This article contains spoilers for THE WALKING DEAD: DARYL DIXON episode 3.
Through its many years of zombie dominance, The Walking Dead has understood something important about its undead “stars.” Whether you choose to call them walkers, rotters, roamers, les affamés, or something else – zombies aren’t just monsters, they’re part of the environment.
The survivors on The Walking Dead frequently use zombies as a resource as much as they would use the logs from a downed tree or animal products from a deer. A zombie’s skin and guts can provide useful camouflage. As The Walking Dead: Dead City revealed, the methane drifting off of a zombie’s rotting body can be a fuel source. Even the “newer model” zombies like The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon‘s acidic variants have their purpose as well. Daryl figures out as much in episode 3 “Paris sera toujours Paris” when he uses one of the hot walkers to melt away some vines obscuring a door.
These uses are all fine and good but they’re missing a certain whimsical element. Thus far, nobody has really used zombies for their own amusement. Thankfully, at the very beginning of “Paris sera toujours Paris,” The Walking Dead franchise introduces its most creative and fun application of its undead resource yet. Ladies and gentlemen, please take your seats and enjoy a zombie orchestra’s wretched rendition of Maurice Ravel’s “Bolero.”
The cold open of Daryl Dixon‘s third episode takes some time out for its busy schedule to drop in on a desolate theater where a mad men has conducted the post-apocalyptic concert of his demented dreams. Things start innocuously enough. Daryl (Norman Reedus), Isabelle (Clémence Poésy), Laurent (Louis Puech Scigliuzzi), and Sylvie (Laïka Blanc-Francard) all arrive in a desolate city so that Isabelle can make use of a local musician’s radio to check in with her allies. Unfortunately, there is no working radio as the musician has very thoroughly lost his mind and used the radio’s wires to amplify the sounds of his record player to thunder throughout the theater.
“Now we hear music. You like a show?” the French man says as he guides Daryl and Isabelle to witness the grim tableau he’s concocted.
As the aforementioned 1928 composition “Bolero” blares over the loud-speakers, Daryl and Isabelle are treated to a truly ghoulish scene. The man’s orchestra features: a zombie tied to some drums, no fewer than two undead cellists and three violinists, a disembodied head on a string gently bumping against a harp, and two torsos chortling into some rusted horns. None of “musicians” are actually playing their instruments, mind you, but they do seem to be trying their best. The drummer zombie at the very least does produce some percussion.
“It was a stupid detour,” Daryl mutters as he and Isabelle exit the theater and decide to head directly to Paris.
That is where we’ll have to respectfully disagree with Mr. Dixon. The introduction of a zombie orchestra wasn’t a stupid detour at all. It was a burst of silly creativity that made for some of the most purely fun imagery ever captured in The Walking Dead franchise. Sometimes it’s ok to just have fun for fun’s sake! The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon production designer Clovis Weil happens to agree. Den of Geek caught up with the crafter of the show’s post-apocalyptic French world to discuss what goes in to crafting a zombie orchestra.
“This was really fun to imagine,” Weil says. “At first it was written as some zombies tied up to a chair and playing instruments, which was already a great idea. And then we tried to push it a bit further to have a real weird geek zombie show onstage.”
Even for such a relatively brief moment onscreen, the creation of a zombie orchestra required the full attention of Weil’s department in addition to Walking Dead producer and gore specialist Greg Nicotero’s zombie team.
“I started thinking about this and making a few drawings. Greg loved them so he did some other drawings,” Weil says. “We needed to make this work together. The universe, the accessories, and the set up was the art department. But obviously the zombie part and the puppet part was what he’s incredibly good at. It was a collaboration together.”
A collaboration together to produce something big, you say? That doesn’t sound entirely unlike a zombie orchestra. Well it actually sounds better than a zombie orchestra as the undead don’t make for the most capable musicians.
New episodes of The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon premiere Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.