|This article is about the TV Series character. You may be looking for his Comic Series, Assault or Road to Survival counterparts.|
- "Don't you see that if we do this, the people that we were, the world that we knew is dead? And this new world is ugly, it's harsh, it's survival of the fittest! And that's a world I don't want to live in."
- —Dale to the group about executing Randall[src]
Dale's age, calm experience, and RV provide the nucleus around which the small community of survivors formed. He is shown to be honest, reasonable and protective. He is sometimes profound, and is the elder of the group, though is also rather feisty, not afraid to speak his mind and call others out for mistakes in judgment. He attempts to serve as "the moral compass" of the group.
Over time he, Andrea, and Amy form their own little family unit and he finds spending time with them has helped bring him back to life in a way he never anticipated, as it gives him somebody he can attempt to control. Dale is a fairly self-sufficient man, and ever watchful of the changing dynamics among the survivor community.
Dale was married to a woman named Irma for years. Early in their marriage, they had attempted to have a baby, but it ultimately miscarried, which led them to not try again. At some point later, she had developed cancer. Despite Dale bringing her to several doctors, she had already accepted the disease and her eventual death, much to his dismay. Once he retired from his job, he planned to take his wife traveling with him across the country in a new RV he bought, but she died before that could happen.
Her death brought him into a great depression and he found himself not caring about anyone around him. He decided to take his RV and do the trip alone. When the outbreak began, he first encountered Andrea and Amy in distress, and the three of them soon joined up with Shane's group and settled in a quarry on the outskirts of Atlanta. He cared increasingly for Andrea and Amy during their stay at the camp-site, and used his RV as a type of "command post" for the group.
Dale is first seen as Amy tries to respond to Rick Grimes' calls over the radio as he drives to Atlanta. He initially doubts that anyone could hear them but is then surprised (as well as relieved and excited) to hear a voice on the other line.
As Lori Grimes goes to pick berries and mushrooms in the forest, she has Dale watch over her son. Dale tells Lori to stay close within shouting distance as he is on lookout duty atop his RV. Later, he is repairing his RV with another survivor and tells Amy to relax when she worries about the others. He later receives T-Dog's radio call from Atlanta, learning of their troubled situation.
When the other survivors return, he greets all of them back. He also introduces himself to Rick. Later that night, Rick sits around the fire and tells his story to the group and decides what to do about telling Daryl Dixon about his brother Merle Dixon. The next day, Dale strips Glenn Rhee's stolen car until he, along with others, find a walker eating a dead deer that wandered nearby the campsite. When Rick decides to go back to Atlanta for the Sheriff's Bag of Guns and Merle, he asks Dale for some tools, mainly a pair of bolt cutters to cut the chain and handcuffs to save Merle. Dale snivels about loaning out tools but then hands them over, he then continues to watch over the campsite on top of his RV.
The next day he's on lookout duty and observes Andrea and Amy fishing on the lake. He then notices Jim strangely digging holes on the hillside. He decides to check up on Jim and offers him water, but Jim acts strange and refuses water, leaving Dale worried and confused. He returns to camp and alerts the other survivors about Jim's delirious behavior. Dale approaches Jim once again, with Shane, Lori, and several others. Lori explains that his actions are scaring people and Shane tries to reason with Jim, in which he responds with hostility so Shane detains him. Later that evening, Dale finds Andrea in the RV looking for wrapping paper for Amy's birthday gift, in which he responds that he doesn't have any, but will try to look for something as a substitute. That night, during the fish feast, he enjoys the food and company of his friends.
When asked about his watch and how he is always winding it, he speaks of time and paraphrases a passage from William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury. Moments later, the camp is attacked by walkers and he helps defend the remaining survivors.
The morning after the attack, he helps some of the other men burn, chop up, or bury the dead. While walking through the forest he is shocked to discover Shane pointing his shotgun at Rick from afar. Shane explains his behaviour by saying that he thought Rick was a Walker, and suggests the survivors start wearing high-vis jackets. Dale, however, remains suspicious. He and everyone else is at a crossroads when they learn that Jim has been bitten, and struggle to decide what has to be done with him. When they argue about granting the man's wish to be left to die, he notes specifically that this is what Jim wants and that his say is the only one that matters. He and the rest give their goodbyes to him and leave for the CDC.
