The episode begins as Daryl (Norman Reedus) drives the cart into a town, and Isabelle (Clémence Poésy) says, helpfully, “This is the town of Angers.” They stop in a square outside a rundown theatre, and Daryl gives Sylvie (Laïka Blanc-Francard) his gun with an instruction to protect the horse. Maybe he regrets sending Asteríx the mule to certain death last week.
Daryl and Isabelle go inside. Isabelle’s contact is a musician who has been living here for years. A door behind a rack of theatrical costumes opens, and a wild-eyed man with eccentric Beethoven hair emerges, addressing them in French. The subtitles are also in French, so I can’t tell you what he’s saying. As he approaches, Daryl holds up a hand to stop him, and tells Isabelle to ask about the radio, without so much as a “my-name-is-Daryl-Dixon-I-come-from-a-place-called-the-Commonwealth.” Crazy Beethoven realizes Daryl is “Anglais.” “I speak,” he says. “Sky blue, grass green. Where is Brian? He is in the kitchen?” I’m hazarding a guess that this man is not of entirely sound mind.
Beethoven takes them downstairs into a cluttered office where there is a radio. Daryl rattles its bits ineffectively, reminding me of the opening scene of 2001: A Space Odyssey
. Isabelle says something in French about a place called Le Nid, and Beethoven replies “Yes, of course. The radio could call to there.” Daryl stops pretending he knows anything about technology and asks the man to fire up the radio. “Oh no,” says the man in dismay, and asks if they would like a show. “What the fuck?” says Daryl, and Beethoven tells Isabelle that he used some of the radio parts for “amplification.” “Do you like Ravel?” he asks and starts playing Boléro through a makeshift sound system. He goes upstairs, telling Isabelle and Daryl to follow him into the auditorium.
On stage, Beethoven stands on a conductor’s podium, leading an orchestra of walkers. It is an elaborate and grotesque set-up, walkers or parts of walkers tied to instruments, swaying, growling, and actually producing sounds on some of the instruments. As he waves his arms, Beethoven turns to yell at Isabelle and Daryl, who are watching from among the seats: “You see! Music! Culture! It lives! Even now! It still lives!” This is what the title, “Paris will always be Paris,” refers to in one respect: the French, as it turns out, are uber sophisticated and super highbrow even in the apocalypse. We’ll always have Paris, mes amis
, and also French stereotypes.
Outside in the cart, Sylvie and Laurent (Louis Puech Scigliuzzi) are confused by the loud music. It draws a lone walker into the square, and Sylvie nervously wields the gun.
In the auditorium, the crashing of drums and squawking of wind instruments continues. Daryl observes bitterly that they should have stuck to the plan. Isabelle says it was worth a try coming here, but he calls it a stupid detour.
The walker nears the cart. Sylvie lifts the gun. Isabelle and Daryl emerge from the theatre, the nun telling Daryl that Paris is too dangerous. “It’s too dangerous everywhere,” he says. “We did it your way; now we’re gonna do it mine.” Taking the gun from Sylvie, he shoots the walker and announces to her and Laurent that they’re going to Paris. More walkers approach, and Boléro continues to play as Daryl drives the cart out the square.
Roll credits. Art, anatomy, billowing clouds of blood.
The cart drives through a forest, Daryl and Laurent walking ahead of it. Laurent asks Daryl whether there will also be “hungry ones” in Paris. Are we really supposed to believe he doesn’t know the answer to this question? He tells Daryl the American is good at fighting walkers, and Daryl says everyone is good at something, maybe because he can’t currently think of anything specific that Laurent is good at. He signals for the cart to stop, because the boy spots the Eiffel Tower in the distance. “Welcome home,” says Daryl to Isabelle.
The cart travels through streets and passes the Paris Panthéon. Isabelle tells Laurent where his mother went to school, and he says something to Daryl. The subtitles just read “[speaks indistinctly]” and I feel less guilty as a result for not knowing what he said or even what language he was speaking. Sylvie and Laurent look at a view over the city and Daryl asks Isabelle about the graffiti on a burnt-out car, which says Pouvoir Des Vivants
. He saw the same phrase outside the farmers’ market in Episode 1. The nun explains that it is the name of a movement that started after the outbreak. Most of Paris is under the control of a woman named Genet (Anne Charrier) and her guerriers
. “In desperate times, people cling to order,” Isabelle observes. “Yeah, or God,” replies Daryl. Yeah, or even a random middle-aged American white man.
