I feel like this is where we see things start to take a turn in regards to Carol and Daryl. I don’t just mean their relationship, I mean them as characters as well. Sadly, we’ve been deprived of a whole season, a season which I wish I could have been a fly on the wall. It’s stated right in the beginning that they’ve been out all winter running. What little details did we miss during that time? Mind you, I’m not saying these characters weren’t interesting from the get go. We got hints about them from the beginning. But now we begin to see an evolution of sorts.
When they’re in that abandoned house we see Rick take the can of dog food from Carl and angrily throw it into the fireplace. Daryl is plucking the feathers from an owl and he flinches at Rick’s outburst. He’s the only one that does and I felt such sadness in that moment because I realized there was a very strong chance that flinching was an ingrained reaction from his childhood. Up until this point we never really saw any evidence. We saw him flinch a little when Carol leaned down to kiss him but that was it and that easily could have been chalked up to awkwardness. But Rick? The alpha male? That flinching reaction to Rick’s anger is straight up PTSD.
When they come upon the prison Rick devises a plan to trap the walkers and kill them so they can have the prison yard. Up until this point this sort of thing has been “men’s work”. In fact, the whole first two seasons were fairly misogynistic in that regard. The women characters did the cooking and cleaning and the men did the protecting. Andrea tried to break out of that role and was chastised by Lori for not fulfilling her womanly duties. So imagine my delight, when laying out the prison plan, Rick turns to Carol, CAROL, and tells her she’s become a good shot and she should take the tower. This isn’t full blown Queen Carol yet so he even takes a moment to encourage her telling her to just take her time with the shots.
This is also the first time we see Carol and Daryl working side by side, both of them up in the watchtower shooting walkers. It was immediately clear to me even from the first shot of her in this episode that she had changed. She looked more confident, carried herself more confidently. Even her clothes portrayed this new level of confidence. Then, coming out of the watchtower, Daryl tells her “good shooting”. The last time we saw them they were arguing. He was annoyed. She was scared. Now he’s complimenting her. Complimenting her on something he still likely considers to be a “man’s” job.
Also, in the tower, we see the first hint of “I have no fucks to give” Carol. She accidentally almost shoots Rick. He jumps back and she says sorry in this very blase way and I feel like this is a hint as to the woman she is becoming. First season Carol probably would have panicked if she almost accidentally shot someone.
Then we have the overturned bus scene. Those of us that were Carol fans from the start weren’t surprised. She’d already told us she missed her vibrator. Now we see confident Carol. I’m gonna go for what I want Carol. And what I want is Daryl. This is the part where I’m always amazed that there are people who think it’s a mother/son thing. This is so very clearly a woman who is a sexual being taking agency over her sexuality. And in my mind it confirms what us early shippers already suspected. There is a thing, a something, between them. For me that moment solidified it. We’d been given hints before but to me this is the moment where the show runners actually said yes, this is a thing. Here you go.
And let’s not forget about Daryl. He gives her a massage on top of that bus. Maybe I’m sheltered but I don’t know too many grown men that massage their mothers. But even besides that, I feel like him touching her in that scene is an evolution. In the previous season he flinched when she showed him affection. Now he’s offering her a type of affection/intimacy. Everyone has different limits, different boundaries when it comes to touching. In real life, I know people who will accept massages from strangers. For myself I need to know a person and know their motivations. I’m willing to bet the number of people Daryl would give a massage to is even smaller, possibly, dare I say, only one or two.
I’m not done watching yet. I just kind of wanted to get these thoughts and observations down as I go. It’s interesting, going back now, and seeing the evolution of all the characters. Baby faced Carl, Rick, Glenn, Maggie. They’ve all changed. And they all haven’t in a way. I do know as a viewer I miss the happier times. I understand why we don’t have them but i would love an episode or two where they really can relax and just be human beings again.
As for Carol and Daryl, I am not saying they are canon, at least, not in the traditional sense. I am saying I think there’s been a lot between them we haven’t seen onscreen. And I do think they’ve been intentionally written as potentials for each other. Whether that ever amounts to anything or not, who knows. I’m an X-Phile. I know all about the slow burn. All I really want is for them to live though. Above all else, I just want them both to live.