Dog acts as Daryl’s proxy in The Walking Dead’s 1021 Diverged

Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier, Dog - The Walking Dead _ Season 10, episode 18 - Photo Credit: Eli Ade/AMC
Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier, Dog - The Walking Dead _ Season 10, episode 18 - Photo Credit: Eli Ade/AMC /

Through 10 years of The Walking Dead, we have seen Carol (Melissa McBride) hit many low points, and through them all, Daryl (Norman Reedus) was always by her side, comforting her and helping her through it. But after the events of “Find Me,” where the pair had a fight unlike any other, we find Carol in “Diverged” without her usual source of comfort.

In the aftermath of their fight and the hurtful accusations and statements thrown at Carol by Daryl – blaming her for Connie’s fate and saying he should never have convinced her to stay – Daryl is the one person, Carol can’t turn to for comfort. “Diverged” follows Carol on how she then behaves when her usual coping methods are taken out of her reach.

She refuses to run again; Ezekiel (who offered a warm bed and a friendly shoulder when Daryl was raging at her after the cave collapse) is away; Rick and Michonne are gone; Maggie is likely not in a space to comfort her after the Negan revelations… So, where does Carol turn?

Thankfully, a couple of sources of warmth and heart around to offer succor – namely the hunk of warm bread in human form that is Jerry and the less talkative but just as huggable Dog.

In “Diverged,” Dog keeps Carol company and seems to be dishing out the comfort Daryl usually provides.

When Carol and Daryl reach the fork in the road that will take them down separate paths, Daryl assumes his dog will follow him. Yet, after some serious consideration on Dog’s part, he decides his place is by Carol’s side right now, and he follows her down her road, home to Alexandria.

It’s unclear exactly why Dog makes that choice. On Talking Dead, Melissa McBride mentioned that Carol had been giving Dog treats and that might be why, but when Cooper Andrews (Jerry) brings up why Dog left Leah – in the first place – for Daryl back in that past, episode director David Boyd gives a big thumbs up.

As McBride says, “Dogs are very instinctive like that,” and it seems that Dog senses something that told his doggy instincts that Daryl would be okay on his own and that Carol needed him more at that time – just like he kept leaving Leah for Daryl when Daryl was alone in the woods at his lowest point.

It’s clear from that point onwards that Dog is acting as a proxy for Daryl. He’s like Daryl’s Patronus or familiar that Daryl has sent to look after Carol, albeit subconsciously.

When Carol returns to Alexandria, she heads straight to Daryl’s room to return Dog to his home. In a way, it’s very much like the scene in “Morning Star” where – after the cave collapses and Daryl’s rage at Carol is obvious – Ezekiel tracks Carol to Daryl’s campsite, where he knew she’d go when she needed comfort.

This time she’s in Daryl’s Alexandria space, and Dog is her excuse to be there. And it’s clear how much it comforts her just to be there in a place that is so much Daryl; even the fact it smells of him seems to be a pleasant thought to her troubled mind.

Telling Dog she doesn’t need an apology from Daryl, and an apology wouldn’t fix anything, is obviously what she had wanted to say on the road to Daryl himself. But his reply had shut her down, so now she tells Dog instead.

Even Dog’s rambunctiousness and messing up of Daryl’s room is symbolic of the whirlwind that Daryl just dropped into their relationship with his revelations about Leah and his angry words to Carol about her behavior. Dog’s chasing a rat he’s never going to find, just like Daryl spent years chasing Rick’s ghost.

The harsh words Carol then dishes out to Dog for his misbehavior becomes a metaphor for the fight with Daryl and the resulting tension between them. But in this proxy version of their relationship, Carol goes to Daryl’s room and makes amends, perhaps foreshadowing that Carol will be the one to take the step and close the gap between them in the future.

When Dog then follows Carol to bed, we finally see the fight gone from Carol as she succumbs to the comfort Dog is offering to her and opens up about the thoughts running through her mind; thoughts about running away and getting out of everyone’s hair.

She asks Dog what he thinks on that notion knowing he can’t answer her, and say, “If you go, I won’t stop you,” the way Daryl did in their argument. We, the audience, know that of all the things Daryl said in the heat of the moment, that’s probably the thing he rejects most. He doesn’t want Carol to leave (but he does want her to stay because she wants to, not out of obligation to him), and Dog – being the good Daryl proxy he is – takes that moment to lavish Carol with face kisses and forceful snuggles.

That unconditional love and acceptance at the perfect moments seems to force any notions of running from Carol’s mind, and instead, she settles down and admits she misses Daryl.

Although it’s Daryl, she wants to have told her not to leave, not Dog; in many ways Dog’s love is the only one she can handle right now. She’s struggling to tell Daryl her true feelings about everything she’s been going through, all her fears and desires, but she can tell Dog. She’s ready to be open with him in a way she hasn’t found to be with Daryl.

The extent that her mind is still in turmoil is then revealed when she tears apart the drywall looking for the troublesome rat that’s keeping her and Dog awake. She’s lashing out at everything, at walkers and Alpha and Negan and Daryl and herself.

When she finally reaches the end of her rampage, she slides down the wall to the floor, breathless and emotionally spent, and immediately Dog comes over and lies right beside her. Just like Daryl has been by her side time and time again.

It echoes the way Daryl held Carol back when they came across Henry’s head on the spike and even transports us all the way back to season 2 when Sophia walked out of the barn and Daryl dedicated himself to just sitting with Carol in the RV, silently, as she came to terms with what had happened.

Next. The Walking Dead: Robert Kirkman shares some TWDU updates. dark

Daryl may be in his feels right now and struggling with dealing with Carol and her with him, yet throughout “Diverged,” somehow they manage to stay connected. And when Carol was at her low points, unsure how to move forward with her pain and uncertainty, Daryl was still present, beside her, comforting her and reassuring her she was a person worthy of love and a place in that home, in the form of Dog. Hopefully, it won’t be long until Daryl finds himself able to deliver that message in person, and Carol will be in a place to accept it the way she did with Daryl’s furry familiar.