WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for the midseason finale of The Walking Dead, "How It's Gotta Be," and beyond.
With its midseason finale on Sunday, AMC's The Walking Dead at last confirmed long-swirling rumors that one of the few remaining original cast members will soon leave the hit drama: Carl Grimes, played by Chandler Riggs, is revealed to have been bitten by a walker a couple of episodes earlier.
Fans who might hold out for a miracle cure, or the revelation that Carl possesses some kind of immunity, will be sorely disappointed, however.
"Yes, Carl is going to die," Riggs told The Hollywood Reporter. "There's no way he can get back from that. His story is definitely coming to an end."
Speculation about the 18-year-old actor's departure from the drama has been as persistent as a horde of zombies, with some fans viewing his acceptance to Auburn University last year -- coupled with cryptic comments by his father -- as a sign that Carl's days were numbered. Although Riggs' mother cautioned not to "over analyze" those comments, the young actor offered little assurance about his future on The Walking Dead. Asked at the time whether he was under contract for the show's eighth season (that's the current one), Riggs replied, “I can’t answer that.”
But fast-forward a year, and Riggs can answer that: He has one episode remaining, the Feb. 25 midseason premiere.
"Leaving Walking Dead wasn't my decision," he told THR, explaining that he's taking a gap year before starting at Auburn. "It was all story-related. It made sense story-wise for it to happen for Rick and Michonne and all the other characters."
Riggs, who was 11 years old when he began filming The Walking Dead, said he learned about Chandler's death in June while rehearsing Episode 6.
"It was devastating for me and my family because the show has been such a huge part of my life for so long," he said. "For a few days, we didn't know what to do; I just bought a house in Senoia [near where the show films in Georgia]. That was a big deal that I wouldn't be on anymore. I decided that I wanted to not go to college for at least a year and move to L.A. and focus on acting and music. It ended up being a great thing because now I get to do all kinds of other stuff that I haven't been able to do in the last eight years."