Daryl and Carol share water but little conversation in the aftermath of their fight at the cabin.
Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Carol (Melissa McBride) share water but little conversation in the aftermath of their fight at the cabin.
Photo Credit: Eli Ade /AMC / The Walking Dead

This review contains spoilers for episode 1021, “Diverged.”

In this week’s episode of The Walking Dead, Carol and Daryl decide to diverge on different paths at a literal fork in the road to match the metaphorical one they have been traveling for awhile now.  The episode devolves into a day in the life/problem-solver episode, but does not advance the plot.  This is a surprising choice for the penultimate episode of the season, but for those looking forward to the Carol and Daryl spinoff, it is nice to spend some time with the besties.

A Road Diverged

The episode picks up after the long-overdue fight between Carol and Daryl.  The two walk down a dirt road with only Dog and a thousand metaphorical miles between them.  There is no talking.  After what was said at the cabin, neither is ready to return to the ease of their former banter.  Too much has happened.  Too much has been said.  Carol struggles with a water canteen, and Daryl offers her his Leatherman knife.  Carol takes the knife and uses it to pry open the bottle.  Without a word, Carol offers the canteen to Daryl, and he pours water into his hand for Dog to drink.

When Daryl finally speaks, he notes that his bike is nearby.  Daryl announces that he is going to continue to scavenge, but that he could give Carol a ride back to Alexandria.  Carol politely declines.  Daryl starts to speak, and Carol assures him that he does not need to apologize to her.  “I wasn’t.  Just going to say good luck,” Daryl says.  With a nod, Carol takes a right at the fork in the road.  Daryl diverges to the left.  After a bit of hesitation, Dog follows Carol.  I think Dog is too tired to run alongside Daryl’s bike today.

On his divergent path from Carol, Daryl scavenges for supplies to fix his bike.
On his divergent path from Carol, Daryl scavenges for supplies to fix his bike.
Photo: AMC / The Walking Dead

Zombies and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

After Daryl picks up his bike, he heads out on the road.  Soon, the bike dies.  On closer inspection, Daryl sees a damaged hose of some sort on the side.  I don’t know a lot about bikes, but I feel very vindicated from last week when I screamed at him not to drop his bike on its side willy nilly.  I told you to lean the bike against something, Daryl!  Without a lot of bike shops in the wilderness, Daryl spends the rest of his day scoping out the engines of various cars to find a suitable hose for repairs.

One thing Daryl does quite often is let walkers wander unmolested.  If I’m walking past any walkers, I’m taking them out.  With my hearing problems, I do not need to tempt fate.  If you pass a walker, you kill that walker.  Daryl is a different kind of dude though.  Where I would want someone to end my undead life, Daryl often seems to want to leave the walkers alone like an animal in a nature documentary.  Other characters have learned the downside to letting a walker go because it seems harmless. 

Once again Daryl happens upon a walker in a car, and he just lets it go on grumbling and snapping inside.  When Daryl slides under the car to check for the part he needs, the restless walker inside tilts the car on the embankment, almost crushing Daryl underneath it in the process.  Of all the ways to die, car maintenance in a forest seems unlikely but also oddly fitting for Daryl.  Through sheer luck, Daryl escapes a crushing death.

When Daryl returns to his bike, he realizes Carol took his Leatherman tool with her.  Looks like Daryl’s Carol problem has compounded his bike problem.  Daryl pushes the bike along.  Help arrives in the form of a gaggle of the undead.  Daryl spots a former military man in the group, he speed walks past the other undead to get to the soldier.  Let me repeat that: past the other undead.  With a knife the size of his forearm, Daryl decides not to make quick work of the surrounding undead, but to instead just outwalk them like it is a Sunday morning at the mall.

Daryl catches up to his target, and he follows him into a ravine.  Anyone that has gone into a leaf covered ravine knows that the way down is a slippery one, and almost immediately, Daryl is on his ass.  After a struggle, Daryl finally puts down the walker.  The whole time I was thinking it would be raining walkers any second, but apparently Daryl got his timing right.  Daryl is able to strip the walker for useful materials and be on his merry way before the rest of the undead group catch up and slide into the ravine.  One day Daryl’s luck is going to run out because he takes unnecessary risks like that.

