WARNING: Possible spoils for The Walking Dead below
Thanks to the constant attention it receives from fans and the numerous interviews given by cast and crew, The Walking Dead is not exactly a show that can pull off the long con. Two years ago, the series teased fans into briefly believing that Glenn Rhee had died before his time. Despite making fans wait a few weeks before learning that Glenn had survived a run-in with a horde of zombies outside a dumpster, most fans knew within minutes of the episode concluding that Glenn had survived. Fans had even figured out exactly how he had survived. Likewise, despite making us wait six months between the sixth-season finale and the seventh-season premiere, few were surprised by Abraham and Glenn’s death (although, many were just horrified).
The Walking Dead’s ability to completely surprise both comic-book readers and those who haven’t read the source material changed when Carl was bitten in this year’s midseason finale. That was a surprise to everyone, thanks in part to the spoiler sites agreement with Chandler Riggs not to reveal the plot twist. A lot of people were upset by Carl’s zombie bite, including Chandler Riggs and Norman Reedus, but at this point, the worst thing that The Walking Dead could do is to undo that surprise by allowing Carl to live. That would be tantamount to trolling The Walking Dead fans, and after all those near-deaths in the sixth season, fans no longer have the patience for that.
Notwithstanding a popular fan theory positing how Carl could survive, it seems very unlikely that AMC would try and pull a long con on its fans by allowing Carl to survive. Not after Scott Gimple basically confirmed that Carl would die on Talking Dead; not after Robert Kirkman defended Scott Gimple’s decision; not after so many cast members expressed remorse over the loss of Carl — and not after Chandler Riggs explained that Carl’s death was necessary so that Negan could live.
And yet, teasing Carl’s potential survival is exactly what The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman suggested could happen with a group of fans at a Walker Stalker Cruise Q&A panel, according to ComicBook.com:
“He’s not dead yet,” Kirkman said. “He might not die. You never know. But I think if, were that to happen, I think that it would have some interesting ramifications on Rick, that I think would energize and really kind of set things in motion in a really interesting way leading to the resolution of All Out War in a way that will make for a very exciting back half to season 8, so I think it’s going to be really cool.”
Robert Kirkman is a cruel man, but he knows that the best way to promote a show — and give those Walker Stalker fans their money’s worth — is to tease a remote possibility and plant some seeds of doubt in the minds of viewers. I appreciate the effort, but I am not buying it for a second.
In fact, after making that statement, Kirkman also noted that the show wouldn’t have any problem surviving the death of Carl.
“As far as whether or not I think it’s going to change things for the comic in a way that is detrimental to the show, I definitely don’t,” Kirkman said. “I think that there’s a lot of great stuff from the comic that will be adapted into the show in season 9 or beyond. Comic book fans might be excited about the possibility of the Whisperers showing up in the show. I’m not confirming that, but I definitely would not rule it out.”
In the comics, Carl is heavily involved in the Whisperers arc, but I think that fans will need to adjust to a new reality where perhaps someone like Enid takes on some of Carl’s role from the comics. There is very little doubt about Carl’s fate. At this point, what’s more uncertain is whether Lauren Cohan will be around in season nine. That’s something fans need to be worrying about.