It went without saying that the mid-season finale of The Walking Dead Season 8 would deliver a major shocks, but the last few moments of "How It's Gotta Be" were unexpected even for fans who knew something terrible was coming. After a night of horrors, Rick and Michonne were reunited with the rest of their family, which was when Carl revealed a bite on his torso. It seems his fate is sealed, but will Carl really die on The Walking Dead?
The episode cut out immediately after the reveal, so fans won't know the answer until the show returns in February. However, unless some wild twist happens, there's every reason to believe that Carl may actually die. Showrunner Scott M. Gimple appeared on Talking Dead after the mid-season finale and though he kept his statements on the matter vague, he still seemed to confirm that Carl was not long for this world. He explained that the bite would "play out as we've seen bites play out" and even referred to it as "a one-way ticket."
That was officially verified by actor Chandler Riggs in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. "Yes, Carl is going to die," he said. "There's no way he can get back from that. His story is definitely coming to an end."
It's clear that Carl is dying now that he's infected. That is how every bite has played out in the show before, unless it occurred on a part of the body that could be amputated. Carl was bitten on his side, which means that solution is impossible. And while The Walking Dead has been known to err on the side of the ridiculous when it comes to saving certain characters (who can ever forget Glenn and the magic dumpster?), no one involved in the show is playing coy about Carl's fate. Unless they're all outright lying, this is the end of the line for the eldest Grimes child.
In his talk with The Hollywood Reporter, Riggs explained that the decision to kill off Carl was as surprising to him as it was to anyone else. He had no plans to leave the show and never thought Carl would die, especially because he's still alive in the comics. But it was a choice that was intended to benefit the narrative of the show and give Rick some motivation when it came to the continuing war against Negan.
In the final battle in the comics, Negan broke Rick's leg and Rick slit Negan's throat, but Rick chose not to take Negan's life. Instead he imprisoned him in Alexandria, where Negan remained for several years. But according to Riggs, Gimple was having trouble getting Rick to make that same decision on the show.
"Scott was trying to figure out how to bridge the gap between Rick not wanting to kill Negan and Rick also really wanting to kill Negan, which he does right now [in the show's story]," Riggs told The Hollywood Reporter. "Scott's way to get around that was to make Carl this really humanitarian figure and person who could see the good in people and see that people can change and not everyone out there is bad. That's what Carl's talk to Rick was in this episode: there's no way that they can kill every one of the Saviors and not everyone is a bad person and there has to be some way forward than just killing people."
Riggs will return for one more episode to tie up Carl's story, but he's done with the series after Season 8 Episode 9. Every character death impacts the show, but Carl's death will have harsher reverberations than most. It's difficult to imagine how Rick will be able to keep going after losing his son, but that's a question The Walking Dead will have to figure that out once it returns.
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