They pass through an old cemetery. Molière, Proust, and de la Fontaine are all buried here, according to Sylvie and Laurent. I don’t know if you’ve realized this yet, but France is a highly cultured nation with a rich literary and artistic history. Laurent tells Daryl de la Fontaine’s fable, “Death and the Woodsman,” about a lumberjack who is suicidal and then changes his mind when Death comes for him, asking for help with his burden instead. “It’s about fortitude,” says Laurent. Daryl is sporting the iconic Rachel Green Haircut in this scene, or something very close to it. He stops next to Jim Morrison’s grave, because the Americans gave us rock ‘n’ roll even if they didn’t give us Proust. Sylvie asks who Morrison was, and Daryl explains. I do not recall him ever displaying any interest in The Doors previously, but man, is he delighted by this grave. His mouth almost twitches into a smile. “He died in Paris?” asks Sylvie. Laurent has one of his transcendent moments and spoils the rest of the spin-off in a single line: “Not to fret, Monsieur Daryl. You will not die in Paris.”
A loud voice from among the mausolea yells at them to stop and asks in French what they want. “Truth is hope,” says Isabelle, which is rich coming from someone who lies so often, and Fallou (Eriq Ebouaney) appears, accompanied by three people, one of whom is a young man named Emile (Tristan Zanchi). Fallou asks who Isabelle’s group is, and she says Père Jean sent them. Fallou introduces himself and his companions and tells Laurent they have been waiting a long time to meet him. Laurent side-eyes Isabelle, who has in no way prepared him for this.
Fallou takes them back to his settlement, and on the way, Daryl says, “I bet you got a radio here, right?” Fallou doesn’t answer but draws their attention to the distant sound of creaking metal. “It’s Paris crying,” he says. How poetic.
Sixty-four people live in this community, and they take turns doing the necessary daily tasks. Children run about laughing, and a great diversity of people work together in wondrous harmony. Emile asks Sylvie whether she always wanted to be a nun, and kudos to him for the boldness and originality of this pick-up line. It’s a challenge trying to convince someone to cheat on Christ, I’d guess. “I never imagined anything else,” she replies. “Well, you never came to Paris,” he says. “It’s a good place to imagine.” Woah there, Nelly. You just met this girl and she’s wedded to the Almighty. Sylvie smirks, and I narrow my eyes suspiciously.
Fallou leads the group to a rooftop garden with a view over Paris, as Laurent tells Daryl how many rivets Gustave Eiffel used in the Tower. Maybe Laurent could take some conversation lessons from Emile, or just stop talking for a while. Daryl observes that the tip of the Eiffel Tower has been knocked off, and Fallou tells them a military helicopter crashed into it during the outbreak. When the wind blows, the metal groans. Laurent looks wistfully at the Tower in the distance. “It must be magical to stand under it,” he says, “and look up at the sky.”
Daryl asks about the radio, and Fallou introduces him to a man named Antoine (Dominique Pinon), their “comms guy.” Unfortunately, this does not refer to radio comms. “Pigeons voyageurs
!” says Antoine. “You call them homing pigeons.” Daryl looks at Isabelle like he might want to throw her off the roof later. Antoine tells him that homing pigeons always find their way home, which I suppose is why they’re called homing pigeons. “Pigeons? Really?” Daryl says to Isabelle, just like he said “Father Daryl? Really?” in Episode 2.
Antoine brings out Zizou, his best pigeon, kissing the bird affectionately. Zizou was trained at the Nest. “Only he knows where he goes,” the man says, and looks at Daryl. “Maybe he have girlfriend – yes? We all have a person who waits for us somewhere.” Daryl looks down, struck by a moment of sadness, because someone – namely Carol (Melissa McBride), one assumes – is waiting for him back in America. This moment lasts approximately three seconds, and it is my favorite three seconds of the whole episode. Antoine bids Zizou farewell on his flight to the Nest, and Daryl asks through gritted teeth how long it takes for the pigeon to return with a message. A few days, Antoine says, followed by something in French which Isabelle translates for Daryl: “Could be a month.”