In "Diverged," Jerry is surprised to see a cheerful Carol in Alexandria.
Jerry (Cooper Andrews) is surprised to see a cheerful Carol in Alexandria.
Photo: AMC / The Walking Dead

I Just Want to Help

Carol returns to Alexandria with Dog, and she admits to her companion, “I didn’t need an apology.”  Carol notes that an apology is just a truce, not a fix.  As a survivor of domestic violence, Carol probably knows that better than most.  Carol’s relationship with Daryl is not finished, but it is splintered pretty badly.

When Carol walks up to Jerry and chatters about repairs, he appears taken aback.  This version of Carol, the version that does not thirst for revenge, but instead focuses on fixing problems and making things work, has been gone for quite a long time.  Much to Carol’s surprise, Jerry points out all the issues that have already been handled.  Carol wants to feel useful, so she asks Jerry for guidance.  When Jerry’s stomach answers her question, Carol decides her new mission is to make lunch for everyone.

Much like Daryl’s day, Carol’s is fraught with one setback after another.  In a return to her more good-natured days, Carol chuckles at each problem.  Unlike Daryl, when Carol comes across a group of walkers, she puts down her foraging bucket and merrily takes them out.  While Daryl avoids killing walkers, Carol talks to them like woodland creatures in a very dark fairytale, before she takes them out one by one.  Only Carol could return to Alexandria covered in blood and smile like all is right with the world.

Hot Pot

In the apocalypse, Carol apparently learned how to be an electrician, a farmer, a cook, a fighter, a rat trap designer, and solar power specialist.  I like to think that in an apocalypse that I would learn a lot of trades to survive like Carol.  Considering the only thing I learned in the last year of the pandemic was half a song on a ukulele, I’m thinking I’m no Carol. One by one, Carol shows off each of the skills she has acquired.

After a few struggles, Carol gets to work on her soup.  A rat taunts the last vestiges of Carol’s remaining cool.  Carol diverges from the task at hand, in an effort to trap the rat. Between a restless dog and the tippy tapping of an elusive rat in the walls, Carol soon takes her frustration out on the drywall.  Jerry stops by under the guise of asking about the soup, but he cops to being a bad liar.  Worried, Jerry asks Carol if she is okay.  Carol is not, but she does not need to say it. 

Jerry is in no danger of losing his “Most Observant” trophy anytime soon.  With a smirk, Jerry points out that Carol left with Daryl, but only returned with Dog.  Jerry knows what that means.  “What if you really are broken?  What if your best friend just realized it a whole lot later than everyone else did?” Carol asks.  Jerry gives Carol a bear hug, and let me tell you, it felt like Jerry was hugging all of us in that moment.  Relieved, Carol finishes her soup, and she hangs some drywall.  When Daryl returns, there is small talk, which proves they still care for one another.  But there is also still a gulf of space between them.

Worth Watching?

This is a placeholder episode.  For those that like Carol and Daryl, and they are interested in their friendship, I would say this episode is worth watching.  There is no new ground here though.  Carol and Daryl do not realize anything new about themselves or each other.  This is simply a device to show the emotional distance between the two friends by having them physically diverge from one another.  That distance has already been established. It felt more like a backdoor pilot for the Carol and Daryl spinoff.  The question is, are Daryl and Carol on a different path? Or is this distance temporary?

After the cliffhanger of last week’s trainyard mind bender, this feels deeply misplaced.  I get that two episodes of Carol and Daryl in a row would not work, but hot on the heels of Princess’ interrogation, this episode felt deeply out of order.

Odds & Eggs

  • Whose scarf is that?  Leah’s?  Considering the amount of air time it had, that will likely be the only plot point advanced this episode.
  • Is Carol the only one that thought about catching rats for food?
  • Two roads diverged in the wood, and I took the one less traveled by the undead. And that has made all the difference. – Updates poems for the Apocalypse

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