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*Spoilers below for anyone who hasn't watched The Walking Dead's midseason finale. *
Whenever a TV show makes it clear that a major character is going to be killed off, it obviously changes up the situation for all involved. The Walking Dead is taking on an extreme version of that scenario by giving Carl Grimes an expiration date, which throws a wrench not only into the show's narrative, but also into the adaptation process, since Carl's story heads in many significant directions in the comics after the All Out War has finished. Here's what showrunner Scott Gimple had to say about adapting storylines without Carl around.
That was a big struggle about it. It's a difficult aspect of it but you still want to tell those stories from the comic, and we will. We have seen major stories from characters in the comic go to different characters on the television show. We're committed to keep telling the story from the comic book. Yes, it's going to be different. And yes, Negan's relationship to Carl was a big part of the story moving forward, especially in the world changes we see early on. But, as usual, we do plan on telling those comic stories. It just will have to be with different people and it's a different way to tell those same stories. But we hope to still fulfill what those stories do.
There are undoubtedly fans that will read that and shake their head mournfully, knowing that there are certain situations that just wouldn't work right with any other characters unless some drastic alterations are made. Which almost definitely means that drastic alterations are going to be made for different plot points in the future. So now it's just a waiting game to see what happens next.
Negan and Carl's relationship, if that's what it can be called, was not only highly interesting for comic readers, but it also changed each character's perceptions in different ways. Fans were stoked to see how that would play out between Chandler Riggs' Carl and Jeffrey Dean Morgan's Negan, but the TV show only pit them together for a single (effective) episode last year. We're not counting their conversation in the midseason finale, either.
In the case of the Negan story, as well as many of Carl's other narrative arcs, the character's youth and burgeoning maturity are such major aspects, so unless an abundance of those central dynamics are completely changed, the only other youthful character for The Walking Dead to use is Enid. That substitution could create some interesting switch-ups, especially when it comes to Carl's personal and romantic life, but Enid has no comic history and isn't all that interesting a live-action character. Steps have been made to boost her input, but she's currently being held by the Oceanside people, assumedly, so she might not even survive long enough to become the new Carl.
Speaking with EW, Scott Gimple was asked about how the show will still play with the concept of legacy, since Carl was presumably meant to follow in Rick's footsteps for a leadership role. Here's what the showrunner said.
But it still can happen, just in a different way. We haven't seen it in the books yet. Robert [Kirkman] hasn't written it yet, but we're still going to try to do right by Robert's story.
That presents its own set of difficulties, really. Since Robert Kirkman's Walking Dead comics are still going strong, we're not yet at a point where Carl has become a bonafide team captain, but Comic Rick is certainly on the downhill slide, given his multiple injuries and setbacks. But even if Carl takes over in the very next issue (which he won't), the TV show is still a couple of years away from completely catching up with the source material, so is Gimple hinting that the TV show could further mess with the timeline in order to introduce later comic elements? I mean, we've already met Siddiq, and we may have already witnessed some Whisperer handiwork, so the AMC hit might not need a time jump in order to keep its story fresh.
Carl will still be around for a very temporary time when The Walking Dead returns to AMC for the back half of Season 8, so maybe we'll see a hint of how the changes will play out in the future. Find out on Sunday, February 25, at 9:00 p.m. ET. To see what other new and returning shows are on the way in the near future, head to our fall TV premiere schedule and our 2018 midseason premiere schedule.