The Walking Dead's Angel Theory on Whether Kelly Blames Carol for Connie Cave-In

The Walking Dead star Angel Theory says Kelly is determined to rescue sister Connie (Lauren Ridloff) instead of hating on Carol (Melissa McBride), whose actions in the midseason premiere caused Connie and Magna (Nadia Hilker) to become trapped beneath a mound of rubble when attempting to escape from the cave holding Whisperer Alpha's (Samantha Morton) walker horde. Daryl (Norman Reedus), Aaron (Ross Marquand), Jerry (Cooper Andrews), Carol and Kelly were forced to leave the trapped heroes behind when Carol's attempts to destroy the horde sent a stick of dynamite tumbling towards the dead below, resulting in an explosion Kelly said would "draw walkers and Whisperers from a hundred miles from here."

"Her sister's still inside. I don't think the first initial thought in Kelly's mind is to look at Carol," Theory said on the Talk Dead to Me podcast. "I know that's a lot that's expected from her, but Kelly's really not a hateful person. We haven't really seen that."

For the aftermath, where Kelly, Daryl, and Carol are left grief-stricken, Theory "wanted that scene to be as heartbreaking for everyone else as it was for Kelly. That's her blood, her family, her sister."

What's worse, Theory added, is the matter of Connie needing to train Kelly to ease her into a "smooth transition from her hearing loss." Kelly's worsening hearing loss was addressed in the Season 10 premiere, where Connie assured her younger sister they would keep practicing to work on her "superpower."

But losing Connie, even if only temporarily, is unimaginable.

"Kelly didn't expect that to even happen, especially so instant," Theory said of the midseason premiere's explosive ending. "I just think for her, in that moment, many people in that situation wouldn't have gathered themselves that quickly, or would have even been able to think strategically. That's your sibling. How could you just cry and get up and be strategic and think of everyone else? That's a really emotional and deep scene, and as much as it's a very sad and emotional scene, this also was like the very first time anyone has seen Kelly really show signs of leadership and growth."

Theory admits Kelly "let emotions get in the way" in Season 9 — when Luke (Dan Fogler), a member of the tight group comprised of the sisters, Magna, and Yumiko (Eleanor Matsuura) — was held hostage by the Whisperers. Here Kelly stepped up to rally the escaped heroes, telling the disheartened group, "We can't save them if we're dead."

"So to see her witness the cave blow up and cry her eyes out, and then all of a sudden get up and tell Daryl and the others, 'We need to go, this isn't smart to stay here. We'll come back later.' It just shows she isn't thinking about herself, and letting her emotions get the best of her and put everyone else in danger," Theory said. "And I feel like that was her moment of, 'I can either stay here and cry and let us all get killed, or get our asses up and move and we'll get them later.'"

The disastrous result of the cave escape caused a rift between longtime best friends Daryl and Carol, but now is not the time to fall to pieces.

"We're way beyond the thought of, 'What if this happens to Connie, what if Connie was in danger?' Kelly isn't thinking her sister can be fine or not in that moment, she just sees 'kaboom,'" Theory added. "That's the equivalent of seeing someone's heart shatter in that moment. To even see Daryl go up to the cave and try to dig his way in, that was so emotional, but at the same time, Kelly is the one that's like, 'Dude, this is my sister.' Even though she doesn't say it, without words being spoken, like, 'This is my sister. I'm sad. OK, dude? Yeah, I get it, we all formed a bond, but listen. If I'm not the one trying to dig her out the cave right now, it's because we need to be safe first. Because I'm not going to accept the fact that she's dead. We're gonna come back and save them.' It was a real testament to show how much she's growing, and how much she cares for her sister, and for everyone else as well, not just herself."

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Carol has hit "rock bottom," says showrunner Angela Kang, who told EW Carol will work through her guilt as part of an "emotional" story unfolding this half-season. Daryl next returns to the cave entrance as part of a rescue attempt in "Stalker," premiering Sunday, March 1 at 9/8c on AMC.

For all things TWD, follow the author @CameronBonomolo on Twitter.