Daryl is not happy with this answer and tells Isabelle his job is done. The Nest will take them the rest of the way. Isabelle can’t help him without a radio. Fallou says that there are people trading all kinds of things here, and if they have currency, they might be able to barter for a radio. Isabelle tells Daryl she knows where to find something they can use.
A cluster of children of various faiths has gathered around Laurent to present him with small gifts, three-wise-men style, except Laurent has significantly more hair than I imagine the baby Jesus did. “It’s kind of a lot to put on a kid,” Daryl says. “God chooses our burdens,” Isabelle replies. I guess God was in a bad mood the day he chose to burden everyone with the apocalypse. Laurent looks up and sees a woman, her head covered, sitting alone. She looks sad. As the community gathers to watch, Laurent speaks to her. The woman, Sonia, lost her husband a few days ago and has refused food and comfort. But behold, Laurent hugs her and she gazes upon him in wonder. “Pére Jean was right,” says Fallou. Daryl looks pensive.
Codron (Romain Levi) walks through a fort, flanked by a soldier. Other uniformed guerriers
wander about, and military vehicles are lined up outside the building. Codron pauses outside a laboratory, where a walker is chained by its arms inside an enclosure. Codron walks on and enters Genet’s office. She tells the guerriers
to leave them and rolls herself a cigarette. Daryl, incidentally, seems to have broken his nicotine addiction in the ocean somewhere between the Gulf of Cadíz and Marseilles, because he hasn’t smoked so much as an herbal ciggy since he landed in France. Genet lights up and asks Codron why he is here. He tells her about a traveler who came through Marseilles years ago talking about a movement in Paris that would “make the world right again.” The traveler gave Codron a face tattoo and told him he was a warrior for Genet. Personally, I would need more information before agreeing to a face tattoo from a strange itinerant man, but each to their own. It becomes clear that Genet has agreed to see Codron because he has brought news of Daryl, whom she assumed had drowned. Codron whips out Daryl’s dictaphone and plays track 1, “My Name Is Daryl Dixon (I Come From A Place Called The Commonwealth),” for Genet. She lights her cigarette, even though she just lit it a moment ago.
Codron promises Genet he will find Daryl, proving his usefulness to her. I believe Codron will succeed, because he has a shaved head and a badass face tattoo, and Daryl has Rachel Green hair, and there’s nothing more impressive than a scar of indeterminate origin on his face. Genet asks why she should trust Codron. “Because I won’t stop,” he says. He promised to look after his brother when his parents died, and the American made him a liar. He has tears in his eyes as he says this. Romain Levi is excellent. Genet smiles. “You’re hired,” she says.
Codron follows her back to the laboratory. There, the scientist from Episode 1 is holding a clipboard and a stopwatch, while the chained walker jerks and spasms. Machines beep. The staff in the lab become alarmed as the walker pulls the chains out of the concrete and runs for the plexiglass window. Its head explodes against the glass from some internal pressure, and the scientist clicks the stopwatch. “Eighteen seconds,” he says to Genet.
Isabelle leads Daryl into her old apartment. The place has been turned upside down in the last twelve years, and Isabelle walks through it slowly. “You’ve got noisy neighbors,” Daryl says as they listen to walkers growling, and the nun tells him Mrs. Garnier from next door was always trying to set her up with his son. Inside a book, Daryl finds a strip of photos from a booth: Isabelle and Quinn (Adam Nagaitis), grinning together. “His name was Quinn,” Isabelle tells Daryl. “I was young and very stupid.” Apparently, the purpose of this excursion is to discuss Isabelle’s pre-convent love life. Daryl tells her she “upgraded with God,” and I wince so hard I fall out of my chair.
Isabelle picks up a cracked picture frame. In it is a picture of her sister, Lily, at the Eiffel Tower on her sixteenth birthday. Isabelle takes it for Laurent, who has never seen his mother. Daryl asks if that’s why they’re here and watches Isabelle retrieve her hidden tin of money and drugs from the fireplace. “We’re here so I can keep my part of the bargain,” she tells him. “Find something to trade to get us information on a boat.” Daryl watches curiously as she collects jewelry and drugs. “I wasn’t always a nun,” she tells him.
