While it still remains one of the highest rated shows on television, The Walking Dead has been bleeding viewers in its 7th season, with most recent episode ‘Go Getters’ achieving just under 11 million viewers, the show’s lowest since season 3. Whether this is in response to Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s divisive Negan, remaining bitterness over last season’s much derided cliffhanger, or resistance to an increase in extended episodes is hard to say. Perhaps it’s a combination of the three or a completely separate entity altogether: age. It’s natural for shows to bleed viewers as they get older, especially in this age of increasing commercial break times and easier access to episodes online.
It’s also natural for serial dramas like The Walking Dead to lose significant cast members as characters die off, a concept that’s certainly not foreign to the show’s brutal world of zombies and murderous humans. And as the season 7 premiere proved, showrunner Scott Gimple is still not afraid to kill off major characters. If recent signs are any indication, however, the show could be losing one of its most important characters yet.
Chandler Riggs, who portrays major character Carl Grimes on The Walking Dead, recently posted on his Twitter (via Movie Pilot) that he was accepted into Auburn University. Naturally, with the young actor seemingly about to focus a major portion of his time on education, this opens up questions about his availability for future seasons of The Walking Dead.
Could this be leading to yet another major departure from the comics and an early demise for Carl? Not necessarily. Auburn University would place Riggs only a little over an hour away from The Walking Dead’s shooting location, Atlanta. Though his schedule would certainly be over filled, attending college and keeping his role on the show is definitely not outside the realm of possibility. It’s also important to note that there has been no official word on Riggs leaving the show, but Gimple and AMC are certainly not known for being open about such developments.
If Riggs’ tenure on The Walking Dead is coming to an end soon, then it would certainly throw the future of the show’s story into uncharted territory. Carl’s comic counterpart is vital to a lot of upcoming arcs, and ‘Go Getters’ seemed to actually be steering him into a similar direction. So killing him off now would seem a little counterproductive. Of course, there are other options to enact any potential reduction in screen time, but explaining it away in story would be difficult.
There are certainly some fans who would be happy to see Riggs’ Carl killed off, especially those who remember his early lack of character development and all around bad decision making skills. Still, the character has grown exponentially since then and moved closer in line with the persona of his comic mirror. Killing the character off now before one of his most important stories can take form would just seem like a misstep.
The Walking Dead returns with ‘Swear’ this Sunday at 9pm on AMC.
Source: Movie Pilot