Way back in season five of AMC’s The Walking Dead, there was an episode where Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Carol (Melissa McBride) journeyed through Atlanta together in an attempt to rescue Maggie’s sister Beth. It’ll go down as one of the show’s best.
The episode, “Consumed,” focused almost exclusively on the best relationship (full stop) in the series, as the two worked quietly together facing threats both big and small, conveying the pair’s thoughts, emotions, and bond without much dialogue at all. Tonight’s episode likewise let Carol and Daryl have the show practically to themselves, but with diminished results. However, even a ho-hum D&C Power Hour is a solid episode of The Walking Dead.
“Find Me” was even quieter than “Consumed,” as well as last week’s episode “Home Sweet Home,”—again, presumably due to shooting during the early days of the covid-19 pandemic. Only three people appear in the episode, and only two of them are on-screen together at the same time. There’s more dialogue between Carol and Daryl but less said, if you know what I mean.
The two set out ostensibly to hunt for food and whatever else they can find to help Alexandria rebuild, but really, Carol feels extremely guilty that her colony was another casualty in her personal war with Alpha and the Whisperers. A map that floats out of Daryl’s backpack, showing all the places he’s explored during the show’s years-long time-jump (back in season nine), proves he’s not done searching for Rick. Carol wants to run away and Daryl wants to run to something, but they both want to run. The episode spends half its time with Daryl and Carol and the other half filling us in on what happened to Daryl during those years he spent searching for Rick.
The short answer is this: He found Dog, then he found Dog’s owner, and then he fell in love.
I assume this episode has already sent fans onto their computers, typing tempestuously and being furious that Daryl would have a romantic—and sexual!—relationship with anyone other than Carol, and that this is a betrayal of the highest order. I’m confident many other people feel betrayed that Daryl has ended up having a relationship with a woman, when many fans have speculated, and hoped, that Daryl was something other than heterosexual. Of course, as we continue his story, we may very well find out he is not that, but part of the character’s allure, and one of the most interesting aspects of him, was that his sexuality has always been such a cipher that people could project their hopes upon.
Part of that mysterious allure ended tonight, when we got flashbacks to Daryl’s time meeting and…I’ll say, cohabitating with Leah (True Blood and X-Men Origins: Wolverine’s Lynn Collins), because the highlight reel of their year-long relationship conveys nothing that makes it feel like the two characters are actually in love. Part of it is their lack of screen time and how rushed their “love” story needs to be, but part of it is that Reedus and Collins have zero chemistry—or at least zero time to develop chemistry—together. What’s meant to be a defining part of Daryl’s life comes off as a one-night-stand that ends with Leah yelling at him to choose life with her, life back at Alexandria, or life searching for Rick. Daryl chooses Rick...for what seems like only a few hours, then changes his mind and runs back to Leah’s cabin only to see it’s been trashed and Leah is gone.
Maybe the pair’s relationship wouldn’t have seemed quite so shallow if the other half of the episode weren’t just Carol and Daryl sharing the same easy, incredibly intimate friendship that McBride and Reedus have forged over a decade-plus of working together. When the two eventually come across Leah’s abandoned cabin, Carol can sense Daryl’s pain and knows the best way to help him is by letting him process his feelings first. And when Carol reads a note that Daryl had left for Leah saying “I belong with you—find me” all she does after learning this bombshell revelation about her best friend is to wait and let Daryl tell her whatever he feels comfortable with. She knows exactly what he needs, and how he needs to be able to do it.
There’s simply no contest between Daryl and Carol’s relationship and Daryl and Leah’s relationship, and while it may be merely in my own head-canon, I’m fine with a guy who’s been basically alone for the last five years meets a girl who shares the same lifestyle and values, and to fall for her. But I think it’s important that Daryl chose Rick, his family—he even outright tells Leah he’s looking for his brother—first, before second-guessing himself and returning to the cabin. Even then, he doesn’t search for Leah. He just leaves her a note saying for her to find him (which will presumably happen in the Carol & Daryl spin-off series coming after The Walking Dead proper ends with season 11).
Meanwhile, Daryl has been hunting Rick for years, despite his apparent death. Do you really think he wouldn’t do the same for Carol, or more? Is there anyone who doubts Daryl would jump into an active volcano for Carol, regardless of her sins? Those two have a bond that’s bigger, deeper, and far more intimate. Carol clearly doesn’t care who Daryl threw fish at or who threw fish at him. It doesn’t change or diminish their relationship in the slightest.
That still doesn’t mean they can’t still have fights, though. It takes a lot to get Daryl truly riled up enough to lash out at someone verbally but seeing the embers of the life he (briefly) walked away from has made him very upset. So when Carol tells him to stop blaming himself for the people he’s lost—Rick, Leah, Connie—Daryl whips around and reminds Carol that Connie’s presumed death is on her and her obsession with Alpha and the Whisperers. Carol’s mildly regretful about Connie, but says she has no doubt what she did was right.
Carol may feel she did was right, but she’s aching with guilt over who and what paid the price for her starting the Whisperer War out of her desire to get vengeance on Alpha for killing Henry. Connie died, Hilltop burned, and Alexandria was destroyed as a result, and now she’s running away from the colony because she feels too guilty to stay. Carol has a habit of running when the going gets tough for her emotionally, and Daryl, rightly I think, tells her he’s sick of always trying to talk her out of running instead of facing her demons and helping the people she may have hurt. “You want to run? Run,” he says. “I know where I’m supposed to be.”
Carol, wounded and shocked, whispers the words that are supposed to be so final, so conclusive: “Our luck’s run out, you and me.” But here’s her next line: “It’s going to be dark soon; I’m going to fix the door.”
That’s Carol and Daryl—they can have the worst fight of their lives, and they’re still going to be comfortable enough to stay together. They’re both hurting, and yes, things got ugly, but no one in the world can help Carol and Daryl work through their pain is Daryl and Carol, respectively. Maybe this fight will go on for a few episodes, but I doubt it. Either way, this is a soulmates’ spat. They simply need each other too much, far more than Daryl ever needed Leah. And if nothing else, AMC needs to get them back together before their Carol & Daryl Power Hour spin-off series starts production.
- I was all set to tear into TWD for saying Daryl had “frostnip” when the problem was clearly frostbite. Then I spent half a second on Google and learned frostnip is extremely real, and is the uncomfortable period your extremities experience before becoming officially frostbitten. The more you know!
- Daryl, I know you’re the survivalist and not me, but as a former librarian, I can tell you with some authority that when it’s pouring rain and you’re outside, its best to keep your valuable, hand-drawn paper map in your pocket and not, say, completely exposed to the elements.
- The only part of Daryl and Leah’s “courtship” that worked for me is when they pelted each other with fish, Monty Python-style. They started in irritation with each other, but it somehow gained a romantic “will they/won’t they” vibe as it went on, like couples-to-be throw snowballs at each other in Hallmark Christmas movies.
- DOG AS A PUPPY IS THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE’S VERY BEST BOY.
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