How The Walking Dead Ending Changed the Daryl and Carol Spinoff

The Walking Dead’s Daryl and Carol spinoff will keep the franchise roaming after its main series endgame, but it wasn’t originally planned for that purpose.

Norman Reedus and Melissa McBride on The Walking Dead
Photo: AMC

Ready for your surreal thought of the day? The Walking Dead recently planned to take Daryl and Carol off the series! Oh, don’t worry, we’re not going to let that one sink in too long, since said plan was connected to the now-revealed spinoff series, on which Norman Reedus and Melissa McBride will reprise their respective main series roles. However, it does reveal something rather interesting about how plans for AMC‘s developing spinoff series were altered.

The Walking Dead main series showrunner Angela Kang and chief content officer Scott M. Gimple originally planned for the main series exits of Reedus’s Daryl Dixon and McBride’s Carol Peletier for the spinoff series. However, Norman Reedus recently revealed to Entertainment Weekly radio show EW Live that the new series—in which the duo leave the confines of Alexandria, VA to hit the road and explore other regions of apocalypse-afflicted America—would have seen Daryl and Carol occasionally come home for guest spots on the mothership show, which didn’t have an expiration date at that point. Thus, it seems that the plan to spin-off the perpetually fan-shipped franchise OGs actually predated the crucial decision to end the decade-old main series, contrary to public perception upon the project’s announcement.

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“I didn’t know the flagship show would end,” Reedus states. “The whole thing was we would take off and we’d come back and check in and we would take off. So, I didn’t know that was going to happen. And to be honest, I was hoping that would never happen because, you know, that’s the mothership. I’m scared to leave the mothership. That’s scary new ground. I mean, I’m excited for the spin-off and I’m excited for the type of show it will be, but I didn’t see that coming that. That kind of came out of nowhere.”

Nevertheless, whatever anxiety Reedus and McBride—the show’s last Season 1 veterans—may have had about prospectively exiting The Walking Dead may have been somewhat alleviated, since the choice was essentially made for them upon the crucial September announcement for the franchise. Thus, their future is now effectively mapped out now that the main series will conclude upon the end of an extended Season 11 (presumably concluding in 2022), with anthology series Tales of The Walking Dead and the untitled Daryl and Carol series expected to fill AMC’s small screen zombie apocalypse void.

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The imminent seismic shift for the decade-old television franchise won’t affect the basic premise of the Daryl and Carol spinoff, which will contrast from the main series by bearing a more serialized format, with the main duo on the road going town-to-town, meeting new people and dealing with new post-apocalyptic threats on a week-to-week basis; something that Reedus described earlier as a “monster-of-the-week” style, perhaps akin to the non-main-storyline episodes of The CW’s soon-to-conclude Supernatural. However, it does alter the spinoff’s original plans in a fundamental way, since Daryl and Carol were still supposed to put in occasional appearances for the Alexandria-set mothership series, which would have logistically limited how far across the contiguous United States (and possibly beyond,) the duo could explore on the spinoff. Indeed, barring some time-jumping shenanigans, the spinoff’s road trip premise would have necessitated careful coordination between shows for these (presumably semi-regular) appearances. After all, you can’t have D&C travel to Seattle (for example,) on the spinoff only for them to show up shortly afterwards on the Virginia-set main series, at least not without some serious apocalypse-adherent storyline setup.

Nevertheless, the spinoff will indeed have Daryl and Carol seeing where the road takes them for a unique serial experience, and it happens to be one that Reedus himself essentially envisioned alongside the showrunners. He explains of the spinoff conception, “Angela and I started talking about it during the episode [executive producer and effects maestro Greg Nicotero] directed with the snow,” referring to wintry Season 9 finale “The Storm,” which was filmed at the end of 2018. A few years later, Reedus’s idea ended up lining up with the showrunners, as he further explains, “Angela and Scott were kind of thinking the same thing on the side as well. They were talking about it, and then years later I got the call that we might be doing it and I was like, ‘Great!’”

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Indeed, the spinoff will carry clear inspiration from Reedus’s real-life-interests-inspired vision, which has already notably taken shape on franchise home AMC with reality series Ride with Norman Reedus, on which the star takes a companion—often a celebrity or Walking Dead cast member—on an extended motorcycle trip for each episode. Pertinently, McBride herself fielded that companion role in a 2019 episode in which the duo rode across Scotland; an idea that further took shape on The Walking Dead’s Season 10 premiere, in which Daryl and Carol (in a potential foreshadowing moment,) toyed with the notion of jumping on a motorcycle and heading to New Mexico. Moreover, Reedus and McBride are apparently so hyped for this spinoff that they’ve put together Spotify playlists, which stand to become an inspirational soundtrack for the series.

Of course, fans of The Walking Dead have two options to get their fill, with the first spinoff, Fear the Walking Dead, and the recently-launched second spinoff, The Walking Dead: World Beyond, currently comprising a Sunday night block on AMC.