The third season of AMC’s The Walking Dead gets immortalized in action figure form in Series 4 of McFarlane’s line of toys inspired by the show – a series that includes The Governor, Andrea, Carl Grimes and two different walkers, as well as a blood-covered Rick Grimes that is exclusive to a few select stores. In conjunction with the series, McFarlane also decided to give backwoods brothers Daryl and Merle Dixon – two characters individually released in the company's previous series – their very own box set. Set against a backdrop of the iconic prison featured so prominently in Season 3, the brothers Dixon are armed to the teeth with weapons, ready to do battle with those pesky walkers… and each other.
The entire fourth series of McFarlane’s TV line is currently being shipped out to those who placed their pre-orders, and I’m one of the many who jumped on this two-pack the moment I heard about it. Now that I’ve finally got it in hand, it’s time to crack this bad boy open and take a closer look at the contents!
First up we’ve got Daryl Dixon, who is hands-down the show’s most popular character. As I sit here bending and posing Daryl on my desk, I admit that I kind of feel bad for all of the fans who have spent so much money to get their hands on this very same toy. Daryl was originally released all the way back in Series 1 of McFarlane’s TV line – a figure that sold out almost immediately, and could soon after its release be found selling for several times its original price. I’ve seen these going for upwards of $200 on eBay, and you’ll rarely find one listed on there that doesn’t sell.
Rather than giving Daryl a new sculpt or at least doing something to differentiate this new figure from the Series 1 release, McFarlane instead decided to just re-release the same exact figure – which is kind of a slap in the face to all the fans who spent $200 to own this very same toy. All I know is, I again can’t help but feel kind of bad that I’m playing with this thing right now, and that I only paid $30 to have the honor of doing so. But I’ll get over it.
Measuring a mere 5” tall, Daryl is clad in a dirty cut-off tee and equally filthy blue jeans – an outfit that’s more in line with what the character wore in previous seasons of the show. Daryl changed his outfit up a bit in Season 3 and his hair grew longer and messier, and this figure instead evokes his look in previous seasons – another reason I wish McFarlane had bothered to give us a new Daryl for this set. It may sound like I’m nitpicking here, but that’s only because of the undying passion I have for toys.
I'll admit I’ve been fairly underwhelmed by many of McFarlane’s head sculpts in the Walking Dead line, which I’d have to attribute to the small scale of the toys. It’s hard to really nail the likeness of an actor when the head is the size of a marble, but they did a pretty good job with this one – even if it doesn’t look quite as good as the prototype shots used to market the toy. From the beady eyes to the scruffy chin, the greasy hair to that overall grungy quality that so many women fawn over, this figure is a pretty accurate representation of the Daryl we saw in the first two seasons. I wouldn’t say they nailed it – and I’m not sure why he’s perpetually looking off to the side – but it’s overall a decent and serviceable effort.
The accessories included on Daryl’s side of the set are, for the most part, the same ones we got in Series 1: a fire axe, a pickaxe, a knife (which fits nicely in a sheath on Daryl’s leg) and his trusty crossbow. The only difference here is that the string of squirrel carcasses that were included with the past release have been replaced by a set of prison keys – presumably because McFarlane either didn’t want to incur the wrath of PETA, or they felt guilty about the figure not accurately representing Daryl’s look in Season 3, and wanted to throw in an accessory that would tie the toy into the season. Personally, I think I’d prefer the squirrel carcasses. One of those ear necklaces would’ve been pretty nice too.
My biggest issue with this toy is that the body is permanently posed in an awkward position, so that he looks like he’s ready to decimate a walker when you place his crossbow or an axe in his hands. While the figure does look pretty cool while holding a weapon, his body looks totally bizarre and misshapen when he’s not holding anything, as you can see in the above photo. But hey, I suppose that’s just the price you’ve got to pay for being able to display Daryl the way he’s normally seen on the show – holding his crossbow, with his sights and arrows focused on walkers. What other way would you really want to display him?
Much like his younger brother, Merle’s figure is a re-release of one we’ve already seen in the past; it was originally released in Series 3. That said, a bit more of an attempt was made to make this toy a little different than the previous one: Merle’s overshirt has changed from tan to blue, and his tank top made to look a bit dirtier. Other than those minor differences, it’s the same figure.
McFarlane’s head sculpts have improved from series to series, and this figure is the perfect example of that. In fact, this is one of my favorite head sculpts – and overall toys – in the entire line, with everything about it perfectly capturing the grizzled look of actor Michael Rooker. As a huge fan of Rooker for years now, it was pretty awesome seeing him land a big role on such a big show, and even more awesome being able to actually own an action figure of him.
From certain angles and under certain lights, this figure really does look like a miniature version of Rooker – it's an impressive sculpt that accurately depicts the nuances in the actor's face. If there’s any downfall of the figure, it’s the paint job on the face, and McFarlane all around has been pretty inconsistent and sloppy with their facial paint jobs on these toys. The machine seems to have taken the liberty here of adding in thick eyebrows – which Rooker most certainly does not have – and the very same head on the Series 3 release that I own looks a whole lot better than this one – a pretty major issue, considering it’s the exact same sculpt. Regardless, the likeness is there, and this is without question the better figure of the two... and it actually depicts Merle as he was seen in Season 3.
Complete with his über-badass bayonet hand, Merle comes with the same accessories from Series 3: a knife, a handgun and an assault rifle. The only accessory I wish they had included was an alternate zombified head, which McFarlane decided to save for Series 5... a smart decision, even if I don't agree with it.
Final thoughts: While I again wish that we got different toys of the Dixon brothers exclusive to this set, it’s nevertheless a must-buy for anyone who couldn't snatch up the Daryl figure on the first go-around… and didn’t want to pay $200 get their hands on one. It may not exactly be fair to those who did spend exorbitant amounts of money to obtain one, but still this is your second chance to get him on the cheap, so let’s all thank McFarlane for that. There's also a variant of Merle that you can only get in this set, and it’s pretty nice having the two brothers united together inside of one package. Overall, despite the aforementioned issues, I can’t help but approve. I finally have my own little Daryl Dixon, and I’m far too happy about that to be bummed about anything else.
You can get the set for yourself for around $30 in stores and from online toy retailers.