NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “The Walking Dead” are present in this review
After an especially standout high point surrounding Princess and Eugene’s group last week, The Walking Dead appeared to double up on an existing perspective within its bonus episodes for Season 10 this week, specifically that of Carol and Daryl. “Diverged”, like, “Find Me” before it, almost feels like another extended trailer for AMC’s in-development Carol/Daryl spin-off series, which will supposedly begin airing in 2023. The difference in this case however is that Carol and Daryl are separated into two separate storylines, both fully rooted in the present, as they both try and find their way through a low point in their friendship.
It’s initially disappointing that we don’t get an update on Leah, or where that storyline may ultimately end up going, but if I’m being honest, Daryl wasn’t the one with the ideal storyline in this case. It’s actually Carol that surprisingly dominates this episode’s appeal, after she and Daryl take separate paths, with Carol returning to Alexandria, while Daryl remains in the wild. In an especially interesting twist, Dog briefly defects from Daryl here as well, and instead follows Carol back home, where he goes on to keep her company while Carol struggles to make herself useful. Indeed, after Jerry tells Carol that most of the current jobs in Alexandria have been completed, Carol simply decides to prepare some food, opting to gather ingredients for a stew.
The twist here is that Carol’s cooking area appears to have a rat infestation, which both provokes Dog, and makes Carol struggle with her own growing inadequacy at Alexandria. This actually makes for another more fun, light-hearted episode of The Walking Dead, episodes that are always appreciated when they come along. It’s also a bit of an interesting throwback to a famous episode of another AMC series, namely the ‘fly’ episode of Breaking Bad, wherein Walter White eventually tears apart his super-lab trying to swat a stubborn fly. The combined efforts of Carol and Dog are of course consistently foiled by this rat, even after Carol takes out several walkers single-handedly while gathering herbs, and this leads to Carol feeling like she’s no longer useful among her survivor friends.
To be brutally honest about Carol’s characterization throughout Season 10, it’s been pretty bad. Carol has become an unstable, whining liability that’s mainly existed to cause trouble for the survivor communities this season, especially when it came to her senseless, suicidal efforts to keep provoking Alpha at everyone else’s expense. Finally though, The Walking Dead is starting to do something more useful with Carol’s grief and impotence. The fact that Ezekiel is currently gone made this storyline even better, completely depriving Carol of support, at least beyond the comforting whines of Dog. Perhaps there’s hope yet for Carol’s character during The Walking Dead’s upcoming eleventh and final season, though I hesitate to claim that I’m fully on board for AMC’s in-development Carol/Daryl spin-off, even now.
As for Daryl, his wandering through the wilderness felt significantly less productive here. A storyline like this is certainly true to Daryl’s character, but it also felt like this episode had a great idea for Carol, and Daryl ended up being an afterthought by comparison. Granted, like I said, Carol’s character is the one that’s in urgent need of repair at this point, but it’s nonetheless a bummer that Daryl had nothing to do but try and fix his motorcycle without a vital tool that he lent to Carol. This also unrealistically leads to several boilerplate walker encounters that only become an issue because Daryl blatantly skips steps when it comes to securing his own safety against them. When the hell did Daryl become this clumsy and inept?! That in particular doesn’t seem to portray a ton of confidence for Daryl’s spin-off prospects…
Finally, regarding the overall disagreement between Carol and Daryl that’s been going on since the events of, “Find Me” a few weeks ago, I’m a little disappointed that the show didn’t ultimately push it further. Rather than feeling like they’re facing a true rift in their friendship, Carol and Daryl are acting more like they had an awkward hook-up than a true fight. If they’re supposed to be in conflict, they don’t really feel like they’re in conflict. Considering Daryl’s harsh words to Carol especially (which, frankly, were somewhat deserved), the two don’t even end up acknowledging the still-missing Connie in this case, plus Daryl even returns to Alexandria of his own volition, in turn immediately addressing Carol when he does. What’s the point of this row between these two characters then? Clearly, the writers don’t seem interested in pushing it that far, so why bother having Daryl so harshly blame Carol for Connie’s disappearance in the first place?
All in all though, “Diverged” did add some more welcome levity to AMC’s Walking Dead TV universe, which can often feel very exhausting and unfulfilling when it gets stuck too far in its main gear of being hopeless and depressing. Despite that though, I’m still not seeing the point of spinning Carol and Daryl off into their own series yet, at least beyond forcing an excuse to further prolong the perspective from AMC’s flagship Walking Dead series after it airs its final episodes next year. There just isn’t enough to Carol’s and Daryl’s character rapport beyond being two of the cooler survivors on The Walking Dead, at least right now. Granted, Carol’s character in particular sees some very significant improvements in this episode, but do we really need a whole show about these two? Well, in any case, I suppose, “Diverged” does nonetheless mark another better bonus episode for The Walking Dead’s extended tenth season, which will finally be coming to an end next week, after finally premiering the long-awaited TV adaptation of the ‘Here’s Negan’ comic!
The Walking Dead presents some much-needed improvements for Carol's character this week, while Daryl finds himself on another unrewarding journey into the wild.
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THE GOOD STUFF
Carol's charming cooking mission
Dog briefly defecting to Carol's side
Carol's breakdown cleverly mirroring a famous Breaking Bad episode
THE NOT-SO-GOOD STUFF
Daryl's uncharacteristic ineptitude against walkers