Did The Walking Dead season 10 contain clues about the Carol and Daryl spin-off?
As the news of The Walking Dead ending and the Carol and Daryl spin-off sinks in, we look back with hindsight to see how Angela Kang was setting the groundwork for this spin-off.
We can assume such a huge move would have taken a great deal of preplanning, with an intent to set up lots of little seeds that will grow and take the characters in the direction needed.
In fact, if we go far back we can see Kang’s first chess move to create the Carol and Daryl spin-off was in splitting up Ezekiel and Carol at the end of season 9.
Of course, we don’t know if Carol and Daryl’s relationship will take a romantic turn or not, so it wasn’t necessarily about making Carol free for a relationship, but it was about making her free.
Ending her marriage to Ezekiel, following the death of their adopted son Henry, was a major part of cutting Carol’s strings free. Arguably only Henry would be Carol’s reason for staying in one place, and with him gone, and her marriage falling apart she was free to move on.
However, even in that freedom we saw at that point that she was choosing to go with Daryl back to Alexandria. Not choosing him over Ezekiel, but choosing him as her safe place to go when things got tough.
This fact was in fact reestablished in season 10 when we saw Ezekiel find Carol at Daryl’s empty camp after the cave explosion. Whatever the nature of their relationship, Carol’s safe place to go is wherever Daryl is, and that is where the major clues for the spin off come into it.
At the start of season 10 when Carol returns from some time at sea, she and Daryl spend the day together, shooting the breeze. The pair lament their life living fight to fight and wonder “is this all there is?”.
Their following conversation takes on a huge new weight with the hindsight we have now. Daryl says he gets what Maggie is doing with Georgie – travelling around, helping to build new communities – and wanting to find people like them and just stop fighting.
It’s Carol who suggests they leave, and head out west, to try and get away from the killing and fear they are living in.
Daryl specifically asks “Just run away together?” and after discussing the specifics of travel arrangements (no boats, but yes to the bike) Daryl agrees “No more fighting. Just get on the bike and go, see who’s left.”
Were this the 80s, that conversation would be played in voice-over in the titles of the spin-off show. It so completely encapsulates seemingly what the future holds for the pair.
It feels like Angela Kang was placing the map under our very noses during that entire scene, and we didn’t notice.
Carol and Daryl’s discussion about running away together to New Mexico (location of Daryl’s suggestion) is referenced another twice. Once at the end of this episode when Carol is convinced to stay put by the return of Alpha.
The second time it comes up is when Daryl is struggling in Alexandria with people getting sick whilst Hilltop is being attacked. Carol sees his struggle and says they should have gone to New Mexico after all.
Bringing it up again shows it’s something we shouldn’t forget about – it’s now Chekov’s Gun.
Before the season began, Angela Kang said the heart of season 10 was the story of Carol and Daryl, and as the season continued we saw how true that was.
In “Bonds”, we see Carol and Daryl working together as the well-oiled team we know they are. We have symbolism ahoy when Carol finds a double-capper acorn during their time watching what the Whisperer’s next move is.
Carol says the acorn is good luck, and Daryl pockets it, and later as they decide to cross into Whisperer territory to try and capture a prisoner, Daryl taps his pocket and says they have luck on their side.
Later still in “Open Your Eyes”, when things in Alexandria have disintegrated even further, along with Carol and Daryl’s relationship, we see Daryl carefully place the acorn in his room and stare at it contemplatively.
It clearly represents their relationship and the impenetrable bond they have. It’s another clue that no matter what happens, however they fall apart individually, and whatever the exact nature of their bond, it will always exist.
During their adventure in “Bonds”, there’s another piece of dialogue which seems to point to the spin-off, and Carol and Daryl’s future separate from the rest of their family.
As Carol tries to convince Daryl to cross the border and find themselves a Whisperer, Daryl is reluctant. He tries to convince Carol they should get back-up: “None of this middle of the night, no backup, just us stuff, alright?”
“Since when are we not enough,” is Carol’s reply. And she is right, because they succeed in their mission, just the two of them.
That’s the lesson we learn, that Carol and Daryl don’t need backup. They don’t need an army. They are an army of two, and “just us” is enough – both in terms of the fight, and support for each other.
At the end of season 9, we saw that the Kingdom had literally fallen apart, and this theme continued in season 10, with Hilltop burning, and now the entire group are nomads again after fleeing Alexandria due to the impending arrival of Beta’s horde.
This is another sign of the ties being severed, as their settlements fall and they don’t have a single base, creating a situation that might make it more likely for people to move on.
Obviously, this has already happened with former Alexandria leader Michonne departing to go looking for Rick, leaving behind Judith and RJ in the care of the rest of the family.
This leads to perhaps the most subtle but meaningful clue we have had this season, in “The Tower”.
Judith has gone out in the woods alone, and is clearly struggling with Michonne’s departure. When she runs into Daryl and he tries to find out what’s going on, she opens up that she’s afraid she’ll lose Daryl too.
Some may have expected Daryl to return with a promise he’ll never leave her and will always look after her – but he doesn’t.
Daryl instead says he can’t promise he’ll never leave her, but that she should know there are a lot of people who love her and will kill for her.
This shows that Angela Kang and her writers are already thinking about how Daryl will leave the mini Grimes, and it’s been backed by the show-runners who have repeatedly talked about the “takes a village” to raise a child when asked about Judith’s future care.
It seems, as is so often the case with TWD, that when you look back you can see the stoyr unfolding before your eyes. But like a jigsaw, only when all the pieces are in place can you see the whole picture.
When the finale airs next month, no doubt we’ll see more of the jigsaw puzzle pieces that will create the full picture that tells us how and why Daryl and Carol leave their family behind and go it alone.