Warning: SPOILERS ahead for The Walking Dead TV show and comics
The Walking Dead dropped a veritable bombshell in the midseason finale when it effectively killed off one of its most important and long-standing characters: Carl Grimes. In this year's mid-season finale, "How It's Gotta Be," Rick's alliance faced the wrath of Negan's Saviors and they held nothing back, pelting Alexandria with a vicious stream of explosives in retaliation for the attack on The Sanctuary. Although young Carl quickly took charge and led his people to safety, it was later revealed that the veteran character had succumbed to The Walking Dead's ever-present zombie threat - receiving a nasty, fatal bite to the torso while helping Siddiq.
The episode ended without definitively showing Carl's fate but it can be safely assumed that his death is genuine, and not a mere ruse to keep fans talking while The Walking Dead goes on its winter break. Not only have showrunner Scott M. Gimple and actor Chandler Riggs already confirmed the death, but the only known way back from a zombie bite is to remove the infected body part. Hacking out Carl's stomach isn't exactly an option here.
Related: Why Carl is Leaving The Walking Dead
Carl's death hugely impacts The Walking Dead's relationship with its comic book source material. Although the AMC adaptation has often strayed from the original story - adding some material whilst removing other bits - it has largely followed the same overall structure. With this latest twist, however, that could all be about to change.
In the The Walking Dead comic series, Carl Grimes is currently still alive and well. Furthermore, he remains a central character and the comics are arguably as much about Carl as they are about his dad. Carl moves to The Hilltop to become an apprentice blacksmith and craft weapons for the allied communities, and he later plays an integral role in the fight against future enemies, The Whisperers, developing a romantic relationship with the daughter of their leader.
Perhaps more importantly, Carl is steadfast as the comics' moral compass. While Rick continues to experience a rollercoaster leadership that includes bouts of instability and periods where he strays a little too far into dictator territory, Carl mostly keeps a cool head and remains committed to helping others and building a better community. It has even been suggested by some in the comics that Carl is already a better leader than his dad, and the seeds have been sown for a possible father/son leadership struggle further down the line, although this plot remains very much in the embryonic stages.
However you slice it, Carl Grimes is a fundamental element of the The Walking Dead comic series. Creator Robert Kirkman has even stated previously that Carl is his favorite creation in the franchise and the one-eyed wonder is also vital to the narrative, as he depicts how the zombie apocalypse impacts a growing child.