lori Grimes and/or Jessie Anderson. Jessie Anderson is particularly relevant in fanworks set in the Alexandria Safe Zone as Rick has a canonical relationship with her in Season Five. These fics often have a jealous Daryl that is portrayed as depressed rather than angry and some fics pit the Rick Grimes/Jessie Anderson relationship against Daryl Dixon/Aaron one.

In addition, Carol's relationship in Rick/Daryl fics is often complex and may or may not be portrayed as past Daryl Dixon/Carol Peletier (Caryl). While some fics do say that Daryl has or had a romantic relationship with Carol, other fics (primarily if Daryl's sexuality is considered gay or asexual) state that he and Carol are good friends, placing Carol as the best friend or confidant. Due to Daryl's complicated relationship with Carol, Rick is often seen as worrying about breaking up Carol/Daryl's romantic or friend relationship.

Relationships with other slash pairings are complex. Many fics include past or present Rick Grimes/Shane Walsh (or Sharick), Daryl Dixon/Aaron (or Daaron), or complicated feelings for or past/present Daryl Dixon/Merle Dixon (Dixcest). Rick Grimes/Shane Walsh is particularly prevalent in earlier works, but still continues in No Zombie Apocalypse AUs and Alternative Universes. This is largely due to the relationship between Rick and Shane in Season One and Season Two, where the characters are canonically best friends and police partners. In addition, many fans interpret their close interactions (such as forehead touching, the constant use of the term "brother," and Shane's grief when he thought Rick was dead) as latent homosexuality.

Daryl Dixon/Aaron is a newer pairing that is gaining prominence in the fandom and has come into competition with Rick/Daryl. Newer works may include a past or present relationship between Daryl and Aaron, due to their screen time together in Season Five. It should be noted that Aaron is in a canonical gay relationship with Eric and this often manifests into Daryl/Aaron/Eric (Daaric). Later Season Six and Season Seven episodes have resulted in a prevalent secondary fandom of Daryl Dixon/Jesus (Desus or Darus). Within Rick/Daryl fanworks, Rick is often jealous of the relationship Daryl has with Aaron and/or Eric or Daryl and Jesus. Aaron, Eric, or Jesus is often used as Daryl's confidant.

Daryl Dixon/Merle Dixon is used to a lesser extent in the Rick/Daryl fandom, but Merle does play a large part in Rick/Daryl fanworks. Merle is often either seen as a villainous character or Daryl's close family and best friend. His character is complicated by his canonical racism, drug use, illegal activities, and self-loathing nature. He is sometimes considered to be as abusive as Daryl's father, especially in regards to emotional abuse. Other times, he is a flawed, but loving brother. He is sometimes used as comic relief due to his canonically inventive cursing and language. While few fics explicitly use Daryl/Merle, the brothers' relationship is often complex and somewhere between platonic and romantic.

While prevalent in the fandom, Rick/Daryl works do not generally deal with Daryl Dixon/Glenn Rhee and Daryl Dixon/Shane Walsh (Sharyl). However, there are often slash and femslash background pairings in fanworks, including Michonne/Andrea Harrison, Shane Walsh/Merle Dixon (Sherle), or others. It should also be noted that several antagonistic characters from canon are often involved in Rick/Daryl fics as villains, most notably the Governor (Philip Blake), Gareth, and Negan, in which rape and non-con is typically involved.

Notable Fanworks

Fanfiction

Fanvideo, Media, and Images

Meta, Essay, and Other

Rickyl Communities & Fansites

Other Links & Resources

References

  1. The Walking Dead: Archive of Our Own
  2. Gray-Asexual/Grey/Asexual at AvenWiki
  3. 3.0 3.1 The Mirror: Daryl's Sexuality
  4. The Boy With the Thorn in His Side