The Walking Dead: Are Carol and Daryl finally about to get together?

Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier, Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon; group - The Walking Dead _ Season 10, Episode 6 - Photo Credit: Jace Downs/AMC
Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier, Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon; group - The Walking Dead _ Season 10, Episode 6 - Photo Credit: Jace Downs/AMC /

Will the end of season 10 finally bring the much longed-for romantic union between Carol and Daryl in The Walking Dead?

While The Walking Dead episode “Look at the Flowers” was a revealing episode in many ways, for me it gave me the final piece of the puzzle that told me that after 10 very long years, I believe Daryl and Carol are finally going to get together as a romantic couple.

It’s something I’ve always believed was “end game” but I was never sure where this end game would start. Now I feel it’s not only on the horizon but actually landing right at our feet in season 10.

It was clear to me that when Daryl was thrust into the middle of the breakup of Carol and Ezekiel’s marriage, showrunner Angela Kang had decided to focus on the Caryl relationship to an extent that it never has been before. My suspicion that it may turn romantic,began when the showrunner said that Daryl’s love-life, or lack thereof, would be addressed this year, and only intensified when she said that the Carol and Daryl dynamic would be a thread that would run through the season.

A relationship that has remained largely unspoken was suddenly going to be under the microscope, and when the premier gave us a scene clearly defining their relationship – setting out the relationship’s borders and dynamics  – it was clear to me that not only would those limits be pushed these but a relationship that was defined as “best friends” at the start of the season would be redefined by the end.

Of course, to many, it seemed like the redefinition would be negative, as we’ve seen Carol and Daryl split in a way they never have before, due to Carol’s recklessness in pursuing Alpha.

However, “Look at the Flowers” changed the course of destruction Carol was on, and we see that finally Carol decides not to take flight when things get tough. But most significantly, the episode deals with the issue of what Carol truly wants.

In the episode itself the question is left unanswered. We know her truest want is not to be alone, imaginary Alpha says so. We know it’s not to die, as she doesn’t choose that route, despite her subconscious Alpha taunting her into it. However I believe the clues are there for what it is she does want, and why she goes back.

It is Daryl that imaginary Alpha brings up as the one person Carol can’t lose. It’s the idea that Daryl won’t forgive her over what happened to Connie, that is her darkest fear. Daryl is the answer over and over again.

Yet more clearly than all of that, the answer to what Carol most wants was given to us much earlier in the season.

In “Ghosts”, we see Carol taking caffeine pills desperate to avoid sleep and the dreams she has. Everyone (including the audience) assumes it’s because her dreams are terrifying and dark, yet as the episode draws to a close we are let inside Carol’s unconscious mind. There we find only happiness and light, with Henry sitting at the breakfast table and Daryl as Carol’s husband in the kitchen.

That’s what Carol wants. That’s the secret she can’t tell Daryl, although he has begged. That’s the life she doesn’t think she deserves because as Lydia observed, she hates herself too much.

Except, it seems after “Look at the Flowers”, that has all changed for Carol and she’s ready to face the music, do what she can to get what she wants – just as she encouraged Eugene to go for it with Stephanie.

So you may say, okay that explains Carol’s side, but what about Daryl? And what about Connie?

For me there are several reasons I’ve seen that indicate why that connection isn’t going to be romantic.

Again, Angela Kang’s interview words are significant. She says clearly that for Daryl it’s a “long, slow process” to get into a romantic relationship. So as lovely as Daryl and Connie’s connection is, that rules her out. He simply hasn’t known her long enough to develop those kind of feelings for her, and there is only one person he has that long standing connection with.

The most telling evidence, for me however, is the scene in “Bonds” where Carol pokes and prods Daryl on his feelings for Connie.

It’s a common trope that could reveal Daryl’s hidden, denied feelings. However, that’s not how the scene is played. Daryl’s denial that it “isn’t like that” with Connie, are heartfelt and sincere with not a hint of embarrassment, spoken straight to Carol’s face. (And as Norman Reedus has said in many interviews, Daryl is a man who always tells the truth) Only when Carol repeatedly tries to question why he doesn’t have those feelings for Connie, does Daryl become evasive and embarrassed and avoid her gaze.

Could that be because the reason is sitting right next to him? Are his feelings for Carol why he’s not interested in perfect candidate Connie?

Everyone involved in the show has spoken about how huge it will be for Daryl to get a love-interest, how it’s one of the most talked about aspects of the show. Therefore, to my mind, were Connie it – the “one and done” as Norman has said – for Daryl, we would have seen his awkward hello with Connie the first time he saw her again after Carol’s questioning. Instead the show cut away.

I believe we’d also have seen greater interaction in the cave, with a focus on their relationship before Connie is separated from him. Instead the focus is entirely on his relationship with Carol.

And that is the key, Daryl has been focused entirely on Carol this season. We’ve seen the absolute lengths and depth of his love for her. We’ve seen him seriously consider leaving everyone else behind to run away to New Mexico with Carol. Daryl is all about Carol, and that leaves very little room for anyone else.

It’s a fact that was heavily symbolized in “Bonds” when Carol finds the conjoined acorns. She deems them lucky and Daryl immediately puts them in his breast pocket. The idea that they represent Carol and Daryl themselves is emphasized when Daryl says “we have luck on our side” and taps the pocket where the acorn resides.

Later we see Daryl carefully place the lucky acorn down in his room as he lies on his sofa with Dog, seemingly contemplating Carol’s words that he doesn’t have to be alone.

So it seems Daryl was perhaps on the verge of his own breakthrough with Carol, before the cave collapsed and Carol’s recklessness left him utterly at a loss. And yet, even then, he couldn’t bring himself to hate her.

Their bond has been reflected and expressed over and over again this season. From friendship bracelets to Negan calling Carol Daryl’s girlfriend, we are being made to look at their relationship to an extent we never have before, and I believe that has an end purpose.

In “Squeeze”, when Carol is frozen and lost in her own fear, Daryl repeatedly reaches out to her and pulls her through. When she’s stuck in the tunnel, he tells her to follow his light.

I believe that’s a metaphor for what’s been happening this season as a whole. Carol, stuck in her fear, like the missing watch hands in her dream stopping time – she can’t go forward or back until she is able to reach out to Daryl in the light and bring everything out in the open.

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When she walked back to the gates of Alexandria, and Daryl moved the gates that were parting them I believe that’s the first step in Carol finally unburdening herself. I believe we’ll see Daryl fully explain why it was never Connie, could never be Connie, and Carol finally express what it is she truly wants.

And, like Eugene, I hope she gets it.