Romantic or platonic, best friends or something more, there’s no denying that Carol and Daryl have a deep affection for each other. Their reunion outside Terminus alone should serve as enough evidence. Also, there’s Daryl’s insistence that she remain with the group in early Season 5 (and his clear concern that she was ready to leave by herself) and his outburst when Rick banished her in Season 4. Carol’s reaction to seeing Daryl on her doorstep in Season 7 makes her feelings pretty clear, too.
Jackson Lee Davis/AMC
Daryl’s been there for Carol for a very, very, very long time (and vice versa)
Almost every time Carol goes through something traumatic, Daryl — if he knows about it — is there to help her through her pain. He was there for her when Sophia died, he tried to be there for her after Lizzie and Mika died (though she wasn’t willing to open up about what happened), and most recently, he was there for her when Henry’s head wound up on a pike.
Carol was there for him after Merle died, and then, a few seasons later, when Beth died. Carol and Daryl have helped each other through quite a bit of grief and loss, and the other person’s wellbeing is always of the utmost importance to them.
Their chemistry is undeniable
“Just friends” don’t look at each other the way these two do. Yes, for the time being their connection is relegated to friendship, but honestly? Carol and Daryl have given the impression that something could’ve been brewing between them for years, based on the way they interact. Carol (jokingly…?) asking him if he wanted to “screw around” in Season 3 is just one example; her calling him “Pookie” is another, her cutting his hair in Season 9 is yet another. And of course, this is in no way an exhaustive list.
Angela Kang has referred to them as “soulmates”
TWD’s showrunner understands the depth of Carol and Daryl’s connection. In an interview last year with Rotten Tomatoes, Kang offered encouragement to fans of the Carol-Daryl ‘ship by referring to the pair as “soulmates,” saying, “They needed to find each other in this apocalypse, and they’re both stronger for having each other.”
Jackson Lee Davis/AMC
They want the best for each other
From the start of the series through the most recent episode, Carol and Daryl have always wanted the other person to realize their worth and to be happy. In Season 2, Carol made sure Daryl didn’t pull away from the group and told him he was “every bit as good” as Rick or Shane (Shane was “good” back then). And Daryl re-joined society at large in Season 9 to take care of Henry for Carol. They sacrifice for each other and have often served as each other’s safe place in tough times. Most recently, Daryl offered to leave the group with Lydia when he thought Carol might not have wanted her around, even though he didn’t want to go.
They understand each other like no one else
They spent quite a bit of time apart in recent seasons, but Daryl and Carol still understand each other on a deep, powerful level. They have similar pasts — both suffered abuse and had pretty awful lives pre-apocalypse — and because of that shared history (and other reasons), they can recognize each other’s strength and resilience on a level many of their fellow survivors can’t.
The timing is right
It’s been seven seasons, but it’s taken seven seasons for the story to progress to a point where both Carol and Daryl are ready for a relationship at the same time and in the same place. They could’ve gotten together in Season 4 at the prison, but Carol was banished pretty early on, and they spent the rest of the season apart. Seasons 5, 6 and 7 saw Carol dealing with various forms of trauma, so she wasn’t in the headspace for any kind of romance.
Daryl was also suffering through his own struggles, and in later seasons, Carol and Daryl spent more time apart than they did together. Now, with both of them at Alexandria, they won’t be separated for another full season and Daryl’s definitely matured to the point where he might be ready for a relationship. Carol will need time to grieve her son and the end of her marriage, but after that, they’ll finally be able to take a step forward.
But for some fans, the biggest question posed — thanks to a combination of Carol (Melissa McBride) and Ezekiel's (Khary Payton) breakup and the suspicious number of Carol and Daryl (Norman Reedus) scenes — was this one: Is the show going to explore a romantic relationship between Carol and Daryl?
It seems Carol, more than any of the other survivors, has become trapped in an unending cycle of soul-crushing devastation.
At some point, TWD's going to have to either define the relationship between these two or make it canon. There have been hints recently at something between them, what with the lingering glances, the hugs and Ezekiel's apparent jealousy of Daryl in the finale.
There are other characters Carol and Daryl have been paired and 'shipped with, but it's hard to match #Caryl's enduring connection and consuming chemistry. Click through the gallery above for seven reasons we think Season 10 would be a good time to explore this pairing.
The Walking Dead, Season 10, Coming Fall 2019, AMC