Dale and the rest of the group are admitted into the CDC by Dr. Edwin Jenner after going through a blood test to ensure none of them are infected. He is introduced to the luxuries the facility has to offer, including hot water and real beds. He enjoys dinner and wine with everyone. He tries to comfort Andrea in light of her losing her sister but she just tells him that "Everything is gone". He later learns about TS-19 and Dr. Jenner's work, and the fall of the CDC's infrastructure. He asks Jenner about the countdown timer and Dr. Jenner reveals the purpose of the timer and shuts the control room's door. As the survivors finally get Edwin to open the door for their escape, he attempts to flee with Andrea, but she opts to remain behind. Dale manipulatively states that he is going to stay with her against Andrea's wishes after explaining that she doesn't get to make him care about her and just leave him. At the last minute Dale and Andrea run out of the CDC and take cover as it explodes.
Dale and Andrea's friendship is put into question when Dale refuses to give Andrea the gun her father gave her in fear of her possibly repeating her suicidal intentions she attempted at the CDC building at the end of Season 1. Dale implies he saved her life, and after a snappy remark from Andrea he claims he would just like some gratitude from her. This stirs up angry feelings in Andrea and causes her to reveal to Dale that after Amy died, all she wanted to do was to stop living in the current apocalypse, and the only reason she decided to leave the building was because she did not want Dale's blood on her hands. She claims he "stole" her one escape from the supposed nightmare they are living, and that she was not his problem to worry about or take care of. This drives a deserved wedge between the two.
There is a small confrontation with Dale and T-Dog where they watch over the RV while the group is looking for Sophia Peletier. During this time, T-Dog starts to get a fever and is delirious from the cut he suffered on his arm prompting him to feel as if him and Dale are the "odd men out" in the group because Dale is old and 'weak' while T-Dog is the "only black man". He explains to Dale how he feels and implies they should take the RV and leave together, Dale, being the rational man he is, suspects something is wrong with T-Dog and feels his forehead, realizing T-Dog has a severe fever, possibly due to infection, and attempts to take care of him.
Dale finally hands Andrea her gun and tells her he acknowledges the decisions he made were not his to make. Still fearing her suicidal tendencies, he tells her not to make him regret giving her gun back. Dale then asks if she forgives him, Andrea responds by telling him she's trying to.
Dale is obviously wary of Shane when Shane retells Otis's death by his facial reactions. He also helps with the well walker, saving T-Dog's life before he could drink the contaminated water.
Dale brings the bag of guns to the group and distributes them among the group to help continue the search for Sophia. Jimmy attempts to grab one but Rick stops him due to his lack of training and using weapons. Later, Dale and Glenn have a talk about the women in the group about their behaviours lately and about Glenn's relationship with Maggie Greene. Dale questions Glenn and asks "Did it ever occur to you how her father might feel about this?" but Glenn answers he just thought about the whole situation and the world being overrun by walkers. When Daryl comes back to the farm looking like a walker, Andrea prepares to shoot him but Dale tells her not to. Not listening to Dale, Andrea shoots Daryl and injures him. Dale comforts her and tells her that everyone wanted to shoot Daryl at one point. Later he joins both groups of survivors for the well prepared dinner by the women.
Dale and Glenn talk about things that have happened in the camp and Glenn reveals of Lori's pregnant state and Hershel Greene's barn full of walkers. Dale confronts Hershel about the barn full of walkers but Hershel saying that the walkers are still people. Dale tries to make Hershel see what the walkers truly are but Hershel replies saying that his wife and step-son are in the barn and that Dale should keep quiet about it. Back at the camp, Dale talks with Lori about how his wife had miscarried and assures her that the baby can have good memories, but he sits in silence when Lori asks if he thinks her child could live a long life. Dale confronts Shane about the night Otis died and brings up Shane’s attempted murder of Rick. Dale tells him its time for him to leave because he knows who he really is, leading Shane to challenge Dale and threaten him.
At breakfast, Dale signals Glenn to reveal about Hershel's barn full of walkers. At the barn, Dale tells Rick that Hershel sees the walkers as just sick, and that his wife and step-son are in the barn. Back at the RV, Andrea and Dale talk about Shane with Dale telling Andrea not to trust him and that she doesn't really know him. Andrea asks him to stop worrying about her. As she leaves, Dale asks Glenn for water. With Glenn gone, he takes the survivors' weapons and sneaks away from the camp. While in the swamps, Dale is tracked down by Shane. Dale is in the process of hiding the guns from Shane when he is spotted. Shane confronts Dale and Dale asks if he’ll kill him like he did Otis. Shane says he wouldn't waste his time as he’s already dead. Demanding the guns again, Shane tells Dale the only way he’ll stop him from taking the guns is if Dale shoots him with his rifle. Dale holds the gun on him, but can’t pull the trigger. In the end, he returns the guns, but says that the new world deserves men like Shane and that he’d rather be who he was than a monster like Shane. Dale returns while the barn shooting is happening and stands there watching in horror of what Shane has done.
