The Walking Dead Showrunner Explains Carol And Ezekiel Shake-Up In Season 9 Finale

ezekiel and carol in the kingdom the walking dead

Warning! Spoilers below for anyone who has not yet watched The Walking Dead's Season 9 finale.

From the earliest minutes of its frosty finale, The Walking Dead made it clear that weather changes weren't the only concerns on the various characters' minds, and there was still much mourning to be done. And while the Whisperers may not have taken anyone's lives in "The Storm," their malicious efforts in the previous episode still caused a major casualty in the form of Carol and Ezekiel's big break-up.

The Walking Dead's showrunner Angela Kang spoke with CinemaBlend timed to the finale, and before talking about what the future has in store for Carol and Ezekiel (find that below), here's what she told me when I asked if Henry's death was the lone catalyst that led to their split.

The interesting thing is we always went at this season knowing that by the end of the season, I felt like Carol's fairy tale comes to an end, and she has to go into the next chapter of the story. The sad reality of couples who lose a child is that it often breaks up the marriage. Whether it's because [the death] itself is the thing that causes the problem, or it just reveals the cracks that were always there, whatever it is; or the grief is so much, and people can't connect in their grief. That's something that's actually a common thing that happens with couples, and we wanted to kind of explore the truth of that happening.

Obviously, The Walking Dead has weighed several of its characters down with the loss of offspring in the past. This season started out with Earl and Tammy Faye losing their son Brandon, which had its own deadly butterfly effect, and Rick and Michonne still dealt with grief over losing Carl when Season 9 kicked off its first time jump. However, those situations were generally about the universal sense of mourning and loss, rather than an exploration how the deaths affected each couple as a single unit.

Carol, Ezekiel and Henry were quite the...modern family...with each having overcome their respective sorrows and hardships to get to a stage in life where they could come together as one loving clan. "Tragedies leading to happiness" is a narrative hallmark of fairy tales, so it's quite the apt description of Carol and Ezekiel's years together as Henry's parents. But while fairy tales get to end on the joyful ever after, Carol's journey is destined to keep returning to the melancholy.

Here, Angela Kang continued, adding more context to Carol's decision to travel on to Alexandria without Ezekiel or his ring.

I think for Carol, Henry and Ezekiel were all part of the same package for her. She was this person who started with a family, but it was the most dysfunctional, abuse relationship she could be in. She lost a child. And that changed her for the positive for the most part, I think. It gave her a kind of strength in that aftermath, but it also pained her. So I think we wanted to tell a chapter of the story where it's like, she literally fell into the middle of a fairy tale kingdom. And that was all going along with stuff that was set up in the comic, but with our own variations on it. And then it's like, again, the death of a child has shaken her out of that as well.

No Walking Dead character has had bigger character shifts than Carol's from introduction (Season 1) to their most current episode (Season 9), except for maybe Carl, due to puberty and all. Losing Sophia back in Season 2 marked one of MANY tragic situations that Carol has faced over the years. I don't imagine that she would think of that as a positive change, but she certainly did embrace her independence and inner strength after that.

Losing Ed, in any sense of the word "losing," absolutely goes into the Pro column for Carol. Fuck that dude.

carol in the snow on the walking dead

Though Carol ended Season 9 by walking away from her version of a fantasy romance, that doesn't mean she's going to spend Season 10 wearing black veils and moving up to a creepy house atop a tall hill, scaring kids away on Halloween. Several times in the finale, Carol made it clear that she doesn't answer to Alpha or her rules, so here's hoping some form of brutal revenge is imminent.

In fact, Carol and Ezekiel's break-up won't necessarily be the end of the characters' time together on the screen. Angela Kang offered up an interesting hint about what's to come for the characters in Season 10.

There's a lot of really great story we have planned for Carol and Ezekiel, and I think splitting them actually gives us some really interesting avenues going forward. So I'm excited for that.

Angela Kang wasn't specifically saying that Carol and Ezekiel will get intimately chummy again, so no one should put all their eggs in that basket. However, they may still be able to join forces in seeking vengeance for Henry's death. Not exactly back to fairy tale standards, but there could still be room for something more than just retaliatory murder. Or maybe Ezekiel will blow his chances by giving her shit for talking to Daryl too often.

Final note: Seriously, though, is Michonne's charter cursed or something? As soon as they signed it, Tara got murdered, rendering her signature somewhat moot. Then, the King and Queen split up and the Kingdom fell, currently making that section of the document a historical curiosity at best.

Of course, it's possible (if not exactly probable) that Carol and Ezekiel will rekindle their love, and that the Kingdom will one day rise up anew. But nothing is bringing Tara back, and there are others who signed that charter that could also be facing similarly fatal circumstances in the future. Is there a more expendable character in this universe than Oceanside's now-grown-up Rachel?

Sadly, it's that time of year again where we once again have to bid farewell to The Walking Dead for the spring and summer seasons, but at least fans got to see the show's first winter wonderland first. Keep up with all the latest news with our handy Season 10 guide, and don't for get that there's still a lot of great TV left to be discovered on the midseason schedule, and there are more than a few summer premieres that will keep viewers busy until Alpha's reign of terror returns in earnest.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper.  Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.