The Essence of My CARYL
All CARYL shippers have their own unique reasons why they love Carol and Daryl’s relationship and whether their bond is seen as platonic or potentially romantic there is obviously something between them that touched each and every one of us enough to compel us to celebrate their magic and share what we love about them.
That’s actually what I love the most about the CARYL community - we all have different appreciation points when it comes to their relationship and there are always little missed details pointed out by others that never fail to renew my excitement about them both.
I am not an overly sentimental person but I am someone that cherishes small, meaningful moments shared by people who genuinely care about each other that ultimately build a connection that in the end becomes something special, something bigger than life even…and CARYL to me is exactly that.
What Carol and Daryl share has the potential to be timeless and already possesses all the hallmarks of a love story that changes everyone that has enough sense to recognize its depth and it’s possibilities. Even those that deny CARYL agree that Carols presence changed Daryl Dixon for the better and non-shippers alike have openly acknowledged that there is a certain “something” between these two that albeit undefined continues to have a hold on them both.
Perhaps the biggest “proof” or validation of CARYL if you will, is the fact that it doesn’t really need any - the connection between Carol and Daryl is recognized by the majority of TWD fans despite the fact that the story-line hasn’t given their relationship any kind of “physical” confirmation nor are we given any specific open “love declarations” from either character. That being said the show itself, the specially crafted emotional scenes and the palpable chemistry on screen between the two of them have all been more than enough to inspire huge numbers of fans and even mainstream media to openly and routinely refer to CARYL as one of the TWD “couples” or “duos”.
The mere fact that other ships are threatened by CARYL and Carol herself essentially confirms it’s existence and power
Carylers don’t need a “physical sex scene” or repetitive affectionate gestures to know that Carol and Daryl share a deep, impenetrable bond capable of bolstering them both and bringing out the best “version” of themselves together.
One of the most common questions in my ask box are inquiries about what my favorite thing is about the CARYL dynamic or what made me decide to start shipping Daryl and Carol in the first place. My instinctual and perhaps too easy of a response would have been to talk about the moments that moved me the most or scenes that had me intrigued and ultimately convinced me that the connection I was picking-up on ran much deeper than the basic “I care about you” vibe.
As I explored the possible answers with which I could define what CARYL means to me I started to realize that narrowing it down to a specific interaction wasn’t going to cut it because my own love affair with this relationship wasnt so much about a “moment” between them but more about the nature of the unspoken bond they have with each other.
What I love about Carol and Daryl is the effect they have each other, the parallels in their personal transformation, the evolution of their bond together and the uncanny effortlessness in their communication from the very beginning.
Everything in their history dispels the notion that either of them would be able connect with others easily, let alone be open with them BUT from the very beginning the ease with which they recognized, understood, accepted and not just allowed but actively seeked out one another, spoke volumes to the effect they could have on their own emotional journey. Despite their personal pain and perceived shortcomings they were able to be vulnerable in front of one another and build on the unconditional aspects of a relationship which they most likely didn’t have before they got “together”.
The acceptance, understanding and reliance between them had profound effects on themselves, their relationships with the others, their motivation for doing things and their continued growth into people they were never free to be before.
The thing that always struck me when it came to the effect they had on one another and the natural closeness that resonated even when they shared scenes with other characters, was the lack of dialogue between them.
Here we have two individuals “together” that seem to simply “get” one another on a very deep level and yet most of the scenes devoted to them rely more on subtle body language, soft gestures and meaningful glances than actual spoken words. The dialogue that is included for them is always short, poignant and heavy, without a single word or phrase wasted and usually heavy laden with metaphors or symbolism.
To illustrate my point I reviewed several important CARYL moments and sure enough the pattern and emotional connection between Carol and Daryl is more than palpable but still quiet and usually punctuated by non-verbal communication.
Everything actually said out loud has a very specific purpose however once the “unspoken” cues come into play the words themselves seem like an afterthought.
- The Daryl nod-grunt-stop combo
- “Every bit as good as them”;”I can’t lose you too” and “Sophia wasnt mine”
- “Stay Safe”;”Nine lives, remember” and “She’ll understand”
- “I liked you first”;”Gotta be” and “What about Carol”
Aside from their own “personal” moments there are multitude of shared scenes together in which they are almost always standing next to each other and in which Daryl “watches” over Carol from the sidelines.
The parallels and this “proximity” between them was evident and set up even in Season 1 at the quarry and then at the CDC. Norman Reedus has mentioned several times that “damaged, insecure people gravitate toward one another” and while the motivation behind the closeness may have started as unconscious curiosity of seeing one self in the other, as time progressed the “watching over” transformed into protectiveness and maybe even unspoken attraction on both ends.
Carol herself has been quite open to being a guardian of Daryl’s emotional needs and as the little more vocal party in that relationship she’s actively cushioned and made attempts to build up Daryl’s self-worth, helping him see that he is valued, appreciated, important and so much more than he himself believed he could be.
The Dixon’s are not used to accepting affection, praise of being told they are “men of honour”, they don’t talk about their feelings or ask uncomfortable questions, they are impulsive and terribly prone to assumptions, they are not used to having people fight for them let alone in spite of them and that’s exactly what Carol did for Daryl - she had intimate knowledge of being underestimated, pushed down, abused and unloved, she recognized the symptoms of that very same existence in Daryl AND was determined to break that cycle with him because with the bad she also recognized the good he could become if only someone believed in him until he believed in himself.
Carol did all of this before people were even comfortable having a conversation with feral Daryl and in turn she was the first person Daryl looked in the eye and had any kind of physical or emotional contact with her.
Season 2 Daryl was a Dixon adjusting and fighting his own desire to believe the side of life and side of human relationships Carol was showing him was possible even for him - he could matter to other people and other people could matter to him BUT he had to let them first, allow people in and hear them. Carol did all this through her stoic presence, telling glances, proximity and physical persistence, soft body language cues and very few lines of dialogue.
Daryl Dixon might have had a hard time adjusting to being on the receiving end of Carols attention BUT that doesn’t mean he wasn’t reciprocating to what was starting to bloom and build between them…in his own way of course!
Consider the search for Sophia!
Daryl was looking for a lost little girl and wanted her found like everyone else BUT he wasn’t acting like just another member of the haphazardly-thrown-together search party, the lengths he went to find HER and the “extra” efforts he directed at Carol tell a different story.
This was somebody with clear social and inter-personal issues, a guy who by all intents and purposes had no healthy relationship experience and zero knowledge how to connect or comfort anyone, let alone a woman, AND yet out of all of them HE was the one who went out of his way to care about Carol’s own emotional state (unprompted) and HE continuously found meaningful ways to reassure HER that Sophia will be found unharmed by HIM.
Small changes in body language, the “feel-better” tone of voice when he addresses her and the sudden, albeit rusty, reassurance events he volunteers and seems strongly compelled to engage in, all start to reveal that Daryl Dixon is connecting with Carol by his own initiative and was entering uncharted “feeling-type” territory in response to her presence.
This was a guy who barely said a few sentences at the same time to the others and here he was picking flowers, searching for Rose bushes AND while he didn’t know the right words to say to renew her hope Daryl borrowed the Cherokee Rose legend to say it for him.
Character development and relationship growth convincing and powerful enough to earn a relationship label without physical confirmation and minimal verbal affirmation doesn’t happen very often - CARYL was remarkably a “thing” without having to say that it was and ultimately that’s what I cherish and appreciate about it the most.
The little beats that are usually taken for granted in other “cookie-cutter” TV romances are what we see and celebrate with so much fervor and anticipation…
That’s why CARYL is special to me!