There are some people who happened to look at the TV listings and notice that The Walking Dead is returning from its mid-season hiatus, while there are others who have been checking the days off their calendar. We fall squarely in the second category, as so far this season has been suspenseful, unexpected, and emotional. After a long break, Season 5 of The Walking Dead returns with Episode 9, “What Happened and What’s Going On,” directed by Greg Nicotero and written by Scott Gimple who were also responsible for the action-packed season opener “No Sanctuary.” We look forward to the return of almost everyone on The Walking Dead, but are especially intrigued with Carol Peletier and Daryl Dixon because of how they have each transformed as characters over the life of the series. Here we explore what it is about these characters that make their journey so engaging.
[We discusses specific plot points, storylines, dialogue and events that have happened to characters during the series.]
Carol as a Badass
Carol Peletier’s development as a character has been one of the most interesting aspects of the series. The world of The Walking Dead has forced Carol to make increasingly difficult decisions and to become tough. She has transformed from a victim to a survivor. In the post-apocalyptic world, she has been shaped through a series of events no one could have predicted.
In Season 1, the death of her abusive husband provides Carol with a measure of freedom and safety that enables her to function more effectively in this new world. The loss of her daughter Sophia, the most life-altering event a person can experience, zombie apocalypse or not, in Season 2 changed the way she sees the world. Though initially falling apart, she survives it, and the loss ultimately makes her tougher. The more people she loses, the stronger she becomes. After being separated from the group in Season 3, who believes her to be dead, Carol manages to survive on her own, deep in the prison, until she is found by Daryl and reunited with the others.
Season 4 shows us a very different Carol. In the first half of the season Carol is a leader at the prison, where she teaches the children how to defend themselves. After Carol makes a unilateral decision to kill those infected with a virulent flu strain in a failed effort to protect the others, Rick exiles her from the group. In the second half of Season 4 Carol is reunited with Tyreese, Lizzie, Mika, and Judith after the prison is destroyed and everyone has fled in different directions. In “The Grove” it becomes clear that Carol’s adaption to the world of The Walking Dead gives her the ability to make extremely difficult choices, as evidenced by Lizzie’s death. She has a way of being both detached and caring at the same time. In Season 5, we have the thrill of seeing Carol develop into a full-on action hero. She almost single-handedly saves her friends held hostage at Terminus in the Season premiere “No Sanctuary.” With her cold determination, deadly force, and awesome poncho she is a modern Man with No Name. In “Consumed” we are treated to a full episode of Carol and Daryl. By referring back to Carol’s past, we are reminded of how far Carol has come. Melissa McBride has described Carol’s transformation in an interview with EW:
“We get to see that when she’s at the window talking about how she was very passive in her former life and was just kind of waiting for something to happen. And then she learned to be more proactive. This world forced her to be more proactive.”
Becoming a badass has not been an easy process. Carol remains filled with guilt and self-doubt, and it’s unclear if she will want to move forward with Rick, Daryl, and the others or strike out in a different direction. If we have learned nothing else about Carol Peletier, it is that her path is hard to predict, and that no matter what she chooses, it will be fascinating entertainment.
Daryl as a Leader and Conciliator
Daryl Dixon was not a character from The Walking Dead comic, but has grown from a side role developed for the TV show into a fan favorite. Having a figure like Daryl at the forefront, as well as the way he is played by Norman Reedus, has impacted the development of the show—what has been described as “The Daryl Effect.”
When we first meet Daryl in Season 1, it is apparent that his skills will come in handy. As the series progresses it becomes increasingly clear that Daryl Dixon is the person you want to have around during a zombie apocalypse. As Beth tells Daryl in the episode “Still”:
“It’s like you were made for how things are now.”
Daryl started out as someone who was good to have around because of his skills with a crossbow and ability to survive in the wilderness, but he has since also become a leader.
Despite his rough redneck beginnings in Season 1, Daryl became increasingly integrated with the group. He begrudgingly continued with them even after realizing that T-Dog and Rick played a part in his brother Merle’s departure. The presence of Carol and the search for her daughter Sophia during Season 2 helped to bring Daryl more into the group.
By Season 3 Daryl is Rick’s right-hand man and strongly connected to the other members of the group, particularly Carol. When his brother Merle comes back into the picture, it divides Daryl from the group. Out of loyalty to his newly found brother, Daryl leaves the prison with Merle. During their short time outside of the prison, Daryl is reminded of what kind of person Merle is, and it becomes clear how different they have become. While Merle has only become more cutthroat and devious, Daryl has transformed into someone with strong morality and compassion. When they return to the prison, Carol tells him, “He’s your brother, but he’s not good for you. Don’t let him bring you down. After all, look how far you’ve come.” When Merle dies trying to kill the Governor, it eliminates the tension that Daryl’s brother’s presence brought into the group. Merle’s return served to show just how integrated Daryl has become in Rick’s group, and how far Daryl has come in terms of who he is as a person.
Once the group settles more fully into the prison in Season 4, Daryl’s role is to search for supplies and occasionally bring newcomers back to the group. After the Governor’s attack, Daryl and Beth escape together as the prison is overrun by walkers. It is during the second half of Season 4 that we learn more about Daryl’s past. Beth and Daryl’s game of “I never” reveals how different Beth’s sheltered, middle-class life was from Daryl’s difficult upbringing. Beth’s game of trying to guess what Daryl did before the outbreak ends when he tells her he was a drifter, prone to violence and drinking, who just followed his brother: “I was nobody. Nothing. Some redneck asshole and an even bigger asshole for a brother.” Beth points out how much things have changed. Later, Beth is kidnapped and Daryl is forced to join a group of violent men. Though Daryl has the skill set and history to be a part of a group like this, their violence and depravity is a far cry from the person Daryl has become. By the end of Season 4, Daryl is reunited with Rick, Michonne, and Carl, and together they make their way to Terminus, only to be captured and imprisoned. They are able to escape only through Carol’s efforts to save them.
It is during Season 5 that Daryl’s leadership emerges, as seen in his own decisiveness and his ability to influence Rick. In the episode “Consumed,” after following a car similar to the one that took Beth, Daryl discovers Beth is being held at the hospital. In the following episode, “Crossed,” Daryl, Rick, Noah, Tyreese, and Sasha go to Atlanta to rescue Beth and the recently captured Carol. As they develop a rescue plan, Daryl’s opinion strongly influences Rick. Later in “Crossed,” it is Daryl’s voice of reason that stops Rick from killing one of the officers. In the mid-season finale, “Coda,” Daryl helps convince Rick to stick to the plan of the prisoner exchange despite the escape and death of one of the officers. It appears that Daryl may be a moderating influence in Rick’s descent into violence.
Daryl and Carol as Season 5 continues
Though many fans have been intrigued by the idea of Daryl and Carol being romantically linked, our interest lies with their chemistry as actors. They are both strong actors who are able to convey a lot of information through limited dialogue. Their individual performances are very good, but when Melissa McBride and Norman Reedus have scenes together, such as in the outstanding episode “Consumed,” we can’t take our eyes off the screen. We are looking forward to following the paths of Carol and Daryl as Season 5 continues.
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