The Walking Dead is a show full of sad character goodbyes, some that happen abruptly and some that happen in a little more emotional way. When the series returns for its midseason premiere on Feb. 25, things will be a little extra emotional, because this particular goodbye will apparently change the way Rick Grimes looks at the world.
As fans know, the midseason finale “How It’s Gotta Be” revealed that, in the rush to evacuate Alexandria, Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs) was at some point bitten by a walker, condemning him to death. We still don’t know exactly how long Carl has to live, but it seems like the midseason premiere will be Riggs’ last episode after eight seasons on the series. He was one of the few remaining original cast members, and for Andrew Lincoln, who plays his father Rick, it was a particularly hard goodbye.
“I’m not going to lie to you, that was sad,” Lincoln told Entertainment Weekly. “The beautiful thing is it’s what we rarely do in our show — we actually give the opportunity for a goodbye. It was unusual in that regard. Usually, things happen and people are ripped from you in this world that we inhabit. Thankfully, there was some sense of catharsis on this one, because we got to leave it all out on the screen. I thought Chandler did a remarkable job, as he always has done, but particularly in this episode.”
Lincoln saying goodbye to his onscreen son, who’s basically grown up on the show, would have been difficult under any circumstance, but Carl’s death is apparently being given a particular, still-mysterious extra weight. Remember the Season 8 premiere, and those brief flashes of Rick as an old man? Apparently Carl’s death has something to do with unraveling the mystery of that moment, and something in Carl’s parting words to his father will deeply change the man Rick becomes as he continues to make his way through a broken world.
“He is the linchpin,” Lincoln said about Carl. “It goes back to the flash-forward where my mercy prevails over my wrath. There is a balancing of the scales in Rick’s life that happens in the back eight episodes. A lot of it is because of what is said in episode 9, by his son.”
In just a few weeks, we will find out exactly how Carl Grimes says goodbye, and how Rick evolves because of it. The Walking Dead returns Feb. 25 on AMC.