During the episode of The Talking Dead that aired after the most recent episode of The Walking Dead, Chris Hardwick teased that the 90-minute midseason finale would feature a huge “shocking moment,” and then double checked with producers to ensure that it wasn’t hyperbole. It’s not, he assured us. There will be a huge shocking moment in the episode, and while my money is on the death of Judith, others are concerned that it may be Carl Grimes.
There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that Carl will die. There’s as much evidence to suggest that he won’t.
Let’s break it down:
The Midseason Finale Preview
“All we have to do is survive the night,” Carl says in the preview for the midseason finale. With Negan free of the zombies surrounding the Sanctuary, his first target will be Alexandria, where Carl has taken on a leadership role. It’s clear that Carl is in danger.
On the other hand, so is the rest of Alexandria, and this is exactly the sort of statement Carl would make to tease The Walking Dead fans into believing he’s on the chopping block. It could be Michonne, or Tara, or Rosita, or Judith, all of whom are also in Alexandria at the moment.
Chandler Riggs’ Haircut
Riggs, who plays Carl, revealed on Twitter that he recently got a haircut. Haircuts have historically given fans pause, but so far, those haircuts haven’t foreshadowed a major character’s death. Riggs says he’s doing it for a movie, plus filming on The Walking Dead has ended for the year, so it’s unlikely to mean anything for this season of The Walking Dead. Besides, characters cut their hair all the time and it’s easily worked into the show (e.g. Maggie).
Carl is In the Flash-Forward
In the opening scene of the season, we see what is supposedly a flash forward, a glimpse a few years into Rick’s future. That flash forward comes straight from the comics, and in the flash-forward on the series, we see Carl, ergo, it is safe to assume he survives the attack on Alexandria. That is, of course,
unless that’s not actually a flash-forward but one of the gauzy-type dreams characters have before they die (e.g. both Glenn and Tyreese).
If Carl does die, it could explain why Rick’s eyes are so red in another flash forward. Then again, Rick could be upset about any number of deaths, or he could just be grief-stricken to learn that Negan has escaped the Sanctuary.
Carl May Be Attending College
Chandler Riggs was accepted to Auburn last November. Earlier this year, in a Reddit AMA, he said he’d officially choose where he’d go to college in March (we were never updated on that choice). He graduated high school in June (with honors!). Typically, that would mean he’d start college in the fall, which means he may have started three months ago, or right around when the midseason finale finished shooting.
Is Carl in college now? Has he already left the show? We don’t know. We haven’t seen any reports of any Chandler Riggs sightings on campus, and it’s hard to imagine that his presence on campus wouldn’t spark a story here or there. However, he may have decided to wait to start in January.
In either respect, if he is attending Auburn, Riggs stated that he could commute back and forth and maybe take an online class to make it work around his The Walking Dead schedule. Filming for The Walking Dead begins in April and ends in November each year, so it’s certainly possible that he could make it work, especially since characters often don’t appear on the show for episodes at a time.
Carl Is Still in the Comics
As far as the source material goes, Carl is not only still alive in Robert Kirkman’s graphic novels, but he continues to be a major presence. On the other hand, several characters have died in the comics and survived on the series (Carol) or vice versa (Andrea). The show often veers away from the source material or substitutes one character for another. However, replacing Carl’s comic-book presence on the series would be more difficult, since he’s the only son of Rick Grimes and has taken on a leadership role in Alexandria. His presence on the show couldn’t exactly be replaced by Enid.
Verdict: Inconclusive. He definitely could die! But he also might not.
If that shocking moment is a death, in addition to Judith, it may be worth considering Maggie or Jesus (who appear to be in danger in the preview) or Enid and Aaron, who are off on their own during the midst of the All Out War.