Despite being two of The Walking Dead fans’ favorite characters, a Carol (Melissa McBride) and Daryl (Norman Reedus) romance has been the subject of controversy. The arguments against it make sense. TV has a bad habit of smashing men and women together just to create angst-inducing love stories. Straight male and female friendships rarely get any representation on screen. Yet, Carol and Daryl are among the few relationships to break this mold.
For eleven seasons and beyond, the two have remained platonic. Still, their brand of platonic is messy. Extended hugs and earnest “I love yous” have some wondering if “Caryl” shippers were right all along. The term platonic soulmates frequently gets thrown at them. It surely fits. The fandom will accept it. However, if The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon showed us anything, it’s that a Carol and Daryl romance has its best chance at success now.
Daryl Dixon Reignited Desire for a Carol and Daryl Romance
Fans rejoiced after learning Melissa McBride was involved in The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon. The actor had initially stepped down from the planned Carol/Daryl spinoff, citing the Europe shooting as “logistically untenable” at the time. While her role was limited to cameos, Carol’s brief presence created some of the most excitement among the fandom. With it came a revival of “Caryl” shipping.
What’s funny is Carol and Daryl never even share the screen in Daryl Dixon. Their sole interaction occurs over a radio. Plus, Carol’s first physical cameo features her kicking ass and taking names in America while Daryl’s still overseas in France. Even before that, Daryl Dixon 1×03 delivers a certifiable shipping moment. “Maybe he have a girlfriend, yes?” the Pigeon Guy tells Daryl. “We all have a person who waits.” Whether romantic, platonic, or something confusingly in between, even non-shippers seem to agree Daryl’s “person who waits” is Carol.
While Daryl remains tight-lipped about Carol and his found family, there are plenty of broody, lost-in-thought moments that prove they are never far from his mind. Daryl Dixon 1×05 uses flashbacks to confirm Daryl’s desperate search for a radio occurred long before France. He basically lunges for it when he finally gets Carol on the other end in Maine. Daryl’s “Are you okay?” Are you sure you’re okay?” carries that kind of “touch her, you die” energy that makes shipping easy.
The Walking Dead’s Final Seasons Already Teased Romance
Before his first on-screen romance with Leah (Lynn Collins), Daryl’s love life was the subject of speculation. Characters like Beth (Emily Kinney) and Connie (Lauren Ridloff) became popular ships. Others hoped theories about Daryl’s asexuality would prove true. Throughout all of it, Carol remained a constant. As long as there’s been Daryl, there’s been Carol, and The Walking Dead ensured some of their most meaningful character development fed off each other.
Check the Internet, and you’ll find no shortage of Carol/Daryl moments. Daryl’s fit of rage after Rick banished Carol from the prison. The reunion hug at Terminus. Daryl’s it-seems-an-awful-lot-like-jealousy reaction to her relationship with Ezekiel (Khary Payton). Season 10 ramped up the angst and questionable moments even more. Daryl’s out there saying things like “I need you to stay” and “I want to be there for you,” while Carol’s having dreams about a life with Daryl and calling him “Pookie.” To cap it all off, Season 11 ends with the pair exchanging tearful goodbyes and heartfelt “I love yous.”
It feels like romance. It looks like romance. And on most TV shows, it probably would lead to romance. They call each other “best friends,” while characters like Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) joke about Carol being Daryl’s “girlfriend.” What they actually are isn’t clear, and The Walking Dead’s suggestive moments hint Carol and Daryl don’t exactly know what they are either. Still, if shows like The X-Files taught us anything, it’s that sometimes when two people love each other so completely, they eventually become the only choice for each other.
Whether The Walking Dead chooses to go in that direction or not, Daryl Dixon’s first season proved the demand for a Carol and Daryl romance is an all-time high. Fans may not have been ready in the flagship series; maybe Carol and Daryl weren’t either. Distance makes the heart grow fonder, and a Season 2 reunion will give them a chance to put that old adage to the test.