Carl Grimes showed off a gnarly bite in the closing moments of The Walking Dead’s season 8 winter finale, a bite he obtained two episodes earlier during a scuffle with a pack of walkers alongside newcomer ally Saddiq.
Speculation arose that Carl wasn’t bitten by a walker, but was instead on the receiving end of a bite from a Whisperer — or a member of a yet-to-be-introduced group of nomads who disguise themselves as walkers to move freely among the dead.
Showrunner Scott M. Gimple explained Carl’s bite as seen in the mid-season finale “will play out as bites play out on the show,” calling the wound a “one-way ticket.”
Skybound, the entertainment company behind creator Robert Kirkman’s comic book series The Walking Dead, gave a definitive answer about Carl’s bite in its latest The Walking Dead Fan Mailbag installment: “To settle this once and for all – no, this is not a bite from a Whisperer, a dog, or anything other than a walker,” Skybound’s Johnny O’Dell wrote. “Carl will suffer the same fate as everyone else who has been bitten by a walker in this show.”
Carl’s inevitable fate inspired outrage from the fans, who attempted to reverse the decision to axe Carl as well as see Gimple fired.
Director and makeup effects guru Greg Nicotero defended the decision to kill Carl despite the move being a major deviation from the comics, saying the mid-season premiere gives upset fans an opportunity to “make some peace” with Carl’s death.
“At first, I was kind of like, ‘Well, that’s a big one, you know?’ I might have had a little bit of trepidation,” Kirkman says of being told by Gimple that Carl would be killed off.
“But once he laid out to me exactly what his long-term plans were, and the things that come out of it, and the things that it leads to, it was something I got on board with.”
Carl actor Chandler Riggs, who was blindsided by the decision to kill the character, said the teen will leave behind a “really long-lasting legacy.”
Gimple says Carl’s presence is “felt very deeply throughout the story” told by the remainder of the season, calling Carl’s death a “critical aspect.”
The Walking Dead’s midseason premiere, airing Sunday, February 25 on AMC, will serve as Carl’s send-off.