Potential spoiler warning if you aren’t caught up with The Walking Dead’s Season 8 return, “Honor.”
If you think that there’s a good answer for why Chandler Riggs‘ Carl Grimes was killed off on The Walking Dead, I am sorry to tell you that there is not. Carl is one of a handful of characters that remain on the show from Season 1, which is a meaningful thing for fans. But even beyond that, he’s also a character who is very much alive and well in Robert Kirkman‘s graphic novels. And yes, a TV show is not beholden to doing things exactly as source material dictates (in fact, sometimes it’s much better when it doesn’t), but there still needs to be some reasoning behind the changes. In the case of Carl’s death, I’m not entirely sure there is.
In the Season 8 midseason return, “Honor,” the show said goodbye to Carl after he was bitten in the midseason finale. We knew his days were numbered, but the show wasted no time (surprisingly) in burying him. As our own Dave Trumbore wrote in his fantastic take down of the show’s mistakes — titled ‘The Walking Dead’ Midseason Finale Was Perfect for a Show That Hates Its Fans — “The Walking Dead has taken all the wrong lessons from superior shows like Breaking Bad and even Game of Thrones, and by repeatedly beating their fanbase about the head with their baseball bat, they’re just pushing to see how far they can go before those faithful followers turn rabid and bite back. Or more likely, before they turn off completely.”
Nevertheless, EP Scott Gimple persisted in claiming that there’s a plan for all of this. Speaking with TV Line about the events of “Honor,” he said that Carl’s death was chosen to end this particular Walking Dead era because
He needed to be the person who pushed the world in a certain direction, who put out a certain message. That message might even be denied, but we wanted it to have the incredible weight of coming from this young hero in the most serious of circumstances. And [his demise] can show that this world is still the world of The Walking Dead, where these things happen. It couldn’t have had more gravity [if it had happened to another character].
TV Line’s Charlie Mason pushed him though on why Carl, why now, asking: “So, Carl’s dying wish was for everybody to just get along and tell the Saviors, ‘Bygones.’ How on earth is Rick supposed to sell that notion to, say, Glenn’s widow?” Gimple said that “it’s not a slam-dunk” for Rick to accept it. As for Negan?
Yeah, not after what happened. [The AHK alliance] messed the Sanctuary up good! And even if Negan really did want to jump into [a cease-fire], he is someone who is very conscious of optics… and his image, so that makes it harder for him to make a deal with the wrong people… or who are maybe looked upon as the wrong people.
So … what? What was the point then? Yeah, it doesn’t seem like there is much of one. What is the most interesting, perhaps, is that the show has been picked up for a ninth season with a new showrunner, Angela Kang. Kang will now have to clean up this mess and try to not only win fans back, but find ways to have other characters pick up Carl’s comic book story line.
For many fans, Carl’s death is the final straw when it comes to this show, and it may not even matter if Kang can right the ship if Gimple’s reign ends with fans leaving the show en masse. Still, for The Walking Dead faithful, there are surely more twists and turns to anticipate — whether they deserve your attention or not.