Is it just me or is The Walking Dead promoting a lot of Caryl lately? After many years of the showrunners denying there was anything more than friendship blooming between fan favorites Daryl Dixon and Carol Peletier, all of the recently released Season 8 promo photos seem to be suggesting, well, otherwise. This long-awaited romance could be the sort of thing TWD needs to win back the fans still grieving over the deaths and overall somber vibe of the previous season, but will the show finally deliver all this Caryl it has been cooking up?
As any Walking Dead fan would know, the will-they-won’t-they relationship between Carol and Daryl has been a topic of debate and frustration since the Season 2 "Cherokee Rose" days. Yet, here we are gearing up for Season 8, with many #Caryl shippers still holding out hope that this non-couple "couple" will soon have its day in the sun.
Why might that be? Well, we could blame the writers for teasing fans the past six years with such heart-bursting, tear-worthy moments between the two. We could also blame Norman Reedus and Melissa McBride for having such incredible chemistry. Either way you look at it, even though they've never sealed it with a kiss (so to speak), Carol and Daryl’s loyal, unspoken bond has in many ways become the beating heart of the show.
WARNING: Possible spoilers for The Walking Dead to follow.
The Clues Are In The Callbacks
Even Entertainment Weekly seems to acknowledge Carol and Daryl as an official couple, posing them as such for their 100 Episodes cast photo shoot alongside lovers Rick and Michonne (Andrew Lincoln and Danai Gurira), and Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and Glen's pocket-watch.
While the original shot features a number of Easter Eggs, the majority of the juicy callbacks surround Carol and Daryl (Melissa McBride and Norman Reedus) specifically — and yes, this is Norman Reedus shamelessly promoting Caryl on his Instagram, no biggie:
As mentioned before, the Cherokee Rose has been quite the symbolic reference to Carol and Daryl's relationship since Season 2. It's hard to tell, but the flowers Daryl is holding could represent the first kind gesture he ever exchanged with Carol. The second clue you can’t ignore is the doll Carol is holding, which looks an awful lot like Sophia’s doll—the exact one Daryl found when out selflessly searching for Sophia on horseback, again in Season 2.
Lastly, the chair Daryl lounges in seems oddly similar to King Ezekiel's throne, which in a way harks back to one of their most recent moments in Season 7, when Daryl visits Carol for dinner. After a heavy conversation, Daryl lightens the mood with a hint of jealousy,"Are we gonna eat, or do I gotta be a king or something to get food around here?"
Could these clues mean they are going back to the beginning of their relationship to "start over" with each other? We know Norman has said many times he's playing Daryl to have "no game," but as Carol said in Season 5, Daryl has changed: He was a boy and now he is a man. Carol has also proven she can handle a bit of romance again after entertaining a brief fling with Alexandrian, Tobin, last season. Could it be time for Carol and Daryl to start the relationship neither were emotionally prepared for in Season 2?
If Caryl Isn't Going To Happen, Why All The Teasing?
Now that these promising promo shots have added a little more weight to the situation, people are jumping to conclusions that seem pretty warranted. It looks like I'm not the only one who's noticed all the Caryl love lately:
Not only do the iconic callbacks lead us to believe a romance could be brewing this season, but Norman himself seems to be dropping hints, as well. Speaking to EW about the new season, Reedus said:
"The people I like the most are the ones I'm working with again[...] the gang's back together."
We know Norman always gloats about working with Mel, so this alone should confirm plenty of Daryl/Carol action this season — hopefully without the long bouts of separation this time, please.
Reedus also admitted while speaking to Express UK that there was still time for a Carol/Daryl romance to ignite, teasing:
"There's definitely a spark of a relationship there [...] I can't tell you other stuff or if it's going to happen or if it has already happened though."
Is It The Right Time For A Carol/Daryl Romance?
Considering how particularly dark Season 7A was — opening with the traumatic and gruesome deaths of Glen (one of the most beloved characters from the original cast) and Abraham (also a fan favorite) — I think the producers know they need to add a slightly more lighthearted and hopeful element to this season, as the previous was (for the most part) bleak and depressing.
Although the explosive Season 8 trailer already suggests an altogether different energy for this season, bringing Carol and Daryl into each other's arms (for more than just an epic hug) seems like the sort of bright and cheery fan service that would balance the "All Out War" to come. Not to mention, it would allow distraught fans to finally forgive the writers for the trauma of Glen’s horrific death scene, right?
It’s been a long time coming, but Season 8 could finally be the season Caryl rises beyond the realm of fan fiction and finds its rightful place in TWD history alongside other canon couples like Glen and Maggie, Abraham and Sasha, or Rick and Michonne. Unless, of course, the writers want to continue torturing us with all this Caryl marketing for nothing — there's always that possibility.
We'll have to wait for when TWD returns on Oct. 22 to know for sure, but fan-servicing aside, it's obvious the producers are promising us a whole lotta Carol and Daryl togetherness this coming season — with or without the overdue romance.