The Walking Dead Finale Director on Carol's Ending (Exclusive)

Warning: this story contains spoilers for The Walking Dead series finale, "Rest in Peace." The end of The Walking Dead is not the end for Carol Peletier. It is not the end for actress Melissa McBride. And it is not the end for "Caryl," the enduring relationship between best friends Carol and Daryl (Norman Reedus). In September 2020, AMC announced that Reedus and McBride would lead the Daryl & Carol spin-off focused on the two fan-favorite characters, continuing their stories after The Walking Dead's eleventh and final season. But Daryl and Carol were not destined to ride off into the sunset together — at least, not yet. 

But weeks after filming on the flagship show wrapped in April, McBride bowed out of the Walking Dead spin-off. "Relocating to Europe became logistically untenable for Melissa at this time," AMC said in a statement, adding that "The Walking Dead Universe continues to grow and expand in interesting ways and we very much hope to see Carol again in the near future."

The spin-off, which was developed by Walking Dead showrunner Angela Kang and executive producer Scott M. Gimple, was reworked to focus on Daryl as he rides solo on a new adventure taking him overseas to Paris, France (where the six-episode first season is currently filming with Reedus and director Greg Nicotero).

On The Walking Dead series finale Sunday night, Carol and Daryl saved Judith Grimes (Cailey Fleming) from a gunshot wound as a walker herd invaded Ohio's Commonwealth. They then helped General Mercer (Michael James Shaw) pull off his coup to depose the corrupt Governor Pamela Milton (Laila Robins), destroy the zombie herd, and save the thousands of Commonwealth citizens Milton left to die. 

In the end, a one-year time jump revealed Carol replaced the late Lance Hornsby (Josh Hamilton) as the Commonwealth's Deputy Governor. Instead of baking cookies, Carol will work to make the Commonwealth a better place to live alongside Lieutenant Governor Mercer and her ex-husband: Governor Ezekiel Sutton (Khary Payton). 

"I wish you were coming with me," says Daryl, who has been away exploring "the frontier." Daryl and Carol once talked about getting on his motorcycle and heading west to New Mexico, but she has a job to do. "This is gonna be good," she tells him. "For you, for me."  

"It's not like we're never gonna see each other again," Daryl tells Carol. She replies with a teary smile, "I'm allowed to be a little sad. You're my best friend." After asking Judith to "keep an eye" on her aunt Carol, Daryl leaves the Grimes kids in her care at the Commonwealth. With one last hug goodbye-for-now, the BFFs exchange "I love yous" before Daryl rides off alone to his new adventure. 

ComicBook asked executive producer Greg Nicotero, who directed the series closer, if Carol's ending changed after McBride decided to exit the Daryl & Carol spin-off: 

"No, [the final scenes between Carol and Daryl] were written and kind of ready to go," Nicotero revealed. "But the truth of the matter is, those two have literally palpable chemistry with each other. And so much of it is about their mannerisms. It's not about the words that they say to each other, because the words really don't enter into the chemistry that these two people have and this affection that they have for each other."

As hinted by both McBride and Reedus, The Walking Dead series finale is not the end of the road for Carol and Daryl. 

"I think it's safe to say that just because Daryl left and Carol's at the Commonwealth doesn't necessarily mean that's where they're going to end up, and that's where they're going to stay," Nicotero teased. "So there's a lot to be said for just that moment, where Carol was at peace being where she was. And Daryl was sort of ready to move on, and ready to get out there and see what else is out there in the world."

Stay tuned to ComicBook/TWD and follow @CameronBonomolo and @NewsOfTheDead on Twitter for more TWD Universe coverage.