With Negan captured and the war over on The Walking Dead, Season 9 will feature the survivors stumbling back to normal and settling down again. And this resettlement includes some new (ish) romances on the AMC series. The news that Carol and Ezekiel are a couple in The Walking Dead Season 9 has fans reeling already, months before the Oct. 7 premiere date.
When Melissa McBride's character joined the Kingdom in Season 8, she bonded with the leader (Khary Payton) instantly, but now their bond is explicitly romantic. Will Carol and Ezekiel get married in Season 9? Are they already married, per the time jump that will have occurred? If they did get married, would Carol become Queen of the Kingdom? (She's already a #Queen but, you know.) Will a love triangle form between Carol, Ezekiel, and fan favorite love interest Daryl Dixon? Answers to those questions are all just rumors and speculation for now. All fans know is that Carol and the King have made it official, and Daryl seems relatively chill with Carol's relationship status in a preview clip.
The relationship between Carol and Daryl (Norman Reedus) has always been platonic but is one of the strongest in the series — and exactly the stuff that slow burn 'shipping is made of for some corners of the fandom. "It's not that Carol and Daryl don't have their special time," new Walking Dead showrunner Angela Kang said during Talking Dead on Aug. 5. So fans at least don't have to fret that they won't be sharing many scenes.
"Glad I have Pookie's approval," Carol says in the preview clip, after Daryl calls Zeke "corny" but "alright." "I'm happy for you," Daryl says. "If anybody deserves to be happy, it's you." Look, having Daryl himself point that out is basically taunting 'shippers. They were hoping for seasons that Daryl would eventually be the one to make Carol happy. So even if it's not your preferred pairing, it's no wonder fans took to Twitter to express their dismay and/or denial over Carol ending up with someone else.
Creators do not owe storylines to fans, but is this pairing a betrayal of something that has been brewing on the series? Would that it were easier to say! Daryl by definition is pretty guarded. He's not one to spell out his affections, so it's never been particularly clear exactly how he classifies his feelings for Carol. That said, imagining Daryl's reaction to this romantic development is the only thing getting some fans through.
While Carol and Ezekiel had that instant connection at the Kingdom and have developed their relationship over a full season, some fans are confused by this big new step.
That said, not all of the fans are upset. Some actually see it as a healthy move for Carol and Daryl.
Just, ummm, don't say that in front of Yvette Nicole Brown. An avid and outspoken #Daryl 'shipper, her reaction said it all as she filled in for Chris Hardwick on Talking Dead and received this confirmation about her favorites. She also took to twitter to call out naysayers!!
The Walking Dead Season 9 preview special episode of Talking Dead also confirmed that the new season will include a time jump of 18 months, and that like in the comics, Maggie names her baby Hershel Rhee. While new romances form around them, existing couple Rick and Michonne are practically glowing.
It will be interesting to see how the audience at large takes the Carol and Ezekiel relationship going forward. Whether you're supportive of Carol's new beau or not, on some level isn't it refreshing to debate over who's kissing who rather than who's killing who on this show for a change?