This article contains spoilers for The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon episode 2 and The Last of Us season 1.
Something about the post-apocalyptic genre really lends itself to the “Lone Wolf and Cub” trope. Dubbed after a manga of the same name, the Lone Wolf and Cub concept sees a gruff old warrior shepherding an innocent child on a harrowing journey a la Din Djarin and the wee baby Grogu in The Mandalorian.
On the post-apocalyptic side of things, we’ve seen it before with the film Children of Men, in which grizzled freedom fighter Theo Faron (Clive Owen) guides young pregnant woman Kee across a hopeless wasteland. We’ve also seen it in the HBO adaptation of classic game The Last of Us, in which the broken down Joel (Pedro Pascal) leads humanity’s last best hope Ellie (Bella Ramsey) on an important mission. Now we’re seeing it again in the most famous post-apocalyptic franchise going today with Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) taking charge of the wunderkind Laurent (Louis Puech Scigliuzzi) in his pilgrimage to Northern France on The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon.
At first glance, Daryl adopting a paternal role to yet another child appears to merely be The Walking Dead playing the hits once again. As we’ve seen previously with Daryl + Carl, Daryl + Beth, Daryl + Henry, and Daryl + Judith, having Reedus act alongside a precocious kid usually yields results. With the release of episode 2 “Alouette,” however, The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon has revealed that there might be more purpose to Laurent than him merely playing off of Daryl’s gruff energy.
In addition to its main plot, this (weirdly long) installment occasionally flashes back to Isabelle’s (Clémence Poésy) life before the zombie apocalypse and unveils why Laurent’s survival is of particular importance to her. It turns out that not only is Laurent the son of Isabelle’s sister Lily (Faustine Koziel), but Lily actually gave birth to Laurent after she had died from a walker bite and had already reanimated. Laurent is a little zombie boy!
Zombie rules diehards might realize the implications of this. Remember that aforementioned example of Joel in Ellie in The Last of Us? Well, the reason why Joel was tasked with shepherding Ellie in the first place was due to her unusual origin. Like Laurent, Ellie too was born to a mother who had been bitten by an infected just as she was about give birth to her daughter. In The Last of Us‘s canon, the cordyceps fungus inhabits human beings’ bodies and turns them into the monstrous Infected – not entirely unlike the zombies in The Walking Dead and in other undead stories.
Being born under such unique circumstances rendered Ellie immune to the cordyceps infection. The deep thinkers and scientists of The Last of Us‘s world theorized that they could harness the power of that immunity by cracking into Ellie’s brain. We never get the chance to see if they’re right as Joel objects pretty strongly to this whole “deadly experimental procedure on a child” plan.
Still, Ellie’s immunity is very much real in The Last of Us. Is it possible that Laurent enjoys that same immunity and with it a potential zombie virus cure? The strongest evidence against this possibility is that the “zombie virus” operates very differently (and far less scientifically) in The Walking Dead than it does in The Last of Us. Though zombie bites do lead to a rapid infection and a swift death in The Walking Dead, a zombie bite is not a prerequisite for becoming a reanimated corpse. As Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and company discover in season 1, anyone who dies for any reason will still come back as a walker. In short, they’re all infected. That implies that the circumstances that led to the apocalypse may be supernatural in origin and makes it less likely that Laurent’s unusual birth would be of much use to combat it.
In its latter years, however, The Walking Dead TV franchise has broken away from its comic origins by being less of a stickler about investigating the nature of the zombie virus. Both the flagship series and spinoffs like Fear the Walking Dead and The Walking Dead: World Beyond have included researchers extensively studying the undead. The conclusion of the latter series even features a conversation between French scientists and our old CDC friend Dr. Edwin Jenner (Noah Emmerich) suggesting that they had made important progress in studying the “virus” and its “variant cohorts.”
Ultimately, we suspect that The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon won’t go the route of having Laurent potentially being the “cure” both because it’s been done before and because it also complicates the plans for the 38,103 spinoffs to come. That doesn’t mean, however, that Laurent can’t be an important – or even messianic – figure in The Walking Dead universe.
When Isabelle calls Laurent special, she’s not only referring to the properties of his blood. The kid really is impressive – intelligent, thoughtful, articulate. If there’s anything we’ve learned from watching nine seasons of Rick Grimes work, it’s that a post-apocalyptic world needs good leaders to rebuild. Laurent has not only the traits to rebuild but the story to ascend to leadership as well. He symbolically came from the zombie apocalypse itself and now, if properly raised and advised, he can help us set the terms the world after it. In some ways, that’s more important than immunity anyway.
New episodes of The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon premiere Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.