“What do you want from me, girl, huh? I want you to stop acting like you don’t give a crap about anything. Like nothing we went through matters. Like none of the pepole we lost meant anything to you. It’s bullshit. Is that what you think? That’s what I know. You don’t know nothing. I know you look at me and you see a d e a d g i r l . I’m not Michonne, I’m not Carol, I’m not Meggie. I survived and you don’t get it ‘cause I’m not like you and them. But I made it!”
“We have protocol, and those are the three questions you ask. But it was weird to say those lines because I had to say them one other time on the show, but with somebody with me, and you don’t want to stand and announce those things. They kind of have to be difficult leaving your mouth, those words. I knew it was going to come up later in the script so I wanted to make that a hard thing to come out of my mouth, so that when they fucked me over, it meant even more.” – Norman Reedus
I really have to thank YNB for giving me so much to respond to and how that response helped me do a lot of great meta-analysis.
We clearly don’t ship the same OTP, but I am super excited to share some of my thoughts that I was able to work through and articulate by using her statements about Consumed as the sounding board for my own analysis.
This is 1 out of 2 (but maybe 3 or 4?) responses to Consumed/YNB that I was flippantly going to express but then delved deeper into.
YNB (paraphrase): Carol and Daryl have an understanding without words that makes their relationship unique to all of the other relationships. [cites the basically non-existent conversation over Daryl burning the children walkers, their comradeship in combat, and them both just getting in the front seat of the diving van and going welp here we go without saying it explicitly… even though.. Daryl did say put on your seatbelt]
Ok. Yes. Yes I see it, too. Agreed, they have that. They know each other, can communicate without words because of their intimacy with one another and familiarity. Just don’t over-emphasize it. Don’t say it as if it’s super exclusive to only Caryl. Try to not imply that Daryl only interacts this way with one character and no one else, because it’s not true. You’re implying that only Daryl can understand and affect Carol and visa-versa and that their interactions happen in a vacuum that others don’t stand a chance of popping into or in and out of. All three characters are the focus of this episode; all three are incredibly intertwined, deeply crucial to each other’s stories, and all three of their development makes dramatic statements about the entirety of this larger story.
Almost every character has a relationship or multiple relationships which are basically defined by the connection mentioned by YNB (largely to do with writers’ running themes of bonds throughout the entire series, but also the practical fact that such a bond is pretty much a requisite in order to have effective partnerships in a harsh and uncaring world) – Michonne and Rick, Michonne and Carl, Shane and Rick, Maggie and Glenn, Hershel and Rick, Michonne and Andrea, Andrea and Dale, Andrea and Beth, Beth and Maggie, Sasha and Tyreese, etc.– these share the same bond, and the majority of them are not romantic.
Secondly, such a method of communication is congruent with Daryl’s own personality and preferences. Daryl’s a pretty quiet person, even with Carol many times, and he often communicates with motions, nods, pointing, hugs, carrying someone and having their back over words. (Norman puts a tonnnn of body language into Daryl– Daryl has the most swag, unquestionably. I believe the only other actor who comes close to this kind of body language as a specific character identifier is Andy Lincoln.) So this means: Daryl shares the ability to communicate decisions without words with other characters, not solely based on the intimacy of the relationship even though that is a factor, but mostly and undeniably based on Daryl himself and his own default way of communicating.
Carol & Daryl and Rick & Daryl have had the longest time getting to know each other out of any other relationships in the story (other than siblings and spouses established before the apocalypse), which completely validates all observations and assertions that they know each other so damn well and can connect this way. I admire the longevity of their storylines and I will not argue that they do not have that quality. But you cannot use it to validate one bond but then conveniently ignore that he interacts that way with another person, too.
He undoubtedly shares such a connection with Beth many times in Still and Alone (which, you know, can also be interpreted as platonic/a bond driven out of the necessity to survive together rather than romantically, but I see it romantically for a long list of reasons, some of which I’ll touch on, but some of which aren’t going to help us navigate through this particular post’s main thesis). And I for one am flabbergasted (and intrigued and excited by) how it takes only 2 (kind of 3) episodes of concentrated interaction for Daryl to intimately connect with Beth on the same high level it took whole seasons for Daryl to reach in partnership with Rick and Carol. I just can’t help but think… doesn’t that make Daryl’s ability to reach a similar level of intimacy with Beth so quickly such an incredibly PROFOUND statement? It takes, what, a month? (or 2? 3? It’s a little unclear to me how long they’re on their own, but no matter what, it’s less than the years of time Daryl is with Carol and Rick) for them to so quickly form a legitimate emotional bond, which shares exact qualities present in his other 2 most meaningful relationships, specifically the quality being most emphasized: understanding each other without words.
