After initial attempts to distance herself from both King Ezekiel (Khary Payton) and young Kingdom ward Henry (Macsen Lintz), Carol (Melissa McBride) will have a new family unit in The Walking Dead Season Nine.
The Walking Dead Season Nine San Diego Comic-Con trailer hinted at ‘Carzekiel’ — the romantic pairing of Carol and Ezekiel — a development that was officially confirmed during the Preview Special aired on AMC.
Because of the father-son relationship shared between Ezekiel and Henry — and her new status as Ezekiel’s “queen” — Carol looks to similarly step in as Henry’s surrogate mother.
“It’s so interesting, because they developed this real father-son dynamic, and it’s a father-son dynamic where a boy is trying to come of age. And it doesn’t feel like a step-father and a [step-son]. They realize in this world, the family you find is the family you got,” Payton said on Talking Dead. “And so it is very much, ‘I’m yours, and you’re mine.’”
The Walking Dead this season will also feature a new marriage, with the Carol and Ezekiel coupling the likeliest candidates.
After suffering the loss of only daughter Sophia (Madison Lintz), executing the mentally-unwell Lizzie (Brighton Sharbino) after the girl killed little sister Mika (Kyla Kenedy), and her ominous threat over young Sam Anderson (Major Dodson) being torn apart by walkers coming true, Carol’s tragic history with children has seen her keep them at arm’s length: last season, she went so far as to refuse to search for Henry when the boy went missing after he inadvertently freed Hilltop’s Savior prisoners.
A relieved and emotional Carol later found Henry on her own and rescued the boy from walkers — sparing him from the same fate that befell Sophia, something the old, since-burned-away Carol was never strong enough to prevent.
Carol will be just one of the characters stepping forward into even bigger roles this season as The Walking Dead will be driven by its veteran female characters, namely Carol, Michonne (Danai Gurira) and Maggie (Lauren Cohan).
“We’re going to see our women really step up,” new showrunner Angela Kang told EW. “And we’re gonna show a lot of stories about leadership with Maggie, with Michonne, with Carol. And they’re gonna go toe to toe with each other and with our men.”
Henry is also expected to play a bigger role as the likely one-day love interest of the just-cast Lydia, who in the comic books is the daughter of a new enemy and Carl Grimes’ girlfriend. Executive producer Scott Gimple previously said the series would continue to adapt Carl’s comic book storylines despite his live-action counterpart having been killed off in the show, making Henry a viable candidate to inherit some of those stories.
The Walking Dead returns Sunday, October 7 on AMC.