Isabelle goes to check for clothes in her room while Daryl gazes out a window. When she returns, she reminisces about a bar down the road, where artists and students would gather to “reinvent the world.” The French are an enlightened and bohemian people, a nation of creators and thinkers, in case that point hasn’t been made. “We thought we could make it better,” she says, “never imagining how bad it would get.” Daryl is impressed, because when he was younger, he didn’t do much thinking at all. Isabelle says he seems like someone who is always thinking, which is usually a way of saying someone should talk more. He remarks that things happen that change you, and it would have been a deeply moving moment if he’d mentioned that there were people who changed him along the way, but he doesn’t. Oh well. “Maybe we’re the same that way,” Isabelle says. “Broken until the world ended.” This sounds remarkably like what bonded Daryl and Carol, both of whom came into their own after the outbreak, leaving behind lives that were difficult in other ways. Daryl laughs and says maybe he and Isabelle are the same, and the nun tells him she is glad their paths crossed. I bet you are, sister.
Walkers have gathered in the apartment lobby, so Isabelle leads Daryl to a service entrance. He breaks open the door, and they exit into a courtyard garden. Caught in some vines is a child walker, little Aimée whom we saw in Isabelle’s flashback in Episode 2. The girl is dressed as she was the day the outbreak began; she has been dead since then. Daryl moves to put her down, but Isabelle stops him. Aimée reaches for them as they pass her, and suddenly a walker falls from an upstairs window, bursting opening on the cobblestones like a sack of strawberry jelly. More follow, although mysteriously some remain intact, and get up and pursue Daryl and Isabelle. Daryl hacks away at the vines overgrowing the exit as an acid walker falls from above, gets up, and growls at Isabelle. She is terrified, and honestly, I don’t know how she’s survived over a decade of the apocalypse, wandering about hanging her “God Loves You” posters, without knowing how to kill a walker. While she stands around looking scared, Daryl skewers the acid walker with a sharp stick and uses its body to burn through the remaining stems blocking their way out. Smart and satisfying.
Daryl and Isabelle wait in a heavily graffitied subway, Daryl sitting against the wall while the nun paces, worried because the others have not arrived yet. Daryl says he is sorry about the little girl, and Isabelle tells him she left the child behind. There are footsteps on the subway steps. Laurent, Sylvie, smooth-talking Emile, and Fallou have arrived. Isabelle embraces her nephew and gives him the photo of his mother. Laurent smiles, and as they leave, he goes to show the photo to Daryl. “She’s pretty,” says Daryl, who has never said that about anyone in the entire history of The Walking Dead
Further down the railway line, at another station, they find an armed man in a do-rag sitting in an armchair. This is where trades can be made. Fallou gifts the man some hazelnuts, and the group is instructed to put their weapons in an old freezer. They go through a gate and find themselves in the catacombs, the walls lined with the bones of those who died in the Black Death. “America is an infant,” Fallou tells Daryl. “But here, we survived many apocalypses. We will survive this one, too.” But apparently only because an American has come to help them. Awkward.
They enter a nightclub decorated with famous statues and paintings, behind a metal door in the catacombs. It is full of people dancing and drinking. France is not just surviving but thriving. I am at a loss as to why they brought Laurent here and didn’t leave him, instead, at the settlement, gazing at the Eiffel Tower rather than watching his aunt make drug deals. On a stage, a scantily clad dancer performs, and women in feathered, sequined cabaret outfits move among the customers. The club is called the Demimonde. Fallou goes to find someone to help them. Sylvie and Emile stand talking together, and a drag queen, Coco (Paloma / Hugo Bardin), crosses a bridge above the stage, announcing the next performer: Anna Valery (Lukerya Ilyashenko). A feathered pianist plays a lively introduction, and a woman in a sparkling evening gown begins to sing. Isabelle wanders off into a side room, clearly unconcerned for Laurent, and Daryl follows her.
