WARNING. Contains spoilers of The Walking Dead season 8 mid-season premiere. If you haven’t seen the episode, steer clear.
Unless you’re seasons behind in watching and have also miraculously not seen any mention on social media of the season 8 mid-season finale a couple of months ago, you knew this was coming. There were those who held onto the thin thread of hope that it was all another elaborate plot by TWD producers to mislead viewers, but I never believed it.
I knew Carl was going to die.
I wasn’t really upset about his impending death. Carl was never one of my favorite characters, and I’ve hated that damned sheriff’s hat since about season 3. I figured it would be sad, sure, but didn’t expect to get too worked up about it.
And then I spent half the episode ugly-crying. Where did that come from?
While Carl was never my favorite character, I do understand and respect his place in the TWD universe. We now have only three of the Atlanta originals left–Rick, Carol, and Daryl. He was Rick’s prime motivation to fight, survive, and try to build something in the post-apocalyptic world. He was the vulnerable little boy everyone watched grow into a competent young man. The death of the kid they thought would make it, who matured into a true survivor, is going to rock everyone’s foundations.
My apathy toward Carl is in contrast to how I feel about Chandler Riggs. He’s a well-spoken, intelligent, charming, talented, humble guy, and I’m going to miss him. I’m sure he has great things ahead of him, and I can’t wait to see what he does next. And thank goodness, he finally got a big-boy haircut.
A few random thoughts about the episode…
Everyone on my live chat sort of fell apart in the first five minutes when Carl was having his “last normal moments” in Alexandria. He was writing goodbye notes, making blue hand prints on the porch of their house and taking Instamatic selfies with little Judith, and turning his face to the sun and smiling, knowing he’d never feel the sunlight again.
It was kind of brutally beautiful.
Down in the tunnels, where Carl guided everyone to hide out from Negan’s goons, there were final interactions with those close to him, and we learned Siddiq was a doctor, or at least a resident, meaning Carl brought someone of immense value to the group, at the cost of his own life. Daryl indicates all the people gathered there, and reminds Carl they’re all there, safe and alive, because of him, then goes to take Judith to safety.
But that bleeping hat. I hate that hat. I’d hoped for a ceremonial hat-burning, but my hopes went unfulfilled. He gave the stupid thing to Judith. Please, please, don’t let me have to watch six seasons of little blonde Judith bopping around and dodging walkers while wearing that ridiculous hat.
Each time the episode cut back to a Carl scene, he looked worse. The makeup was amazing, and I was shocked to see him look so…diseased.
Some viewers are angry that his ultimate demise took place off screen, but I think it was appropriate. I really didn’t want to see his skull explode, a la Beth at Grady Memorial. He chose his exit, and I’m fine with it. The whole thing was devastating enough for Rick and Michonne, who had to go back in and remove his body for burial. They didn’t need to witness it.
Also, Michonne was a better apocalypse-mom than Lori ever was.
The message Carl was determined to pass on to Rick before he died was the one thing everyone needs most at this time in their apocalyptic journey. Hope. Hope that they can still build something meaningful in this new reality without completely losing themselves to the darkness. No, it’s not realistic for Rick–or anyone–to go back to his season 1 mantra, “We don’t kill the living,” but Carl wants to remind him it’s okay to show mercy sometimes. To fight for your people, but retain some humanity.
Even though at times in earlier seasons it appeared Carl was “going to the dark side,” at the end, he expressed the guilt and remorse he felt, even now, for shooting that kid who was surrendering to him and Hershel in the woods outside the prison.
So, reluctantly, we bid farewell to Carl Grimes. But another development has me wondering if perhaps there’s a new little-boy badass in the making…Henry.
Fun note, though most dedicated fans already know…Henry is played by Macsen Lintz, the little brother of Madison Lintz, who portrayed Sophia in seasons 1 and 2.
What do you think? Did you react to Carl’s death the way you expected? How is this void in their lives going to affect your favorite characters?
All I know is…I can’t wait until next week. I hope we’ll find out what’s going on with Enid and the Oceanside gang after she accidentally shot Grandma in the mid-season finale.