Why That Huge Walking Dead Shocker Happened, According To The Star

carl the walking dead

Spoilers below for both The Walking Dead's midseason finale and the corresponding comic book arc, with potential future TV spoilers also coming up.

Last night's midseason finale from The Walking Dead delivered an ending that viewers won't soon forget, with the Carl-heavy episode ending on the reveal that he'd been hiding a walker bite on his side, meaning Carl won't be with us for that much longer. When actor Chandler Riggs was asked why showrunner Scott Gimple decided to kill off another Grimes family member, here's what he said:

In the comics, Scott was trying to figure out why there was a hole between Rick slitting Negan's throat at the end of the All Out War arc and then there's the time jump and Negan is alive and in prison and Rick didn't kill Negan. 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]. 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.

There are definitely two ways to take this answer and reasoning. On the one hand, we'll give everyone the benefit of the doubt in saying it all makes sense. Carl's humanitarian agenda really was being pushed in the episode, from the early flashback scenes to his attempted self-sacrifice conversation with Negan. And because Rick is as hard-headed as they come, he probably never would have taken Carl's words beyond face value had there not been a giant tragic impetus to set things in motion. With Carl knocking on death's door, Rick will be forced to look back at his son's peacekeeping words in a new light.

Doubly so if Siddiq ends up being a major addition to Team Family's ranks, which would partially justify Carl's dangerous attempt to bring Siddiq to Alexandria. (Not that Siddiq was led into any kind of safe haven that Carl might have promised, so it'd be understandable if he didn't exactly embrace being shoved into the Ricktatorship.) I mean at some point, Rick has to understand that just killing off everything in his path will not guarantee the safety and happiness of those around him, especially when he's dealing with a group as big as the Saviors. So turning Carl into a quasi-martyr for the cause is a solid way to turn Rick's attention to less violent motivations.

On the other hand, while Comic Rick Grimes was responsible for killing plenty of Saviors in trying to take Negan down, he wasn't quite as murder-friendly as his TV counterpart, and there was more emphasis on other characters swaying his redemption-focused mindset. On the show, Rick isn't able to witness or hear all of Jesus' salvation talks, and it's not like TV Carl has been preaching forgiveness for ages, since it still hasn't been all that long since Negan arrived within the narrative's timeline.

As such, it seems a bit silly that Carl's newfound lease on others' lives would be the reason why Rick may choose to show Negan mercy at the All Out War's end. Especially after Rick and Negan got into that mini-brawl, with Rick getting thrown out of a window, Old West style. If nothing else, Rick will need a pretty hefty mourning period in order to attain a different worldview in the aftermath of Carl's death. But if the TV show decided to change up the comic story by having Rick choose to murder Negan in cold blood, I wouldn't be surprised or necessarily disappointed.

As far as how Chandler Riggs feels about Carl's big reveal, he's not exactly pissed off. Carl's death has been a long-running possibility for The Walking Dead, and the actor has brought as much attention to those rumors in recent months as he ever has. Here's what he told THR about how the big exit has affected him.

It was devastating for me and my family because the show has been such a huge part of my life for so long. For a few days, we didn't know what to do; I just bought a house in Senoia [near where the show films]. 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.

Chandler Riggs fans still have something to look forward to, as The Walking Dead will bring Carl back for a short while when Season 8 picks back up on AMC on Sunday, February 25, at 9:00 p.m. ET. Check out all the big questions we have after that mid-year finale, and to see all the new and returning shows that will debut in the meantime, head to our fall TV premiere schedule and our 2018 midseason premiere schedule.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper.  Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.