In a dimly lit section of the club hang more famous paintings. Isabelle looks at a version of The Water Lilies
by Monet. This particular painting from the series was in the Art Institute of Chicago when the apocalypse is meant to have started, but she reminisces about going to look at it in the Musée d’Orsay before the outbreak. Someone should have done a quick Google or maybe dipped into Wikipedia while writing this scene. Daryl says the painting reminds him of home, and I assume he is thinking either of the image we saw at the start of his flashback in Episode 1 – the lake where he said goodbye to Carol – or of the lake lined with Cherokee roses where he stood with Carol in season 2 of The Walking Dead
. Or maybe he loved ponds as a kid, who really knows. I’ve already expended too much energy on this painting, more than the writers did, anyway. Isabelle turns to look at him for a long moment and expresses her pleasure that the paintings should have been saved. I would expect nothing less from a nation as refined as France, which is, if you recall, a magnificently cultured country.
Fallou whistles at them, and Isabelle goes to him while Daryl stares expressionlessly at The Water Lilies
for a while longer. He joins Isabelle and Fallou to talk to a man, Bernard, about a boat to America. The man refuses to provide any information until he sees what they have to trade. Someone watches them from an upstairs balcony as Isabelle opens the bag to reveal her stash of drugs. Bernard says he knows people who can help them.
Emile and Sylvie are dancing. When Sylvie asks where Emile learnt to dance, he says his grandmother, an Argentinian refugee, taught him two things: to dance, and to fight for freedom. How poetic
. My grandmother tried to teach me to crochet but failed.
Bernard tells Daryl that they want the drugs before they help him. Daryl notices a few other thugs watching them, and he gets suspicious. Fallou and one of the men argue, and Bernard draws a switchblade. Daryl punches him, takes Isabelle by the arm, and begins to lead her away.
A British voice asks if there is a problem. It is Quinn, looking mad sexy with his hair slicked back. Isabelle gapes at him. Quinn reprimands Bernard for bringing a weapon into the club and cuts his face as punishment, holding out the knife for the drag queen to take once he is done. “Boys will be boys,” Coco says.
Quinn greets Izzy, smiling in a way which suggests it hurts him to see her again. Adam Nagaitis is very, very good. Daryl, still as clueless as he has been for most of this episode, stares at Quinn blankly, and I almost mistake him for one of the marble statues that decorate the club. Quinn asks about Daryl, and Isabelle says they are friends, travelling together. Daryl wants to get back to America.
Anna finishes a song and leaves the stage. She grabs a drink and watches Quinn talking to Isabelle and Daryl. Laurent approaches and compliments her singing. He is wandering free in the nightclub because everyone responsible for him is dancing or dealing drugs. Anna asks if Isabelle and Daryl are the boy’s parents. He shows her the picture of his mother. “She’s very pretty,” says Anna, just like Daryl did. The echo of the line seems to serve no purpose other than to establish that yes, Lily was pretty. Laurent admires Anna’s necklace, a large Eiffel Tower pendant. Perhaps Emile has been giving him conversational classes after all. Someday, the boy tells Anna, he will see the Tower himself. She gives him her necklace to remember his mother by.
Quinn offers to get information about a boat to America. Laurent comes over and shows the group the necklace. Quinn asks Isabelle if the boy is hers, and she tells him Laurent is Lily’s son. Quinn’s expression shifts, his smile fading as he says Laurent has his mother’s eyes. Daryl lurks statue-like in the background.
Sylvie appears and Isabelle tells her to take Laurent to the rooftop with the others. Daryl asks Isabelle if she is all right, and she reminds him they have a deal and she will do her part. “You sure?” he says. Finally a chance to get home, and he is hesitating. Incredible.
Quinn orders three glasses of wine at the bar, and Anna hugs him from behind, calling him “boss.” When she asks who his friends are, he says “Business,” and walks away from her. She gazes after him forlornly.
The nightclub owner takes Isabelle and Daryl to his office, a bunker in which generals hid during World War II. We get a brief history lesson, in which we learn the bunker was used by both sides in the war, and Quinn admires the “pragmatism” of “swinging both ways,” which sounds frankly kinky. He pours champagne for Isabelle, but she doesn’t take it. She outgrew it, she tells him. The subtext is searing
. Daryl lurks again, and eyeballs Quinn.
