How The Walking Dead Handled Carl's Big Death

Major spoilers below for The Walking Dead's Season 8 midseason premiere.

In a complete reversal of how Glenn and Abraham's murders were kept secret ahead of Season 7's premiere, The Walking Dead allowed fans a full midseason hiatus to get used to the idea of Carl Grimes dying. In an effort to give the character his due, the Walking Dead creative team dedicated much of the midseason hiatus to bidding Carl farewell in some lovely ways. At the very end of the episode, though, it wasn't the walker bite that took Carl's life, but rather a self-inflicted gunshot wound, and the short journey to that moment was quite an emotional one. (Though Carl's time may not yet be over.)

In its opening minutes, "Honor" jumped back to the point when Carl actually got bitten by a walker during his attempt to guide newcomer Siddiq to safety and a decent meal. It was quite a stomach-churning moment when the weight of the situation fell on him, but rather than spending the rest of the cold open sulking and feeling sorry for himself, Carl attempted to make the most of his final hours on the off-chance that no one else would return to Alexandria before the transition was complete.

With Bright Eyes' "At the Bottom of Everything" rollicking along, Carl wrote letters to all of his loved ones in Alexandria, which made for a pretty large pile, and he spent a lot of time doing some last-minute bonding with Judith, who probably won't remember her big brother too well outside of the photographs he took. (Sniffle.) Once the Alexandrians returned from their own troublesome mission(s), the story looped back around to where the story dropped off in the midseason finale, as Carl revealed his bite marks to Rick and Michonne, and the episode took on a more somber tone.

Though shocked and saddened, Michonne seemed to instantly understand the magnitude of the situation, while Rick did the normal Rick thing by laying the blame at others' feet. But Carl's sincerity made Rick accept that his son's tragic death isn't one to be instantly avenged with more mass murders, and that Carl's own selfless attempt to save another survivor is what doomed him. Rick then tried manufacturing more justification by assuming that Carl helped Siddiq for the latter's medical skills, but Carl again chipped it all away by telling Rick he saved Siddiq because the man needed help, plain and simple. Those two empathy-heavy concepts will likely be bouncing around Rick's noggin for the remainder of the All Out War, too, as he begins allowing his mercy to overtake his wrath.

Once the overhead explosions stopped, most of Team Family started on their trek to Hilltop, but not before Carl shared a strangely limp goodbye with Daryl and a heartbreakingly sweet final conversation with Judith about how she will lead the future. (More sniffles.) Carl was clearly in no shape to make any kind of big trip, so Rick and Michonne got him out of the sewer, and the trio took up shelter in the burned up church. It was here we got the shocking-or-not reveal that this season's Old Rick flash-forwards were actually Carl's dreamed-up prospect of a peaceful future for everyone else. And since Carl is sharing this goal with his dying breaths, hopefully Rick will make a legitimate attempt to reconcile with his own deadly impulses in order to end the war in concord.

As Carl was succumbing to the walker-influenced fever -- big props to Chandler Riggs for delivering the best performance of his Walking Dead career -- viewers watched as Rick and Michonne tearfully waited outside the church so that Carl could take his own life, thus stopping any chances of him turning. It was an interesting and completely understandable choice for Carl, and there was some possible foreshadowing earlier when Lori's name came up. Carl was strong enough to put down his own mother during her point of no return, and he needed to do the same for himself, to save Rick or Michonne from having to live with that memory.

After it was all said and done, Rick and Michonne buried Carl dug a grave and buried Carl in Alexandria, which means Team Family definitely needs to rise up soon and put this war to bed. Everybody may be leaving Alexandria's burnt homes behind for now, but there are too many beloved people buried there that cannot and will not be left behind. Step 1: take Negan down. Step 2: rebuild Alexandria. Step 3: find a working stereo and a "Weird" Al CD and jam that shit hard.

With Season 8 now back up and at 'em, albeit without Carl's physical presence, The Walking Dead airs every Sunday night on AMC at 9:00 p.m. ET. Check out what Chandler Riggs won't miss about The Walking Dead, as well as how he was responsible for that silly continuity error, and then head to our midseason premiere schedule to see what other shows are returning soon.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.