Spoilers follow for The Walking Dead up to "How's It Gotta Be" and the comics!
The Walking Dead
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winter finale, "How It's Gotta Be," didn't cover a lot of ground in the war between the Saviors and everyone else, although it did turn the momentum of the war on its head with Negan regaining control and power. However, the biggest casualty of the episode is one that actually was set into motion several episodes earlier. Carl, while saving newcomer Siddiq, was bitten by a zombie and is currently dying. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter
, Riggs explained why the decision was made to kill Carl off and what the future might hold for The Walking Dead
The Legacy of Carl Grimes
Although Riggs has just turned 18 and plans on attending college, the decision to kill Carl off had nothing to do with him. Unlike other actors who have been killed off on the show because they wanted to move on or they received a new project, the decision to write Carl off came out of showrunner Scott Gimple's desire to move the story forward.
"Leaving Walking Dead wasn't my decision," Riggs explained. "It was all story related. It made sense story-wise for it to happen for Rick and Michonne and all the other characters."
Riggs said that Scott Gimple wanted Rick to be very torn, morally, for the rest of season 8. "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]," Riggs explained. "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 [other] than just killing people."
Carl's death will obviously spur Rick to new emotional lows and even though Negan isn't directly responsible, it will make him want to kill the villain even more. However that might not be the best way to honor the memory of Carl, who became much more of a pacifist as he matured. At least that's what Gimple and Riggs hope fans take away from Carl's death and the reason it had to happen.
The Future Without Carl
Now that Riggs is no longer on the show however, he does have some thoughts on how The Walking Dead will continue without his character. The death of Carl, which will occur in the midseason premiere on Sunday, February 25, is the biggest departure yet from the comics. Carl is still very much alive in the comics and there's no hint of him dying any time soon. Riggs thinks that it's even possible that Rick might be next after the precedent set with Carl.
"I haven't talked to [Andrew Lincoln] much about it but I know that he has a family that he leaves every year to come to Georgia for months and months to film The Walking Dead, leaving his kids back home in England," Riggs said of Rick's possible demise. "I know he's probably getting pretty tired."
If Rick doesn't die though, which doesn't seem too likely, there's a possibility that Rick's other child might end up filling the role of Carl, especially if The Walking Dead follows suit with the comics and institutes a time jump after the war with the Saviors concludes. Carl used to represent the future but now it might be Judith who fills the role. "Rick doesn't have the same connection to Judith that he has with Carl [since Shane is likely her biological father] so Rick may try and make up for it and try to raise her to fill the shoes that Carl was supposed to take," Riggs explained.
In the immediate aftermath of Carl's injury though, Riggs makes clear that the son will try to teach his father a lesson. The main reason that Carl's death is being delayed is that so The Walking Dead can devote the midseason premiere to properly saying goodbye to the character and having Carl leave behind words of wisdom for Rick.
"Episode 809 is really Carl trying to teach Rick as much as he can about what he's learned and trying to convince Rick to not kill every single Savior because there's still good people out there. The Alexandrians, the Hilltop and the Kingdom -- all those people probably see him as a villain like the Saviors." the actor explained. "There's some humanitarian aspects that Carl is going to try and teach Rick in his final moments."
Whether Carl's lessons sink in or not is anyone's guess. However, it does seem that The Walking Dead plans on using Carl's death as more than just shock value. Carl's death is a huge moment but it's one that The Walking Dead plans on treating as such and using to propel forward the rest of the season and series. While Carl might not have been the "right" character to die, the show definitely needed someone important to pay the ultimate price to make the war feel much more dangerous.
But what do you think? Do you understand why Carl had to die? Do you agree that it was necessary or is it just shock value? Tell us what you think in the comments!