The nightclub owner is startled by the revelation that Isabelle became a nun, and he offers his condolences on Lily’s death. He expresses resentment at the fact that Isabelle didn’t tell him he had a son, and we realize that he is Laurent’s biological father. Isabelle doesn’t get it. Looking at Daryl for some manly understanding, Quinn remarks that a boy ought to know his father. Isabelle says Lily never told her Quinn was the father, and he says the pregnancy was a mistake. Wrap it up, fellas, it’ll save you a lot of trouble. Isabelle accuses him of killing Lily. “And I saved you,” he replies, grabbing her scarred wrist. Warily, Daryl steps closer to them. “Who was it found you bleeding in the bathtub? Picked you up and carried you to the hospital? Nursed you back to health?”
Daryl wants them to leave, but Isabelle is determined to uphold her side of their bargain, even though the terms are now that Quinn gets to spend time with Laurent. Daryl says, “Fuck him, I don’t need a boat this bad.” I’d like to intervene at this point and say yes, he does, but he leaves, telling Isabelle to follow him.
In the hallway, she marches past Daryl, who apologizes. She is angry because he interfered. “Look, we all got shit from our past we’re trying to run from, not just you,” he says. Huh? You didn’t run here, bro, you got washed up on a beach, and this is an odd time to take a deep dive into your psyche with a woman you barely know. I guess she did see you naked that one time though. Isabelle says she was wrong earlier, they’re not the same at all, and Daryl tells her he isn’t the one she’s really mad at. She makes a cutting remark about him and his promise being the reason they’re in Paris at all. “That’s all you care about, isn’t it?” she says. “I don’t need a hero.” This is an obvious paraphrase of a line Carol said to him in season 10 of The Walking Dead
(cross lazy Carol pastiche
off your Daryl Dixon
bingo card), and completely nonsensical given that Isabelle conned Daryl into staying with them precisely because she needed…a hero.
Back at Fallou’s settlement, Laurent lies in bed and asks Sylvie what it will be like at the Nest. She tells him it will be safe, and there will be more of them who believe the same thing. I wish I knew what that actually was. Sonia, the widow at Fallou’s settlement, said Laurent made her feel loved, and he doesn’t understand why. “You give them hope,” says Sylvie.
In the Demimonde, Coco is lip-syncing a song. Cabaret dancers perform on the bridge over the stage, and people dance. Codron arrives with two guerriers
, and when he is spotted, the music fades and everyone moves off the dance floor. Quinn greets Codron. The nightclub owner has an arrangement with Genet whereby the Demimonde is off limits to her soldiers. But Codron is here looking for an American. Ten points and a fresh baguette to the first person who guesses his name.
It is storming outside. At Fallou’s settlement, Daryl packs his bag petulantly, which he does periodically throughout the series although we never see him unpacking it. Isabelle apologizes to him. She was overwhelmed by the meeting with Quinn. She tells him she doesn’t believe in coincidences: she was fated to come to Paris and find out the truth about Laurent’s father. Somewhat acidly, Daryl tells her she’s welcome. “Don’t be like that,” she says. “You don’t need me here anymore,” he replies, and she says Laurent will be sad to see him go. Evidently it is not Daryl’s fighting skills that are the main attraction now, but Laurent’s fondness for him. He tells Isabelle sarcastically to make something up, because she’s really good at that, and she waxes melancholy about the trauma of Laurent’s birth. Daryl tells her to stop lying to Laurent and tell him about Quinn, so he can make up his own mind about who he wants to be. They bicker over the boy, Daryl accusing Isabelle of needing to believe Laurent is special so she doesn’t have to face how “fucked up” the world is.
Laurent appears behind Isabelle. He has overheard, and yells in French that he hates them both. Downstairs, there is shouting, and a group of armed guerriers
bursts in with Codron, asking where the American is. Laurent flees. Daryl tells Isabelle to get Laurent and meet him at her old apartment. Codron chases the American. They fight on a rooftop while the brass section goes wild. Thunder crashes overhead as Daryl throttles Codron, but soldiers start firing on them, so the American grabs his tiny flail and runs away. Elsewhere, Isabelle is searching for Laurent, calling his name. Daryl steps onto an old section of roof and falls through it.
The episode ends. In it, we have learnt that Isabelle upgraded from Quinn to God, we have seen Sylvie downgrade from God to Emile, and we have been repeatedly reminded that France is a country of immense culture, staggering sophistication, and remarkable artistry. Now, a prayer of thanks that we have reached the halfway mark of season 1.