UK TV review: The Walking Dead Season 10, Episode 21 (Diverged)
See you later, alligator7
Neil Brazier | On 29, Mar 2021
After Splinter gave us one of the finest character-driven episodes The Walking Dead has produced, Episode 21 looks like it will live up to its title, then diverges back to the same, well-worn treads of these bonus episodes – but, digesting it, we have another excellent demonstration of suffering here.
The episode follows Carol (Melissa McBride) and Daryl (Norman Reedus) as they reach a fork in the road of their journey, both physical and metaphorical. Diverged, peppered with metaphors, it shows the pair coping with the aftermath of their argument in Find Me and how each of them deals with it. The underlying theme carries over from Splinter in that it too looks at the emotional trauma our survivors must endure. But where Splinter was more a physical manifestation of abuse, Diverged is more methodical in its approach and it can easily be perceived as a slow episode that doesn’t get anywhere or resolve anything.
This is likely due to the characters of both Carol and Daryl; they are so alike in that they are their own harshest critics and,!despite always being there for the group, they are both very introverted – personified by the few grunts Daryl will voice and the broken smile of Carol. Both are trying to find a way to cope with the end of their relationship and both handle it in their own way – which just so happens to involve the same coping mechanism.
Daryl rides off by himself to keep searching for whatever he can as a reason not to go home, while Carol busies herself in Alexandria, fixing power lines, making soup and trying to catch a rat – itself another blatant metaphor for her relationship with Daryl. Yet, no matter what she does, her mind is elsewhere turning every task into a mountain climb. They are each trying to find something, but their search is only to distract them from having to face and handle their true feelings, each of them too stubborn to act.
The problem this episode has is that this emotional suffering doesn’t make for captivating television. If this were a documentary following the lives of survivors in the apocalypse, this sort of footage would probably be left on the cutting room floor. Some scenes feel more akin to a video game, collecting objects and mixing items, with a zombie boss fight to unlock the next level. Don’t misunderstand us: both Reedus and McBride do their absolute best and the exhaustion of an invisible feeling eating away at them is evident. But it does feel like a long slog of an episode where nothing much physically happens.
Despite its slow pace and lack of any progression of narrative, Diverged does get across the point that trauma can affect people in very different ways. Someone might tell you they are fine as a stock response when asked, but inside they are punching holes in walls trying to understand what it is they are going through. Carol has run away from her problems before and contemplates doing so again, but distance won’t help mend her broken friendship. It is lucky that she has Jerry (Cooper Andrews) near to offer a kind word, even if it is paraphrased from the King, and a therapy Dog – but she won’t be able to move on until she can forgive herself.
It is brave of The Walking Dead to show this episode, which, on first viewing might seem like nothing is happening. It risks splitting the audience like a jar of Marmite and, although you might not feel it while watching, reflecting on it later highlights just how well it succeeded in what it was trying to do. Dig below the surface, or behind the wall, and you start to understand the pain these two characters are feeling. Over the past 10 years the two of them have been through and seen so much horror that it was bound to affect them in so many other ways. But now their long-standing friendship has started to crack, and mentally, so do they in a way that is quite heartbreaking.
The Walking Dead Season 10, Part 3 is available on FOX UK. Don’t have pay TV? You can also stream it live and on-demand legally on NOW, for £9.99 a month, with no contract and a 7-day free trial.
Entrails and innards (spoilers)
Daryl and Carol come to a fork in the road, having shared an awkward walk with each other. Here is metaphor one. They both have to decide which path they want to take and they end up going their separate ways. You will be shocked to see Dog follows Carol home, another metaphor that no matter what, a part of Daryl will always be alongside Carol.
As they walk through the woods, Carol struggles to open her flask and requires the use of Daryl’s pocket-knife. Again, a symbol that Daryl always has a solution to their problems. She forgets to hand this back to him and that comes back round later when Daryl needs to unscrew a hose from his bike but can’t with his big clumsy knife – is that a metaphor for Daryl himself? Yet, back at Alexandria, Carol can keep opening what she needs, thanks to the tool she was given.
In Alexandria, Carol is desperate for a job to do. Jerry tells her she shouldn’t worry herself but she has to keep herself busy to distract her from her thoughts. It is probably not wise, then, that she spends time in Daryl’s house that “smells like Daryl”, if she wants to get him out of her head. She finds a scarf in the street and thinks she can get the stains out, fix a hole in it, but it won’t mend her mental state.
She decides to make soup for everyone, because Carol loves to cook. Foraging some nettles and dandelions, she encounters some zombies. Suddenly, her focus is on killing them. There are quite a few of them but she shows no fear, instead, systematically taking them each out, and likely enjoying it. Back at Alexandria, Jerry is shocked to see her covered in blood but Carol shrugs this off, she is OK. She found her distraction.
In the kitchen, she begins to cook, but Dog causes a commotion and suddenly Carol is distracted again. There is a rat running loose and Dog wants to catch it, but Carol takes control. This is her new job. She builds a rat trap and it succeeds, briefly, before she comically ends up chasing the rat around the kitchen. Just like she’s been chasing Daryl all these years.
Meanwhile, Daryl is out riding, not coming across anything when his bike stops with a broken hose. He begins to walk and finds a collection of run down vehicles. Searching these for what he needs he puts himself in danger when a car starts to crush him thanks to the walker inside shifting about. Something inside causes a problem outside – sounds like another metaphor!
Daryl finds he can’t fix his bike as he doesn’t have his pocket knife any more. Luckily, there are a bunch of zombies lurking around. He spots one in army fatigues (and later some more) and decides to search him, finding the tools he needs for his jobs. Could these camo-clad creatures be linked to the Reapers in any way?
Finally returning home, he and Carol share another awkward conversation and it’s getting difficult to judge if these are normal conversations for the pair or if they really are having a hard time. They both want to go to bed after an exhausting day but neither one wants to close the door on the other. Our final metaphor of the episode.