"Daryl is lonely": Norman Reedus
Which is why I think we’ll see more of Daryl, in his own tentative, fumbling, socially unsure way trying to connect to people. He’s gotten past the point where he doesn’t trust people and wants them to stay away from him. He’s connected with Carol based on his own big heart (it was Daryl that instigates that friendship and while she pursues it when he tries to retreat, he’s the one that made the first gesture) and he very obviously wants to be friendly with Rick. In both cases Daryl picks out who he wants to befriend. In Carol he sees someone he has something in common with, someone who can understand being hurt and picked on and neglected. So he makes the first gesture of goodwill with the rose. From there Carol takes notice that Daryl’s more than he seems and better than others think him and even when Daryl has no other recourse for emotions than violence, she sticks with him. Everyone else might have given up on him (again), but he’d chosen to befriend the one person willing to work with his issues with him. Once he realizes that, he visibly calms down.
With Rick, Daryl again makes the first gesture of friendship. Sure Rick went back to Atlanta with him for Merle, but that was more because Rick felt guilty for leaving someone. Later, Rick recognizes Daryl as useful and puts him in charge of some things, but Rick is so wrapped up in his Shane and Carl and Lori issues and Daryl so wrapped up on Sophia that there is only a working partnership. But then in “Judge, Jury and Executioner”, Daryl acts as a friend for Rick in putting down Dale. Yes, it might be seen as taking the duties of a second in command, but I don’t doubt that Daryl did it out of the kindness of his surprisingly large heart. He’d already expressed admiration and respect for Rick and his actions were those of a friend, not just a person in a group. He recognized Rick’s pain and felt compelled to do something about it. That’s Daryl’s MO really, to DO something. He’s not a talker, he’s a doer and his way of expressing any kind of caring seems to be to act on his feelings. Rick recognizes the enormity of what Daryl is willing to do and their relationship changes. They’re not to the small talk stage yet, but I think with his immediate jumping to Rick’s defense, Daryl sees him as a friend.
Then there’s the one person that we HAVE seen Daryl small talk with. Andrea. Again, it’s Daryl’s actions that form a bond. He’s the only one to ask her if she really wants to live or not. He doesn’t judge her, just accepts her answer. She’s the only one we see get real back story from him. It’s not that Daryl is willfully mean, he just doesn’t know HOW. Much like an abused animal, he’s wary. He doesn’t want to go running out to a bunch of people who could hurt him again. He’s tentative in who he trusts. The proverbial loud noise still scares him and causes him to lash out. The death of Sophia was a loud noise that sent him retreating and snarling until Carol coaxes him back out. But in all that, he’s a good friend even if he doesn’t know quite how to function as one. One of his most striking features is that he’s a listener. He listens to Andrea when no one else will and when Carol is mourning he doesn’t say anything, just sits with her. He knows more about what’s going on in Rick’s mind than Rick does.
So yes, Daryl is lonely, but he’s also good and I think because of that earns his own place and maybe some friends.