‘The Walking Dead’ Just Sealed the Coffin for an Original Cast Member

Season eight of AMC’s pop culture juggernaut “The Walking Dead” aired its shocking midseason finale on Dec. 10, in an episode that changed the trajectory of the entire series. The ramifications of the episode will have elongated shock waves that will surely change a brunt of the characters, especially the show’s hero, Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln).

At the start of season eight, the promise of war had reached the horizon between Rick and company and the show’s mainstay villain, Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). But after eight tightly packed episodes that hit the ground running, the show presented much more. At the harm of nearly becoming stale, season eight has, thus far, presented a welcomed shift in upward trajectory. In a shocking move, “The Walking Dead” killed off one of its last remaining original characters. And it’s a change that could have possibly saved the show.

Trouble has erupted. Negan and his army escape from the Sanctuary and cause chaos amongst their freedom. Simon (Steven Ogg) and the Saviors entrap Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and her crew in the darkness of night. But they let them go without a scratch after presenting several ultimatums – leaving them free to go, but taking the life of someone in the back seat.

Negan and his forces arrive at Alexandria, where he expects to find Rick, but is greeted by Carl. The two share a moment where Carl offers up his life in order to save the community. Negan ultimately denies as he realizes this is a ploy and starts sending explosives into the air. Alexandria is imploding.

All signs were pointing to a major death in the midseason finale. It is “The Walking Dead” after all, and if viewers know anything from the series’ premieres and finales, it’s that someone is going to die. After Carl (Chandler Riggs) leads everyone to safety in the chaotic and smoky Alexandria zone, Rick and Michonne (Danai Gurira) return to complete and utter mess. But fate has been sealed for Carl as lifts his shirt to reveal a walker bite on his stomach. His proper death has yet to be shown, but given the location of the bite, it is not a part of the body that can be amputated. Carl is inevitably doomed for the grave.

The major impending death comes from a somewhat logistical scheduling standpoint, but nonetheless fits the narrative for the better. Riggs, the actor who has portrayed the character of Carl Grimes from ages 11-18, will be attending college and is pursuing other projects. The actor does have more appearances in the show, which will likely be the midseason premiere when the series returns next year. But his character’s end reminds viewers of one very important thing. No one is safe within the world of “The Walking Dead.” It is dually essential to note that the exit was not caused by another human. For much of the show’s recent history, human’s, Negan in particular, have remained the biggest threat. But Carl’s impending exit reminds viewers that zombies were always, and are always the number one obstacle.

Now, the series has killed off primary characters before, but this death feels deeply personal to the main protagonist, Rick. As much as the show has truly become a complete ensemble of moving parts and great performances, “The Walking Dead” has always remained Rick’s story. Carl is one of the few remaining characters left from season one. To count, the only remaining survivors from the original ensemble are now Rick, Carol (Melissa McBride), and fan favorite Darrel (Norman Reedus). It is an exit that will surely divide fans and cause a stir, but it affirms the show’s bold narrative.

With the combination of communities at war, a character mainstay’s impending exit, unclear visions of a Rick time jump, and a confirmed character cross-over in the form of Morgan (Lennie James) with the series’ spin-off, “Fear the Walking Dead,” the long-running series is exciting and unexpected once again. This zombie is breathing new life.
The Walking Dead’ season 8 returns to AMC Feb. 25, 2018.