Emily Kinney says The Walking Dead was purposefully vague about a potential romance between Beth and Norman Reedus’ Daryl. The singing farm girl and the stoic bowman formed a bond in Season 4, growing closer when separated from the rest of their group following the Governor’s (David Morrissey) attack on their prison base that left the survivors scattered. Season 4 episode “Still,” penned by now-showrunner Angela Kang, focused exclusively on Beth and Daryl, and was at the time taken as a sign “Bethyl” was developing into what would have been Daryl’s first onscreen romance. He was later devastated when Beth was shot and killed by Dawn (Christine Woods) in Season 5 episode “Coda.”
“I just viewed it as a bond. Just like any new sort of relationship-slash-friendship, I feel like there’s always questions about where it’s gonna go or what kind of relationship it is,” Kinney said on Skybound’s Talk Dead to Me podcast when asked how she interpreted the Bethyl dynamic. “And I mean, it really was just the beginning of them becoming friends, and being people they could lean on and trust. So I don’t really know, that’s how I feel. I think it’s vague on purpose.”
Asked why Daryl has yet to participate in a romance, Kinney admitted that was a question better suited for Reedus or the writers.
“I don’t know why. I mean, it is the apocalypse, and maybe some people it’s just not the right environment to start a relationship,” Kinney said with a laugh. “So I don’t know, I feel like everyone reacts differently. Maybe some people would jump into a relationship, and maybe some people would be like, ‘Yeah, no.’”
In 2014, Reedus said in a Reddit Q&A there was “definitely a taste of it in the air” when asked about a Bethyl romance.
As The Walking Dead flirts with one of two potential romantic relationships for Daryl — the ‘Caryl’ coupling, a romantic development between Daryl and best friend Carol (Melissa McBride), or ‘Donnie,’ taking his friendship with Connie (Lauren Ridloff) to the next level — why hasn’t Daryl had a romance?
“Daryl’s such an interesting character that way because in some ways, when it comes to romantic relationships, he’s not a person that I think trusts easily, and a lot of that has to do with his backstory, which is filled with so much trauma. He was physically abused, as well as in other ways. There’s sensitivity there for him,” Kang explained to EW. “And I think he’s also just a person who it’s hard for him to trust anybody enough to connect with them really, really deeply. It’s a long, slow process for him in a lot of ways to get into any kind of a romantic thing, whereas I think most people these days think of it as just like, ‘Oh, you could have fun with somebody, and you can have sex with them and then it doesn’t have to mean anything.’”
“Daryl’s just not wired that way, and that tracks with conversations that Norman and I have had,” she added. “He doesn’t attach to people lightly enough that he can give it a chance easily, you know? So I think that that’s really a big part of it.”