Carol is a divisive character in The Walking Dead fandom.
Some find Carol’s multi-season metamorphosis clunky, her decisions suffering from a failure of adequate exposition, and her current persona frustratingly rigid. During Season Two, these critics were confused by the blame she placed on her fellow survivors in her daughter’s disappearance, and were flummoxed the juxtaposition of this fear for her daughter’s safety with an otherwise passivity when it came to life in the post-zombie apocalypse. For the entire series prior to their arrival at the Prison, Carol could be reasonably characterized as survivor dead weight, obstinately satisfied to perform domestic chores over learning to wield a rifle. To these critical Carol-haters, her whiplash-fast transformation at the start of Season 4 was jarring.
Others view Carol as a feminist icon, a necessary counter-point to the passivity and helplessness of Lori. The Female Gaze cites Carol’s development of female agency in her appreciation of the character:
One of the most powerful characters on The Walking Dead is Carol, a survivor of domestic violence who starts off meek and unsure of herself. … She doesn’t only grow inner strength after finally escaping her abusive husband and watching her own daughter turn into a zombie; she also brings the ostracized Daryl into the foray [sic] of Rick’s group, and later asks him if he wants to fool around on top of a bus!
Twitter fans of The Walking Dead routinely cite Carol’s leadership position in the Prison and her clear willingness to defy Rick and the other male survivors in their appreciation of the character. And certainly, by the start of Season 4, Carol has left far behind the woman she was in Season One to become the steadfast pragmatist, capable of moments of both efficient violence and tender nurturing, and above all unwavering in her personal convictions.
And why? Unlike in the comic where Carol fades almost immediately into the background, in the AMC show, Carol has assumed a far more critical role: Carol is the anti-Hershel.
Spoilers ahead! Please be wary!