So probably I have too much time on my hands atm, but I need to talk about this scene for a quick minute:
[.gif by carolpeleiter]
A thing is that I happen to think it’s one of the most underrated Caryl scenes that exists.
The backdrop to what’s happening here is so important, because for all of us who ship it like Fedex, it’s easy to get lost in the shippy perfection of this episode and forget where the ep fits into the larger context of the show.
Carol has been banished by Rick, spent three and a half minutes thinking maybe life could be “normal” for a second, found Lizzie standing over Mika’s dead body, shot Lizzie, and offered her own life to Tyreese as atonement for killing Karen and David (not to mention killing a bunch more people in order to save all of Team Family at Terminus).
Daryl has watched Hershel be murdered, thought he and Beth were safe for three and a half minutes, hung out with the nighmarish Claimers, offered up his own life to save Rick, Michonne, and Carl, and been about thirty seconds away from having his throat slashed so he could watch his own life bleed away in a trough.
They’ve had a rough couple of weeks.
But then we get the quiet of this ep, and the entire episode takes place pretty much in two layers. First, there’s the obvious action – the plot. But beneath that surface so many currents are flowing, both Carol and Daryl simmering with emotions they’re not yet willing to directly address.
This tiny scene functions at face value as some amusing banter, a way to lighten the tone of what in so many ways is a deeply somber, sad episode. (Every time I watch it I pretty much want to marry Bear McCreary, omg the music.) Daryl hilariously mocks the painting, and Carol – most likely just to be contrary, although perhaps she merely has interesting taste in art – insists that she likes it.
And that’s where level two comes in. When he says “Stop” in response to her insistence that she actually appreciates the painting, she replies with, “I’m serious. You don’t know me.” She only uses those four words, but what she really means is:
“You have no idea about the terrible things I’ve done. If you knew the choices I’ve made – if you could see everything – you’d probably be running away at top speed, because at this point even I can’t be sure I’m not a monster who deserves to burn in hell forever.”
Without missing a beat, Daryl responds with, “Yep, you keep tellin’ yourself that.” But what he really means is:
“I’m fully aware by now that I don’t know the whole story of what happened while we were separated. But I know your heart inside and out, and no matter what you think you’ve done – no matter what kind of horrifying punishment you think you deserve for your imaginary sins – there is nothing in this entire universe that could make me love you any less.”
And she smiles. An absolutely for real smile.
Because although she’s not even close to forgiving herself, there is some kind of bone-deep comfort in Daryl’s words, in the knowledge that he will always believe in her, even when she’s lost all faith and ability to believe in herself.
She can’t love herself in this moment, but this tiny exchange shows her that he unquestionably still can.
And idk, to me it’s just everything.