Former The Walking Dead actor Chandler Riggs believes that his character's exit acted as a nice sendoff, even if it did come as a surprise. Riggs had portrayed young Carl Grimes, son of lead protagonist Rick, since The Walking Dead's early days but the character met their demise midway through season eight, succumbing to a routine zombie bite whilst attempting to help a relative stranger. Fortunately, Carl had time to write 'goodbye' letters to the important people in his life and, in his final moments, he led the people of Alexandria to safety after an attack from the Saviors. Carl's selfless actions would eventually inspire his father to show mercy against Negan, with Rick choosing to imprison his nemesis and work alongside the remaining members of his group.
Unsurprisingly, Carl's death proved particularly controversial. On several occasions since his exit, Riggs has confirmed that he had no desire to leave The Walking Dead and that the decision came as a huge surprise to him, with the actor's father criticizing AMC on social media. Some viewers were also unhappy with Carl's exit, especially since the character is still a key component of the comic books to this day, and there has been much speculation as to why the decision was made to kill off such a central figure.
Speaking at a The Walking Dead fan convention over the weekend (via ComicBook), Riggs claimed that although he was both taken aback and saddened by Carl's death, he feels the character's exit was well-worked and provided a fitting farewell to the series veteran. Riggs stated:
“I think it was timed out pretty well. I mean, in reading the script, it was really weird because I never thought it was gonna happen until a couple minutes before I found out. And yeah, it was really bizarre and I was like, ‘Man, I have to say all this really depressing stuff, this is not gonna be fun.’ But I did it and it ended up great and I’m super happy with my performance. But yeah, the whole experience was just really - it was dreadful to go through but it was good, it was a nice sendoff.”
Although it would take a very hardened viewer indeed to suggest that Carl's death didn't pack an emotional punch, a number of fans online did express disappointment that the long-serving character was felled by a routine zombie wound after everything he and his father had previously survived through. As such, some may argue that Carl's exit could have been improved, but at least the young actor managed to find some positives in his character's death after the decision itself came so out of the blue.
The decision to kill off such a major character was always going to come with a certain amount of risk but The Walking Dead will soon be without another member of the Grimes clan, as Rick actor Andrew Lincoln is confirmed as leaving in the forthcoming ninth season. Although it isn't known whether or not The Walking Dead's producers were aware of Lincoln's impending exit when they decided to axe Carl, the challenge the show faced in replacing the youngster has now multiplied exponentially, with TWD arguably in need of total reinvention without Rick and Carl on board. Maybe AMC are now starting to wish that Carl had been a little more careful while saving strangers in the forest.
The Walking Dead season nine premieres October 7th on AMC.