The opening minutes of The Walking Dead episode “Diverged” set the tone for this penultimate bonus episode of season 10 before we enter another hiatus. It follows on from 10×18 “Find Me,” which saw Carol and Daryl have a blow-out argument, arising from a culmination of the events of season 10 and Daryl’s revelation that he had a romantic relationship with a stranger named Leah during his time living in the woods.
The argument at the end of “Find Me” brought to the surface issues from both Carol and Daryl about Carol’s propensity to run when she finds things too hard to cope with mentally and Daryl’s need to save everyone and drown in guilt when he can’t.
In many ways, it was an argument where each was accusing the other of their own perceived faults, and hearing the words, they say to themselves in their darkest moments echoed back to them from their closest friend clearly burns deep.
As “Diverged” opens, we see it’s the next morning after the pair holed up in Leah’s cabin for the night. They are back on the road to Alexandria with the meager findings from their hunting attempts. The tension is palpable as they walk a shady path in silence, Dog keeping pace between them.
Carol and Daryl are struggling with their emotional divide in the opening minutes of The Walking Dead’s latest episode, “Diverged”
Clearly, neither knows how to be or what to say after their fight, and it becomes very obvious what Carol’s current feelings are when, struggling to open her water canister, Daryl offers to do it for her. Carol ignores the offer, putting her canister away. Truly at that moment, she’d rather die of thirst than accept his help. Only when Daryl offers her a pen-knife to help her do it herself does she concede.
Carol does instigate conversation, at least, expressing worry about the amount of food they will be returning with. It’s obviously a major concern and one which may reverberate on through the starts of season 11. While outside threats are always a major worry, the most basic necessities – an ample supply of food – seem to be dwindling in Alexandria.
Daryl, for his part, at this point, does seem to be making tentative steps to normalize things or make up for what’s happened, as he compliments Carol that she always makes things work.
It’s very much “married couple had a fight” vibes of cold shoulders and simmering resentment, and they continue in that vein as Daryl reveals he’s not returning to Alexandria with Carol. When he offers her a ride anyway, it’s again rejected coolly, as Daryl’s attempts to cross the great divide between them fall to the ground like lead.
For a moment, it seems as though Daryl is considering apologizing, but Carol cuts him off that he doesn’t need to apologize. Whatever Daryl had considered saying at that point is shut back in his vault, and he hardens up with the same stubbornness she’s radiating. “I was just going to wish you good luck,” he responds.
It’s an odd phrase as Carol is returning home with some food in her bag, not particularly a situation you’d wish someone luck for – she’s not going out on a mission. But Carol wishes him luck back, and we’re reminded of Carol’s biting end to their argument the night before: “I was right, our luck’s run out, you and I.”
It appears tentatively, or subconsciously they both are holding onto that thread of their relationship, hoping there’s some luck left in the world and it can be theirs. Fearing but hoping it’s not the end of the road for them.
As the episode description says, “Daryl and Carol come to a fork in the road and head their separate ways. Each going into their own type of survival mode, the easiest of challenges become much harder”, and we see them come to that moment in these opening minutes.
Two paths, breaking their tie – something they’ve done hundreds of times before, but this time it’s different. This time the distance between them is emotional as well as physical. It’s almost like a trial separation, as they question can I make this a new way of life without this person by my side as the other part of me?
Over the years, the two have become so close that they can work in a perfect team, almost reading each other’s minds. Now they are out of sync with each other, and “Diverged” explores what happens to them individually when that’s the case.
How badly will it affect them? Even if there’s no “Big Bad” pressing on them and they’re not in the midst of war or espionage, every day, their lives are in a battle. How much harder do these everyday trials they face become when you are distant from your person, and all you can think about is them; the last things you said to each other; the worst things you said to each other; and if it will ever be the same again.
And to add insult to injury, how much of a kick in the teeth is it to be feeling all that and have your beloved dog chose the other person in a Kramer vs. Kramer moment?
As they finally split into their separate paths, Dog has a choice to make, and he chooses Carol, much to Daryl’s chagrin. Is it perhaps a symbol of who was more right, or who more needs Dog’s comfort, or maybe just who had more food? We’ll find out in “Diverged,” which airs this Sunday, 28 March at 9 pm on AMC.