WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for this week’s episode of The Walking Dead, “How It’s Gotta Be,” which premiered Sunday on AMC.
AMC’s The Walking Dead is poised to deliver one of the most heartbreaking deaths in its eight seasons following the revelation this week that Carl Grimes, played by Chandler Riggs, has been bitten by a walker.
Carl’s inevitable fate, as telegraphed in the midseason finale, comes as a shock for those fans who assumed succeed his father Rick (Andrew Lincoln) as leader of the survivors. However, in another significant deviation from the comic book source material, the producers of the hit drama have decided his fate will instead be a slow death that comes with infection.
We’ve experienced a lot of emotional deaths over the course of the AMC series, but this one will undoubtedly be the most important to date.
The Impact on Rick
It’s easy to assume Carl’s death will push Rick over the edge and make him more bloodthirsty, especially toward Negan’s Saviors. We witnessed drastic changes in Rick following the deaths of wife Lori, Hershel and Glenn. But, as Carl has been hinting all season, there are solutions to the violent world in which they live outside of bloodshed. The teen indicated that compassion is one of those options, and it should be offered to everyone, including their enemies.
Carl seeks a safe world in which his sister Judith can grow up, but he also wants to exorcise his father’s demons. Carl’s final words, perhaps advocating peace, may well give Rick the courage he needs to defeat and, more so, forgive Negan, thus building the unlikely alliance forged in the comic books. AMC has made a bold move, but Carl’s death, as painful as it will be, can be what ultimately saves Rick.
Another Original Dies
Throughout the television series, death has primarily visited adults, which is understandable, given that the focus is on their perspective. However, we were privy to some younger people perishing, most notably Sophia, Beth and her friend Noah, and sisters Lizzie and Mika. But Carl isn’t just any kid; he’s Rick’s kid, and a key part of the story since the first episode.
Rick, Carol (Melissa McBride), Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Morgan (Lennie James) were introduced in the first season, and now each is a key member in the alliance of Alexandria, the Hilltop and the Kingdom. With the exception of Morgan, viewers have been with those characters for more than seven years, and we’ve watched Carl grow from a doe-eyed boy into a young man (Riggs, who was 11 years old when the show began, is now 18).
His passing will mark the death of someone that has embodied the struggle to find a place in a post-apocalyptic world, to eek out something resembling a “normal” life. He’s fought walkers, and worse, since childhood, all the while protecting his family and friends, and growing as a son, a brother and a soldier. Carl represents what The Walking Dead has been about, the survival of the human spirit, and his death will leave the rest of the survivors wondering if there can be a tomorrow. He’s the character we’ve watched grow the most, and a blow like this will resonate for as long as the drama endures.
The Walking Dead returns Sunday, Feb. 25, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on AMC.
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