Here are examples from Inmates, Still and Alone:
– Running through the grass away from the prison, when to stop and run, notably when they both fall to the ground and rest, not discussing what to do next or if it’s even safe to rest, just laying there, Daryl following Beth’s lead, and beginning their first stages of processing/grieving the loss of the Prison;
– Him catching up to her after she leaves the suckass camp and not saying a word, but his presence and stare communicating that they’re all they have now, and he wants her to come back, so leads her back;
– Understanding her need to collect berries/grapes for the children as forcing herself to hope and her method of self-preservation, him handing her the bandana;
– sitting on the moonshine shack’s porch and taking their time to talk when they do, but often a lot of quiet eye contact and silence was edited into the scenes (or rather I mean not edited out of the scenes);
– His understanding of WHY she wanted to burn it down, without her ever saying, and them flipping the house off together and they never explicitly discussed the symbolic value and cathartic release;
– his nods and cues of encouragement to tell her to move forward toward the walker as she’s practicing with the crossbow;
– MY FAV– she slides off his back at the beloved father tombstone, he grabs flowers, places it on the grave, and then holds her hand.. BOOM never even make eye contact and they connect on an extremely fluid and highly intimate level (this totally mirrors Daryl burning the child walkers for Carol as an example of his incredibly developing empathy, BUT I’d like to point out: he does not do it with her present–would he have told her he did it if she hadn’t woken up until after they were done burning? they do not give or receive physical affection to one another. she does feel the need to verbalize a thank you, and it is presupposed by an actual conversation about Carol not having to take care of them, while in the gravestone moment literally nothing was spoken);
– his sudden understanding of Beth calling the work of the funeral rights given to the zombies a beautiful act– he needs her to say that opinion to understand her fixation on them, but he doesn’t need to say anything back to communicate to her that he can see her point of view now, he just moves on to attending to her ankle;
– their eyes lingering on each other across the little kitchen table, actively sharing in feeling reverence and gratefulness for a peaceful shelter and food and the fact that they have each other even though they don’t know who else is out there
– And of course lastly perhaps the most cited/emphasized example, what he communicates to her with his gaze between “what changed your mind?” and “…..oh”
And I feel like someone’s going to argue that Beth’s understanding of Daryl could be similar to Rick’s and Carol’s but that’s it’s ultimately incomplete; she doesn’t know him AS WELL as the other 2. And you can’t really say that. Beth fucking knows him after their time together, because even within that short window of time together, she gets to see Daryl “from beginning to end,” so to speak. Because at the start of their time together, Daryl has reverted to who he was when he met Rick and Carol; he’s almost the exact person after the fall of the prison: choosing to be alone and closed off (doesn’t even engage her in conversation at the beginning of Still in the suckass camp, when she’s trying to talk about moving on from their grief and starting over); angry, broken, belligerent, and complacent (doesn’t want to leave the suckass camp); easily set off and confrontational (going berserk on the golf club walkers; damn peach schnapps!; quickly erratically animated and threatening after he feels insulted by her–and she did insult him and he had the right to be angry, but man did he go off!); making decisions out of a place of suspicion and self-interest (gives up hope others are alive, starts randomly gathering money and jewels like wtf); carrying the burdens of the past’s suffering and trials (carries guilt over deaths the same way he carries shame and resentment over his abusive childhood).
With Beth, we witness Daryl repeat his whole character development from previous seasons in a concentrated 2nd round. We watch him go from distrusting to trusting; worried about only his experience to dreadfully concerned for Beth’s; an angry person reacting to the world as if he’s merely a product of a broken childhood and abuse (which Beth accidentally antagonizes him about with her rude assumptions) to confronting it and we literally watch him burn it down in Still (and then in Consumed bae fucking grabs a self-help manual hnnngggg cue pride and sparkly eyes and gross sobbing); disillusioned and cynical about the state of humanity and the thought of building a life somewhere to wanting to stay at the funeral home and “make it work” with whoever might still live there, to make a life with Beth, to lie in the bed of hope.* Beth is present for Daryl’s transformation just as intimately as Rick and Carol were because Daryl has to do it twice for it to start sticking and for him to truly prioritize the beautiful message that fully defines Daryl’s role in the series and explains his appeal to an audience: to become more than one’s suffering, to limp away from it changed for the better, and to build a resilient spirit against future tribulations. You could argue that this is a theme for every character, and I do believe it is, but Daryl AND Beth AND Carol all have an added extra layer that I am totally enthralled by and it’s why I care so damn much about this episode and these three characters:
They use the apocalypse to become what the original world wouldn’t allow them to become in a POSITIVE way.
To me this positivity, this ability to become good hearted and strong through using this world to achieve that, sharply contrasts with how characters like Rick, Shane, Carl and the Governor go from being largely the goodhearted and strong person they wanted to be to having to confront being changed very negatively by the apocalypse.
Do you see what I’m saying?
By using the apocalypse to reawaken into identities more congruent with who they most want to be (and who deep down they already are), Beth, Carol**, AND Daryl master the lesser identities they could have easily still been in the apocalypse; they die to themselves and rebirth themselves for the sake of personal growth/healing as well as going on to protect and love and nurture others.
They make the apocalypse bow to their will instead of succumbing to its ability to tear down good people. They master death itself.
But none of them could have gotten where they are now without the transformative influence they had on each other, and that they all still have on each other.
*dudes I just got fucking goosebumps. Daryl sleeping in that funeral casket equals him letting his past life and past self die.
**Carol is struggling in a crisis of belief in her ability to keep doing this. Consumed was largely about Carol’s reluctance to try anymore, while Beth (offscreen presence) and Daryl are trying to get her to take their hand and keep moving toward her fuller identity.