Three weeks ago, I titled the headline of my recap about The Walking Dead episode that explored Daryl’s romantic past and his and Carol’s angry fight in the present “The Daryl and Carol Power Hour Returns, Minus the Power.” Well, “The Daryl & Carol Power Hour” has returned for its third outing, only this time it’s missing the “and,” too.
“Diverged,” as can be easily guessed by its title, is about Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Carol (Melissa McBride) going their separate ways after the fight in “Find Me” where Daryl, not unreasonably, got mad at Carol for always running instead of facing her guilt over the consequences of her actions (e.g., Connie’s presumed death and the Whisperers’ destruction of Alexandria). The episode starts with them literally diverging by taking different paths at a fork in the road, Carol heading back home, while Daryl’s going to hang in the woods awhile. The only thing achieved in “Diverged” is that it ends with Daryl and Carol back together on a (figurative, this time) path back to friendship. As such, it feels like the least consequential of these extra, pandemic-affected bonus episodes of season 10.
Honestly, I can sum up Daryl’s storyline here: His motorcycle breaks, he hurts his leg a bit trying to get a replacement part, there are a few zombies, then he heads back to Alexandria himself. If there’s meaning here, it’s that Daryl is better off with Carol, which is sort of belied by the fact that he spent like seven years away from Alexandria and was just fine. Carol’s “path” is longer and has a bit more going on, although it can be summed up as Carol having a major guilt trip over what she’s done, which now seems to have also cost her a best friend. She feels broken on multiple levels and in an attempt to ignore these feelings, she starts trying to fix anything she can when she returns to Alexandria—including a scarf and some garbage she picks up off the ground. (Maybe a watch? Folks, I cannot express how dark these screeners are.) When Jerry (Cooper Andrews) tells her the Alexandrians kind of have the rebuilding under control, she desperately asks him if there’s anything she can do to contribute, and he says make some lunch.
Carol is incredibly happy to have something meaningful to do, and there’s the bonus that this means she also has to fix the solar panel generator to get the energy to get a slow cooker working. Unfortunately, there’s a rat loose in her apartment, which sets off Dog in a frenzy, who causes some home damage and knocks over her food supplies while chasing it, to no avail. Carol spends several satisfied hours building a rattrap, then heads back into the wilderness, finds some dandelions greens and things for the soup, and kills a bunch of zombies. When an unnaturally peppy, gore-covered Carol returns to Alexandria, Jerry is clearly concerned.
Here’s where things get weird and a bit silly. Carol has caught the rat in a box, but has no means of keeping the rat caught upon lifting the box, so it drops to the ground and scurries away and Carol lets out a yip (more on that below). What follows is a goofy rat chase which would honestly not be out of place in a Tom & Jerry cartoon. In the end, the rat escapes into the wall, another problem Carol has failed to fix, and she heads to bed with an adorably snuggly Dog. “Don’t worry, he always comes back,” she tells Dog. “I don’t though, do I?”
In the middle of the night, Carol and Dog hear the rat scurrying around in the walls, and Carol grabs her knife and stabs through the drywall where she thinks the rat is lurking. Then she does it again. And again. And again. And eventually, she’s outright destroying her entire wall in a frenzy. It should go without saying that the rat is neither killed, caught, nor even spotted.
The next morning, Jerry comes to check on her and spies the wall. It’s not just about the gore or lack of soup, but Jerry figured out the real problem: she left Alexandria with Daryl and she came back alone and upset. She fesses up, and asks, “What if you’re broken and your best friend just realized it later than everyone else?” Jerry gives her a big ol’ hug, and they watch silently as the rat casually strolls out of her place and down the street. Shortly thereafter, Daryl rolls into town, Carol spots him and they have a neutral conversation that clearly indicates they’re already on the mend, even if Daryl still needs more time. On the other hand, Daryl enters his house which is less than 10 yards away from Carol’s place, so he probably doesn’t need that much more time. Carol even smiles a little as he goes inside.
Honestly, this episode didn’t need to exist. It was extremely slow, even compared to the other season 10/pandemic episodes, and it quickly wraps up something—Daryl and Carol’s fight—that we already knew would have been wrapped sooner or later, and this is the very next episode they’ve appeared in together since the spat. I’m honestly curious to see if there will be any other repercussions beyond this, although I’d be surprised if they were. It feels like the fight was created just as a way to fill this episode.
The biggest issue is that “Diverged” is impossibly heavy-handed with its metaphors. Sure, the show has never exactly been deft with these things, but only occasionally has it been worse. Carol’s desperation to fix things was just the external display of her feeling broken internally, and because she’s worried she and Daryl have broken up as BFFs forever. But that didn’t have really any emotional stakes because their relationship has been presented as so strong for so long that it’s almost impossible to believe one medium-sized fight would end it all.
It’s an unnecessary episode and a clunky one, but it’s inoffensive, especially since it’s one of season 10’s bonus episodes—the last of which will air next Sunday and give us Negan’s much-touted origin story. The Walking Dead’s track record with episodes primarily involving Negan has been uneven at best, but so far I think the show has benefitted from having this small batch of quiet, simple episodes. Maybe Negan will, too.
- I just want you to imagine the day from Jerry’s point of view: Carol asks what she can do to help; Jerry asks for some soup; he sees Carol leave; he sees Carol return covered in blood; he goes to bed with the soup having never been seen or mentioned again.
- I would love to get a hug from Jerry. It looks delightful.
- I loved Carol’s fake laugh at Jerry’s mild quip, as well as the way her smile instantly falls off her face when no one’s looking. Melissa McBride is a delight.
- So let’s talk about Carol’s yip upon seeing the rat. It feels uncharacteristic for a woman who has been in massive danger from living and dead people alike and gone through some incredibly grim stuff to be scared of a mere rat, but I think it’s fine. Even if I managed to live more than three days in the zombie apocalypse and became some great survivalist, I bet I’d still run like hell from a bee.
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