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Daryl has been a major character on The Walking Dead ever since the early seasons when his popularity blew up, and he'll undoubtedly find himself in the spotlight even more once Season 9 gets going on AMC. The upcoming departure of Andrew Lincoln and the huge pay bump for Norman Reedus mean a big dose of Daryl is on the way, and a question now is how Daryl's relationship with Carol may or may not change once he has a more prominent role on the series. Reedus addressed the Daryl/Carol relationship, saying this:
The two of those characters are so similar. They go on a journey that's not about them, basically. They interact with each other, but it kinda goes down a rabbit hole into something else. . . . It's a complicated story. One of the episodes this year has a really sweet, heartfelt moment with them, and it's one of my favorite things that we shot this season. Yeah, those two will forever have each other's backs. Forever. And I'm glad we didn't do an episode early on where we make out behind the bushes, you know what I mean? I'm glad we made it real. I think we played that the right way. And we got a lot of heat for it, from the shippers and stuff, but I'm glad we played it real, and it turned into a real relationship. She's one of my best friends, just like all these guys, and she's an amazing actress. Super talented, super honest. You can't go wrong when you're in a scene with Melissa.
Norman Reedus addressed the Daryl/Carol dynamic at a Walking Dead press conference at San Diego Comic-Con, and his comments indicate that viewers will continue to see development of one of the most nuanced and complex relationships in the history of the series. If you've been hoping that Season 9 will be the time when Daryl and Carol finally fall into each other's arms for a romantic relationship, you may be out of luck. Still, who needs zombie apocalypse romance when you have a relationship that has endured a whole lot of ups and downs that could have tanked any lesser relationships?
It does sound like Daryl and Carol's dynamic won't exactly be a priority right off the bat in Season 9, and that isn't all that surprising given what we know of what's coming. Season 8 ended with Daryl as one of the folks ready to conspire against Rick, and Carol was absent from that group, perhaps pointing toward a rift between the two after the time jump. The trailer (which you can watch here) also seems to point toward the most important relationship for Daryl in at least the first part of the new season will be with Rick.
An emphasis on Daryl and Rick makes sense, given that the show will be passing the torch from Rick to Daryl once Andrew Lincoln bows out. Assuming Carol survives whatever forces Rick out of the action, there could be plenty of time in the second half of the season and however long the series lasts for Daryl and Carol to continue to develop what they've built together.
Both Daryl and Carol will probably be plenty busy when Season 8 kicks off even without spending tons of time with each other. All the progress that has taken place over the time jump must have taken a lot of blood, sweat, and work from everybody, and a lot of emphasis will probably be on Rick and whether he lives or has to die. The Whisperers with leader Alpha are also coming on the scene, and they could be even more terrifying than Negan and the Saviors. We'll have to wait and see.