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On a post-apocalyptic show like The Walking Dead, hygiene and hair can be used to gauge just how desperate the characters are at any given point. The Alexandria safe zone saw most of survivors clean up, and Rick even shaved off his scraggly zombie-killing beard. One character, however, man managed to get more unkempt since the arrival in Alexandria. That character is Carl Grimes. As turns out, there’s a big reason why actor Chandler Riggs has grown out his hair for the role. Executive producer Greg Nicotero spilled the details after the events of the Season 6 midseason premiere.
But [showrunner Scott M. Gimple] had thought about this early in the season, and said, ‘Well, we’re going to want Carl’s hair to be long so that it minimizes that bandage in later episodes so that we will get an opportunity to look at the bandage as part of who Carl is as opposed to always staring at this bandage and this eye.’ In the comic book, the wound really defines who Carl becomes in subsequent issues and subsequent episodes. So it was important, just like with Hershel or Merle. Those things happen, and they shape who that character is going to be down the line.
Greg Nicotero’s reveal to EW that Scott Gimple was looking ahead to the details of Carl’s horrifying incident way back in the beginning of Season 6 is evidence of just how important the loss of the eye is going to be to the narrative of The Walking Dead. Long hair vs. short hair may seem like a trivial detail in the grand scheme of a show, but it may make all the difference for how we as viewers watch Carl’s story unfold in the second half of Season 6. Carl won’t have the option for a clean haircut like his dad now that Alexandria’s resident stylist Jessie has died, anyway.
Chandler Riggs may have a little bit of a rough time dealing with all of that hair in his normal life, but it should be helpful in letting him peek through the bandage during filming. Carl might be able to resume his shooting skills after losing his eye, but Riggs will probably be grateful for being able to use depth perception whenever the bandage isn’t the focal point of a scene.
It is interesting that Scott Gimple referred to a bandage rather than an eyepatch in his talk with Greg Nicotero. Considering that eyepatches on The Walking Dead are automatically associated with the psychopathic Governor, the show may go out of its way to keep Carl’s eye covered in a different way for a couple of episodes.
Carl losing his eye is a much bigger deal than Merle losing his arm and the Governor losing an eye. The young man is one of only a handful of characters who have survived from the first season, so we can be sure that everything to do with his journey – eye- or hair-related – will get plenty of attention in the second half of Season 6.
The Walking Dead airs on Sunday nights at 9 p.m. ET on AMC. Here's when the rest of your favorites are returning.