The Walking Dead gave hope to "Caryl" shippers Sunday when its Season Nine finale split Carol (Melissa McBride) and husband King Ezekiel (Khary Payton), potentially opening the door for a long-wanted romance between Carol and Daryl (Norman Reedus).
The royal couple were separated in the aftermath of the death of their adopted son, Henry (Matt Lintz), who fell victim to Alpha (Samantha Morton) and the Whisperers. With the Kingdom shuttered from damages, Ezekiel oversees Hilltop while Carol has returned to residency within Alexandria — a move some viewers now hope leads into the "Caryl" romance.
Though Daryl earlier this season expressed his happiness for Carol and her love with the theatrical Kingdom leader, it didn't quiet cries for the Daryl-Carol dynamic to turn romantic.
"You never know, you know?" McBride told ET in October when asked if "Caryl" was still on the table despite "Carzekiel." Until that happens, McBride ships their bond, which has only deepened after Henry's death.
"I love how they have each other's back. I love their relationship," she said. "Whatever it is, I love their relationship." Added Reedus, "I think a lot of people are [still for the romance], actually. I kind of get it everywhere."
Reedus and McBride are both signed to three-year deals, securing their involvement for seasons Ten, Eleven, and Twelve. Long before Carol and Ezekiel's split, showrunner Angela Kang in October hinted "Caryl" could remain in play when she said "stories change."
"I think this is one of the deepest relationships that we have on the show," Kang told Rotten Tomatoes of the Daryl and Carol friendship.
"It's a relationship between these two people who are so damaged in some ways from their prior lives, before the apocalypse, and who've come so far together. Neither of them trusts people very easily. The idea of being in a romantic relationship for either of them is not something that is easy. We have not seen that at all for Daryl.
"What I'll say is, these are characters who have come a long way, who have had long stories. People who are lamenting a certain pairing or whatever, keep in mind that we're telling a long, serialized arc and stories develop and stories change and things move along. What we know is that Carol and Daryl, whether romantic or not, they are soulmates. They needed to find each other in this apocalypse, and they're both stronger for having each other."
Daryl has since found another potential love interest in series newcomer Connie (Lauren Ridloff), who has developed her own bond with the stoic bowman after the two embarked on a dangerous mission against the Whisperers. The fan-favorite potential coupling, dubbed "Donnie," now rivals calls for "Caryl."
Could we see the long-loveless Daryl at the center of a love triangle come Season Ten? If or when Daryl finds a romantic partner, Reedus expects it to be for the long haul.
"He's like a flamingo or a penguin," Reedus said of Daryl on The IMDb Show. "I think if he's gonna find it he's gonna stick with it."
The Walking Dead returns with its tenth season this October on AMC.
We're breaking up King. My heart belongs to Daryl.... #TheWalkingDead— Luci (@Luci_L) April 1, 2019
Carol breaking up with King Ezekiel... Fairytale is over! #TheWalkingDead— Con Ó Néill de Tyrone ☀?? (@rexdelamanoroja) April 1, 2019
So she loves Daryl a lil more than the king . Carol is home . #TheWalkingDead— Lj (@Sneakerhead06) April 1, 2019
OK but OMG Daryl and Carol are so happening, and they're 100% adopting Lydia. #POWERCOUPLE #caryl #twd @AMCTalkingDead @WalkingDead_AMC @angelakang @wwwbigbaldhead @mcbridemelissa ? #TalkingDead pic.twitter.com/tnRxDqB1vu— Elinor Engström (@NonaMithla) April 1, 2019
YEEESSSS MY CARYL SHIPPING HEART IS SO HAPPY but I'm sad to see Carol upset#TheWalkingDead— Marybeth(renew ODAAT!!!!) (@MarybethBuskirk) April 1, 2019
Sorry Ezekiel but it’s been Caryl since the beginning. You can never split them up. #TheWalkingDead— H a y l e y (@HayBay411) April 1, 2019
So...carol and the king? Just done? I don't accept this. #TheWalkingDead— Ali (@Alicat1032) April 1, 2019
No Carol don’t do it????? #TheWalkingDead— яєє∂υѕ ιѕ му мυѕє ? (@leedusme1227) April 1, 2019
daryl is definitely in love with carol ❤❤❤❤❤❤?April 1, 2019