Dale is watching Shane from afar. Shane asks Dale what he has done to keep the camp safe, but Dale sits in silence and then Shane says when he needs a radiator hose, he will go to Dale. After the funeral, Andrea, and T-Dog pile corpses into Otis's truck, saying that Shane did what needed to be done. Dale protests, suggesting that a new problem with Hershel was created in the wake of resolving the safety concern of the barn walkers. Dale reveals to Lori that he believes Shane shot Otis and left him as bait to cover his escape, and that it's only a matter of time before he kills again.
Dale tells Andrea that Shane is dangerous and that Shane doesn't want Rick or Hershel to come back so he can be leader but Andrea doesn't believe him and walks off.
After Daryl finds out Randall's group is dangerous, Rick decides to kill him. Dale tells him that they can't just kill him. Rick tells him they will put it to the vote. Dale goes around asking people about it, but no one agrees with him. At the meeting, Dale makes an impassioned plea to the group to spare Randall, however he only gets Andrea to side with him. Although he apparently failed, Rick decides not to kill Randall when he sees Carl watching. Later, Dale is patrolling around the farm at night when he is attacked by a walker that Carl had seen earlier in the day and failed to tell anyone about as he had provoked it. Dale is then disemboweled by the walker and is in great pain when the others come to his aid. Rick tells Hershel that he needs to operate on Dale as he would not make the trip back inside, but Hershel silently tells Rick that Dale can't be saved. As Rick is unable to euthanize Dale, Daryl decides that he has to do it and takes Rick's gun and says "Sorry, brother." before putting him out of his misery.
A walker that Carl had previously been examining in the marshy lands near Hershel's farm freed itself after Carl provoked it while its legs were trapped, and wandered onto the property, killing a cow. Dale later patrols the grounds and stumbles across the cow. After hearing something behind him, Dale turns around and is ambushed by the walker. Although he was able to prevent himself from being bitten, the walker rips open Dale's stomach. Daryl, hearing Dale's cries for help, comes to his rescue and kills the walker. The rest of the group reaches the dying Dale, bleeding from his wounds. Rick demands that they move Dale to the house to operate on him, but Hershel informs him that he would be unable to save Dale in his critical condition. Carl, upon seeing the walker, realizes that he is partly responsible for what happened, and cries. Rick lifts his gun and points it at Dale's head in an attempt to put him out of his misery, but can not bring himself to do so. Instead, Daryl takes Rick's gun, points it at Dale and says, "Sorry, brother," before shooting him.
This list shows the victims Dale has killed:
- Numerous counts of zombies.
- Prior to Dale's death, it was reported that a cast member wanted to leave the show and then had a change of heart after original showrunner Frank Darabont was fired. This cast member was later assumed to be Jeffrey DeMunn. It was later confirmed by Chandler Riggs and Darabont that DeMunn departed from The Walking Dead due to Darabont's firing, but neither made mention of DeMunn changing his mind.
- Dale is one of only 3 main characters from the original Atlanta group to have never killed a living person, the others being Andrea and Lori Grimes.
- Dale's death shows irony.
- He comforts Andrea due to the fact that she feels bad for accidentally shooting and almost killing Daryl. He says "Besides, we've all wanted to shoot Daryl". Later on, when Dale gets mutilated by a walker, Daryl was the one to mercifully kill him by shooting him.
- Dale was also Daryl's first human kill.
- In the episode "The Distance" while the group is driving to Alexandria, their RV breaks down. Glenn then fixes the problem by replacing a dead battery; Abraham Ford asks how Glenn knows that, to which Glenn replies with a knowing smile. This, although not confirmed, could be a nod to the moments when Dale was teaching Glenn about how to fix the RV.
- The final five episodes of season 5 ("Remember", "Forget", "Spend", "Try", "Conquer") are all references to Dale's campfire story from season 1: "I like what the father said to the son when he gave him a watch that had been handed down through generations. He said: 'I give you a mausoleum of all hope and desire which will fit your individual needs, no better than it did mine and my father before me. I give it to you not that you may remember time, but that you may forget it. For a moment, now and then, and not spend all of your breath trying to conquer it.'"
- Dale's death has a coincidental poetic quality to it. He dies right after protesting the killing of Randall Culver, insisting that they should give him a fair shot like any civilized society would do. After his death, the group begins to shed any semblance of old norms and societal conditioning, committing more and more morally questionable acts. For the Atlanta group, Dale's death truly was the death of reason and civilization, much like what Dale lamented would happen.