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How The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon – The Book of Carol Can Be Better Than Its Awful Title

Carol Peletier, played by Melissa McBride, is arguably the most riveting character in The Walking Dead franchise.

Calculating and cold-hearted at times but comforting when she needs to be, Carol walks the line between hero and anti-hero, never once failing to bring pathos to her character.

Imagine the intrigue of fans when AMC Networks announced that The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon Season 2 will be subtitled “The Book of Carol.”

Hmm. We’ve got to do something about that title.

What does “The Book of Carol” mean, anyway? Is it a biblical allusion like The Book of Enoch or The Book of Eli (which does sort of feel like a post-apocalyptic setting, come to think of it)?

Or is “The Book of Carol” in reference to a book Carol is writing during her time away from the original Grimes clan, perhaps a book of poetry inspired by non-confrontational walkers?

Carol’s presence on The Walking Dead, while mesmerizing, is not exactly a strong narrative pull, at least as a singular protagonist.

True, her role has evolved quite dramatically over time. She went from abused housewife to cold-blooded child killer to war general to clan matriarch with hardly an extra blink.

McBride pulls off an amazing feat in that she inhabits her part with steady grace and without sacrificing credibility, despite her winding road of emotions — or lack of emotions, at times.

Carol is believable because she is the constant survivor, a maternal presence who holds her family close and keeps her acquaintances at the same shoulder’s length as her enemies.

But Carol’s character, and much of the show’s conflict, has largely been reacting to the behavior of others — mostly men, whom Carol either viciously opposes, adopts as surrogate children or loves deeply as platonic soul mates.

Sure, she got along with Ezekiel…in one of the most head-scratchingly platonic romances I’ve seen on TV.

When The Walking Dead series finally ended, and everyone went their separate ways, Carol disappeared.

Of course, there’s a back story there.

Carol was originally going to “spin off” with Daryl Dixon in “The Walking Dead: Daryl & Carol.”

These people just can’t come up with good titles, can they?

Unfortunately for Daryl and Carol fans (who still ship that, despite all logic at this point)

Melissa McBride turned the project down for logistical reasons after learning the show was being filmed in Europe.

Now that she is reuniting and costarring with Norman Reedus for Season 2, one can’t help but wonder the question we dare not speak.

How much farther can Carol go in The Walking Dead universe after having told all of her stories?

The thought has to have crossed Melissa McBride’s mind, too.

Remember, the original character of Carol Peletier in The Walking Dead comic book was a meek housewife, a neurotic and selfish mother, and many years younger than the TV adaptation.

The character Carol Peletier didn’t find great inner strength in the comic book. Instead, she grew more emotionally volatile, walked a path of certain self-destruction, and then committed suicide after a breakup with Tyreese, of all people.

In short, there was no long-term future for Carol, according to The Walking Dead’s original creator.

Comic Carol was a mess and a perpetual victim doomed to fail in a society that couldn’t care for her.

Ironically, TV Carol evolved into a teeth-grindingly pragmatic woman who would tear comic book Carol to shreds.

Now, knowing that Carol’s future is entirely up to Reedus and McBride themselves — they essentially are the co-creators of these bonus characters who became unexpected cultural icons — how does the show conclude their story?

Is it wishful thinking or just realistic to assume that McBride won’t be a long-term contributor to Reedus’ show, especially since she already turned down the pilot season? 

“The Adventures of Daryl and Carol” just doesn’t make much sense, as there’s no real surrogate family dynamic, at least from Carol’s point of view. We already know a romance was nixed.

The spiritual mother role that Carol fulfills for Daryl will not work for an ongoing series where Norman has matured into a leading man and Daryl into a lone wolf with a heart of gold.

Daryl doesn’t need Carol anymore. Norman doesn’t need McBride to carry the show; he’s solidly building it on his own right. 

And we know by now Carol isn’t a sidekick and isn’t exactly keen on meeting new people.

She’s also clearly shown signs of emotional fatigue when it comes to taking down corrupt leaders, stabbing walkers, and repairing broken children — all of which there are probably thousands waiting at the door.

I feel as if Carol works best as an antagonist, opposing the moral conscience of a leading character. That’s where she eats the screen, where her survivalist mindset clashes with the weaker people around her.

And if that’s where The Book of Carol is going, it’s going to be riveting television.

We’ve already seen the “You Can’t Go Home Again” storyline played out between Daryl Dixon and Leah (Lynn Collins), where Daryl has to put down the twisted creature his ex-lover has become.

The final chapter in Carol’s “book” has to be something new, something provocative, that’s been building for 14 years.

Perhaps the plot will speak to the forces of nature Daryl and Carol have become — two alpha personas that have co-existed and loved each other because of shared traumas but are now inevitably taking two different paths in life.

Will they say a tearful goodbye again, or will there have to be a compromise, with someone taking a step back?

I’m not suggesting that McBride or producer David Zabel are so unsentimental they would deprive us of a fond farewell.

I’m just saying it’s been done before.

The Walking Dead’s lack of restraint and completely humorless approach to storytelling gives the show its edge.

The conflict between human beings who are easy to like and hard to love is the real war happening in this universe, and it’s about time Carol brought some much-needed emotional destruction to accompany the symphony of zombie violence

The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon: The Book of Carol (Awful title, really) premieres in Summer 2024.

Michael Arangua is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. You can follow him on X.



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