Carol, Leah and Daryl parallels in The Walking Dead’s 1018

The Walking Dead episode, “Find Me,” has a timeline that’s far from linear. It meanders through time like the river that winds its way through the heart of the episode. Yet, there is a specific shape built into the narrative which defines the story within – and that’s a triangle.

Though it’s not the traditional kind of triangle seen on drama shows.  Given the separate timelines of Leah and Carol’s interactions with Daryl, it would be almost impossible for them to create the traditional love-triangle where they are both in love with him, and he must chose. In those triangle, the characters form the permanent 3 corners of the shape,  with the only movement being the direction the love is flowing down the straights. That isn’t what “Find Me” does.

Instead find Me creates a triangle where the 3 characters are constantly shifting places in how they relate to each other, and the parallels these shifts create.

It is most obvious that Leah and Carol would parallel each other, given their relationships to Daryl and their place in the episode, and in much of the episode, they do. We see direct comparisons between these two women throughout.

“Find Me” creates multiple parallels between Daryl, Carol and Leah.

The most obvious parallel being the spearfishing scenes, where we see Daryl mildly mock their skills only to be proven wrong by both, in their separate times, with laughter and good humor. But there are other parallels too, including Leah’s ability to handle herself, and her choice to stay in the cabin by herself.

It can’t have escaped Daryl’s thoughts, seeing Leah in the cabin alone, remembering when he found Carol’s cabin outside the Kingdom in “New Best Friends.” That cabin was the place Carol had gone to be alone after the death of Sam and the Andersons; to deal with the way death was pressing in on her; to try to escape the killing. And when Leah confesses her own story, the similarities are there.

She too had escaped a troubled upbringing, found a family, and left them when the death pressed in, then lost her adopted son (at the time Carol’s adopted son is alive, but Daryl now will know that similarity). Leah chose to stay in the cabin alone, not seeing a soul for years.

That was the solitude Carol had tried for in her own cabin, but as she says death always catches up and she left to join the Kingdom and fight against the Saviors, who were killing her friends.

The women’s relationships with Daryl are similar, but not the same. We are reminded of that when both refer to him as a “hero.” When Daryl explains to Leah why he’s out in the woods alone, refusing to give up, she says “ever the hero, huh?” Whilst Carol tells him he doesn’t need to be hero all the time.

Carol’s relationship with Daryl is in a very different place, she knows him better than anyone and knows he feels he has to be the hero to fit in, but that he doesn’t need to do that to be accepted. While Leah barely knows him, senses his need to be the hero, but seems to admire that in him (for the time being). Certainly, his need to be out in the woods alone is something she feels a kinship for.

And that similarity between Leah and Daryl is one of the other parallels “Find Me” plays with. Even before the episode aired, it was promoted as Daryl having “met his match.” Here is a woman who is just like him, who can survive alone, who wants to be out there without anyone around. The similarities that she has in her past to Carol could also be applied to Daryl – the painful childhood, the found family determined to fight together, the great loss.

At various times during the episode, Leah and Daryl both tell the other to leave them alone. They don’t need anyone else’s help. They don’t want the other’s friendship. They seem to have the same resistance to friendship and affection, that they both get over in spite of each other.

When Carol expresses her fears that their luck has run out and death will catch up with them, Daryl tells her “Only if we let it”, and we discover later on that those are words that Leah said to Daryl when he expressed the same hopelessness.

And that is the third parallel going on in the episode, and possibly the most important one, the parallels between Daryl and Carol. At the heart of this episode, we see that Daryl recognizes himself in Carol and fearing for her the same thing she feared for him.

The second time we see Carol come to visit Daryl in a flashback, to tell him she can’t come around so often, Carol expresses her worry about him. She wants him to find peace. She is afraid she’ll lose him “because you don’t know when to stop.” Daryl reassures her she won’t; he just has things to do.

It’s the same fear Daryl has in the present day, Carol is reassuring him she won’t run, he won’t lose her, but he doesn’t believe her. And he uses the exact phrase Carol used to him, but he doesn’t express it as a concern. Instead, it’s an accusation, “You don’t know when to stop.”

In the fight they have at the end of the episode, he is doing exactly what Leah did to him. It’s an ultimatum – decide where you belong, and stay there. Go or stay but be in it wholeheartedly.

The title of the episode is a perfect reflection of the fact it’s one chasing game of “Find Me”, all about the lost and found. Whilst Daryl is looking for Rick, he is desperate for someone to find him, to tell him where he belongs. Dog finds him and gives him someplace that seems to fit, in Leah. Maybe he belongs with Leah because she’s there and she’s like him (and like Carol)? But still, when he’s with her, he keeps searching for Rick and himself.

Through all that time, Carol keeps visiting him, desperate not to lose him, wanting him to find himself and know where he belongs, but without pushing him to do so. And when it seems Carol is cutting him free completely, Daryl makes the decision – Leah is where he belongs, and though he’s lost her, he writes her the note. He still wants her to find him, give him a place to belong.

But in the end, it’s not Leah who finds him, not Dog. It’s Carol, who sometime later shows up with Henry and gives Daryl a reason to belong, a purpose, and brings him back to Hilltop. She finds him without ultimatums or shouting or anger. She finds him because she knows him best.

And when Henry questions why Daryl was still out there, Daryl says, “[Carol] knows where to find me.” To which Henry replies, “She shouldn’t have to.” Perhaps helping Daryl realize when you love someone, you should want to be by their side, so they never have to struggle to find you. A realization that Daryl is painfully, angrily trying to shout back to Carol now.

Whether Carol or Leah will be lost or found again seems like a future topic that will come up and may be a long-arc that will take us past these bonus episodes and into season 11 of The Walking Dead. All we can do is watch and find out.