Random musings on the show, my undying (undead?) love of Daryl and why Carol is my spirit animal.
By Amanda Festa
I joined the ranks of The Walking Dead fans late to the game. I was too busy with vampires and werewolves; did I really have time for zombies too? The answer should have always been a resounding yes. Forgo sleep and responsibilities and watch three seasons back to back, pausing only to work, sleep, eat and minimally socialize. (An outing with me during this month-long process found me bleary eyed, diffusing questions about my work week with follow-up commentary on Michonne’s jawless entourage.)
I started the first season just as the last season was ending. If I can give you one piece of advice, it is never ever do this. I barreled through dozens of episodes, until I got to the end of the line, and when there were only a handful of episodes left unseen, I started rationing them off like Rick does bullets, knowing that when I run out there won’t be anymore for a pretty lengthy stretch. After “This Sorrowful Life” I did need a breather, and probably a psychiatrist, but I finally finished the last episode, emotionally drained and already feeling the first shakes of withdrawal.
What I loved about the show upon first viewing was its realism. That might seem like a loaded statement in a zombie apocalypse, but let me explain. In a world of good vampires and vegetarian werewolves, it’s nice to see a supernatural creature live up to its name. The zombies on Dead are all rotting flesh and festering sores and cannot be rehabilitated despite the human resolve to try by Hershel and the Governor. The zombies are unequivocally lost and the humans are too. The heroes and villains both embody the same gray area, unsure of how to navigate a lawless, unfathomable world.
They don’t explain where the virus came from and they don’t give hope of a happy ending. In fact, it seems the show will eventually end with just as much uncertainty as it began. But that only reaffirms what makes this show so great. If the zombie apocalypse began tomorrow, what would you do? If you’re a Dead fan then I’m sure you have an answer prepared. I’ve heard everything from head to the woods, to find a boat, to stay away from boats. I’m currently stocking up on cute leather boots, just in case. The reason why we can have these conversations is, aside from the zombies and the fact that the girls remain attractive when I would start being camouflaged by my zombie-like appearance, there is nothing supernatural about the lives of the core group of survivors.
Love them or hate them, each character is real. Like 99% of Dead fans, I’m not breaking the mold with my favorite. It’s Daryl. I could write an entire dissertation on why and maybe someday I will, but the basic gist would be that he is just a perfectly executed character from a developmental standpoint. And he has the best lines, the best weapon, the best backstory and the best face (even when he’s crying, I will argue!). He has experienced the most growth and has the most potential for further growth. He is the most compelling character to watch, whether it’s his interactions with Rick, Merle, Carol or the unlucky zombie who gets in the path of his crossbow.
But if Daryl is my favorite, Carol is a close second. Whereas few will argue with my assessment of Mr. Dixon, I’ve heard many people slam Carol for any number of reasons. Look guys, she has gray hair. It’s the zombie apocalypse and much of the cast is over forty. If this was an actual zombie apocalypse most of them would have gray hair. You do not want to get caught indisposed with a head full of Nice and Easy when a zombie attacks.
Carol’s scenes when Sophia was missing, and after she was found, are some of the best on the show for her understated portrayal of strength and loss – far better than Lori and Andrea’s over-the-top antics. I sometimes grapple with the female characters on the show, often shown doing laundry and cooking dinner. I might not be able to operate a shotgun effectively, but you might want to let me try after you eat something I have prepared.
Upon finishing the second season, I had an interesting conversation with a friend. It went something like this: Aww, how cute was it when Daryl road up on his motorcycle and saved Carol? (“C’mon, I ain’t got all day” – Oh, Daryl, you have such a way with words.) – But wait! See, I was confused, because I couldn’t tell if they were making her out to be a maternal figure. My inner feminist was burning her bra and searching high and low for a soap box. After all, she is only a few short years older than him. Just because she has gray hair, are they really going to?… if the genders were reversed, etc. etc… I found my soap box and was preparing to mount it, but my friend, who was well into the third season, cut me off right there, laughing and assuring me that she was definitely not like his mother. I was relieved and happy to join the ranks of the many Daryl and Carol fans out there.
Now, I really don’t think their relationship was in the original cards. If only because their names rhyme and now it just sounds foolish. I think it is just something that happened with the chemistry between the actors and the fans’ reaction to their scenes. I do think they are great for each other and a great twist on the stereotypical television romance. After all, Daryl is clearly the show’s central eye candy. The wardrobe department isn’t spending time ripping the sleeves off of Rick’s sheriff uniform. I mean, obviously, if you are going to spend much of your screen time balancing a crossbow, we want to see the guns as well. And they could have easily cast some Victoria Secret model look-a-like half his age to play a damsel in distress love interest. Instead we have Carol, who is attractive, but also has her own story, her own damage and her own potential for growth.
Daryl and Carol are both broken people, they both have a lot of pain and a lot of strength that has developed into a deep sense of connection. I’ve read statements from both actors. Melissa McBride (Carol) stating that she loves all of the shipper hoopla and Norman Reedus (Daryl) stating that he’s for it, although he doesn’t want it to be a conventional physical relationship. I get that, and I agree. They aren’t leaving zombie watch for a quickie like Maggie and Glen – but I think that someday, when the show comes to a close, if there is peace for any characters, I hope it is for them. If any two have what it takes to survive on their own, I think Carol and Daryl are the poster children for love in the time of zombies. But I’m a low maintenance girl; give me a zombie ear necklace, wine and dine me with a romantic dinner of squirrel meat and I’m yours. Here’s hoping Carol is as easy to please.