When The Walking Dead returns on Feb. 25, fans will have to say goodbye to one of the characters who has been there since the very beginning. After evading numerous walkers for seven seasons, Carl Grimes' luck ran out, and now an accidental bite is going to cost him his life. Viewers were completely caught off guard by the reveal, especially because the source material told a different story. If you're wondering how Carl dies in The Walking Dead comics, then you'll quickly discover the show and the comics have diverged on this issue.
The Walking Dead comics are still ongoing, and Carl remains an integral part of the action in Alexandria and beyond. He never died. He survived the war against Negan and lived to fight new threats. Many thought the same would be true of the show, because Carl seemed to represent hope for the future; even if something happened to Rick, fans felt like they could rest assured that Carl would be there to pick up the slack. Though the show has shifted storylines around before, deciding to kill off Carl was a major change to make.
Showrunner Scott M. Gimple wasn't very free with hints when speaking to The Hollywood Reporter about Carl's upcoming death, but he did insist that it was a story-related choice that would have a huge impact on the rest of the series. And while he's still dedicated to adapting the comic, that doesn't mean certain things can't be rearranged. One can only assume that things Carl would have experienced will end up going to somebody else now.
Carl's story has stuck pretty close to the comics up until this point, with some minor deviations. He did lose his eye in the comics, and he did take a brief sojourn to the Sanctuary that began an odd quasi-friendship with Negan that continued to the present day in the comics. But whereas on the show, Carl's impending demise has made him a proponent of peace and forgiveness, the same couldn't be said for his on-page counterpart.
According to Cheat Sheet, Carl was totally on board with fighting the Saviors instead of negotiating with them. Even after the war against Negan ended in a victory for the Alexandrians and resulted in Negan getting locked up in prison, Carl still seemed to feel that way. Though he visited Negan regularly for chats, it was always with the reminder that he wanted Negan dead. On the show, however, Carl has begun to advocate for less killing all around.
In the comics, Carl eventually went to stay at the Hilltop, where he began to date Sophia (Carol's daughter, who is also still alive in the comics) and even got close to the daughter of another enemy. The Whisperers are the group currently posing a threat, and their leader's daughter, Lydia, formed a bond with Carl while she was imprisoned at the Hilltop. They became romantically involved, and Carl put himself in danger more than once for Lydia's sake.
If the show still wants to explore those stories, then they're going to have to find another character to take Carl's place. There aren't many options, though. Unless there's a major time jump, Judith is too little to fill the void left by her elder brother. Enid is the only other teenager in town who is also a main character, but it's always possible the show could introduce someone totally new to become besties with Negan and get entangled with the Whisperers. Whether the audience can become equally invested in that character is another story.
Carl's death will change everything The Walking Dead fans thought they could expect from the show, because they can't rely on the comics to guide them anymore.
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