Typically, “The Walking Dead” has followed the general arc of the comic, especially under show runner Scott Gimple, who, at times, would have been far better off allowing the scriptwriters to stray more from the source material. Last night’s mid-season finale, however, took a drastic shift from the comic in one of the most jaw-dropping reveals. Carl (Chandler Riggs) has been bitten by a walker. Yep. Carl is going to die, probably no later than the first episode of the second half of the season. This is a major shift from the comics. Following the All Out War arc between Rick’s group and Negan’s Saviors, there is a time jump of a few years. Carl is older and more confident in making strategic decisions in times of crisis. Since Rick is nearly killed by Negan at the end of the war, Carl assumes a leadership position, and to this day, he takes on some of the most interesting story lines. That won’t be happening on the show, however.
It is unclear why the scriptwriters decided to kill of Carl. Maybe, Chandler Riggs wants to attend college and move on from a show that has consumed nearly half of his life. Maybe, the writers wanted to shake things up and show the audience that indeed no one is safe, including original cast members. Maybe, they wanted Rick’s character to go in a new direction.
Will all hope be lost for Rick Grimes after losing his only son? I don’t think so. Unlike the comic, he still has his daughter Judith to raise. He still has his friends, and it is likely he will be even more emboldened to wipe out the Saviors, who he will probably blame for Carl’s tragic fate, despite the fact that Carl suffered the bite while saving a new character named Siddiq and bringing him back to the community, thus giving him a chance to survive. This happened a few episodes ago when they were in the woods and Carl was ambushed by a walker and knocked to the ground. The bite was not revealed in that particular episode, but there is a reason that the camera didn’t show Carl’s lower half when he was knocked over by a walker. He was bitten, and they kept the fact a secret for a few more episodes.
My main hope for “The Walking Dead” at this point is that it will wrap up the All Our War arc soon, no later than the second half of this season. At one point during last night’s mid-season finale, Carl tells his father that they have to start rebuilding, that they can’t keep feuding with various factions. In other words, there has to be some other purpose to their existence. “The Walking Dead” used to be about the idea of humanity in the face of a collapsed society, but for the last season and a half or so, it’s been one battle after another, an action show with some zombies in the mix. You would think that the bullets would run out at some point!
Carl risked his life to save Siddiq, someone he barely knows, because he didn’t want a human being trying to survive alone in a zombie apocalypse. At one point, when Negan and his goons are about to bomb Alexandria with grenades, Carl asks him, “Is this who you really wanted to be?” Those moments have always been the strength of the show, especially during those first few season, its prime. Maybe, after Carl’s death and after All Out War, the show can shift back to the idea of trying to rebuild and maintain humanity in such a brutal world. That should be the focus again, especially now that Rick is going to lose his only son.