Why That Death on The Walking Dead Changed Everything

CONTAINS SPOILERS & TRIGGER WARNINGS

Although the mid-season premiere was a few weeks ago, I still think the content of the episode should be discussed, considering the effects will live on forever.

For anyone that’s a fan of the show like me, you know that losing a main character is never an easy thing. Along this eventful ride of the past eight seasons, we’ve said goodbye to some monumental and vital characters in both tragic and beautiful ways.

Losing Carl was no different, and I have a lot of thoughts about his death. Here’s how I think it’ll impact the rest of the show:

 

1. Carl against the world

From the first gunshot in season two, Carl had endured so much in such a little amount of time on Earth. Although he survived every catastrophe leading up until this point, it was evident that the writers and creators of the show had no intention of keeping him on for the long run.

On top of surviving the gunshot, only one season later, Carl is tasked with killing his own mother as she gives birth to his younger sister, Judith. Carl, in addition helping to deliver the baby, is given the decision to kill his mother. She had died during childbirth, but if left without a head wound, would turn into a walker, which is not ideal for anyone. He makes his decision and delivers one headshot to ensure she won’t ‘turn’.

In this same season, during the drama that continues with the Governor, Carl shoots and kills a boy, about Carl’s age, while the boy was surrendering. Because there’s a lot of death and killing in this show, this may not seem to be an important moment, but it’s something Carl carries with him until his literal deathbed.

Moving into season four, he was almost raped by an older man who was part of a group known as the ‘Claimers’. Thankfully, it never reached that point, because his father, Rick, literally ripped the other man’s throat out (with his teeth) and scared the man away from Carl.

In season six, Carl is then confronted with another life-threatening injury when he’s shot in the eye by Ron, a younger boy who previously lived in Alexandria when Rick and his group moved in. Carl loses his eye, and thankfully not his life, and is back up and about in just two short months.

Nothing of significance followed him losing his eye until his death in season eight. Of course, there’s a lot of killing, and I think anyone with a conscious would find that hard to live with, and I’m sure Carl is one of those people.

2. Accident or sacrifice?

Although this may seem like a senseless question, I think it’s important to note.

Throughout the entire conflict with the Saviors, Carl is the one who seems to be stepping back and analyzing the situation completely. Although he’s on board with trying to get rid of and beat the Saviors, he wants to do so in a way that’s meaningful.

Negan, the antagonist of the last few seasons, seems to strike a liking for Carl, and is heard saying he would like to possibly recruit him and use him on his defense. Prior to Carl’s passing, the audience finds out that he’s written letters to all of the people he thinks are important in his life, including Negan.

After his death, Rick finds the letters, reads Negan’s, and contacts Negan to tell him. At this point, as a viewer, I am almost convinced that Rick is going to want to stop the feud in honor of his later son. However, he just poses the same threat he has given to Negan for a while now, “I am going to kill you.”

The injury leading up to his death is a walker bite to the ribs. This happens during an outing when a walker stumbles on top of him. During Carl’s fight to kill the walker, he is bitten.

Now, to me this seems like such a simple way to go. As far as main characters go, I was expecting Carl to have an intense, suspenseful, and powerful death scene, not something as simple as a bite. Being bitten by a walker, especially at this point in the show, is such a simple way to be injured, especially because for years now they have gotten so good at avoiding it and making it a thing of the past.

I guess what I’m trying to get at is: was this his way of saying goodbye? Did he see a way to leave it all behind and take it? We all know Carl is more than capable of fighting off a few walkers, so it seems a bit strange to me that all it took for him to meet his demise is a walker bite when he was in the woods.

I don’t know, it’s just a theory.

3. Reasons unknown

Bouncing off of the last point/theory, I wanted to discuss Carl’s death further.

If you are a fan of the actors/actresses from the show, you probably know that Chandler Riggs (Carl) is continuing his education with Auburn University. Chandler does very well at maintaining his ‘normal person’ persona aside from his well-known role on the Walking Dead.

When it was revealed that he was accepted and planning to attend AU, I, as well as probably everyone else, was very concerned as to whether or not he would continue playing his legendary role on the show. Apparently not.

It was not made clear that this plays a part in why Chandler decided to leave the Walking Dead, but it seems very coincidental that it would happen around the same time.

If this isn’t a theory on your radar, perhaps you’ll be interested in the theory that maybe it was just a needed change for the show. We’re going on almost two complete seasons with the Saviors, and it’s clear that the feud isn’t going to end anytime soon. Perhaps this is what needed to happen (although I’m very unhappy with it).

4. Death and Justice

I think the most important aspect of all of this is: did they do him justice?

In the episode where Carl dies, it’s a reflection on his life in various ways and the impact of his relationships on his life. He’s seen writing his letters to his father, Michonne, Negan, etc., and doing the handprints on the porch of their house with his sister, Judith. All of this foreshadowing that his death is impending.

In my opinion, they did do him justice. Although he was bitten by a walker, and everyone knows that’s pretty much game over if it’s not located on a limb that can be amputated, Carl takes his own life in the end. Right before he knows he is going to die and turn, he takes his own pistol and shoots himself in the head.

At first, Rick and Michonne are against the idea, because they continually say in the show, “It should be somebody you love.” Carl, however, makes it clear that he’s still capable, so he wants to. This says a lot about his character.

Over the course of the show, Carl had to grow up in a world that is by no means ‘fair’. At a young age, he was handed a zombie apocalypse and basically told to handle it the best way he knew how. In the beginning, he was guided by his parents and the people around him, but by the middle and end of his lifetime, Carl was a powerhouse and could control people and plans and be a leader in ways that maybe nobody expected from someone so young.

Overall, yes. I do agree they did him justice. I would change things - like him not dying, to begin with - but I’m glad he got to say his goodbyes. I believe that was probably the most important factor to him.

This show means the world to me, and so do the characters in it. It pains me to say goodbye to another one of the ‘Atlanta 5.’ R.I.P. Carl Grimes.