On Sunday's episode of The Walking Dead, the full contents of Carl's pre-death notes to father Rick and enemy Negan were revealed. While season 8 of The Walking Dead has been no stranger to controversy, easily the most controversial move of the season so far was killing off Carl (Chandler Riggs). Carl began life as a kid who always seemed to get in the way, but as the years went on, matured into a badass walker-slayer in his own right.
By the time Carl was bitten by a walker and sentenced to death, the character had become a fan favorite, and the decision to excise him from the proceedings didn't sit well with many. Whatever one thinks about the decision to kill Carl, The Walking Dead cast sure did their best to give the storyline the emotional heft it deserved. Riggs, Andrew Lincoln, and Danai Gurira all held nothing back leading up to Carl's demise, turning in some of the most heart-wrenching scenes in series history.
With Carl now deceased, the young man's influence is still being felt as The Walking Dead season 8 nears its end. On Sunday night's penultimate episode - entitled "Wrath" - the full contents of both Carl's letter to Rick and Carl's letter to Negan were finally revealed to the audience. The letter to Rick was read in voiceover by Riggs, with Lincoln's facial expressions really serving to sell the mix of happiness and sadness that Rick felt while reading his son's touching final words. In an interesting choice, the letter to Negan was read by Gurira, as Michonne took it upon herself to relay Carl's message to the brutal Savior leader. Included below are transcriptions of both letters, first to Rick, then to Negan.
To Rick: I remember my eighth birthday at the KCC, with that giant cake, and Aunt Evie showing up on leave surprising all of us. I remember mom, I remember codger, I remember school. And going to the movies, and friday night pizza, and cartoons, and grandma and grandpa, and church. The summer barbecues, and the kiddie pool you got me, we could've used that at the prison. You told me about the walks we'd take when I was three, you holding my hand around the neighborhood, all the way to Ross's farm. I didn't know that I remembered them, but I do. Because I see the sun, and the corn, and that cow that walked up to the fence and looked me in the eye. You told me about all that stuff, but it isn't just that stuff, it's how I felt. Holding your hand, I felt happy, and special. I felt safe. I thought growing up was about getting a job, and maybe a family, being an adult. But growing up is making yourself and the people you love safe. As safe as you can, because things happen. They happened before, you were shot before things went bad. It kinda felt like things went bad *because* you were shot. I wanna make you feel safe Dad, I want you to feel like I felt when you held my hand, just to feel that way for five minutes. I'd give anything to make you feel that way now. I wanted to kill Negan. I wish I did, maybe it would have been done. I don't think it's sundown, you went out there again, but I don't think they surrendered, I don't think they will surrender. But there are workers in there Dad, they're just regular people, old people, young people, families. You don't want them to die Dad. We're so close to starting everything over, and we have friends now. It's that bigger world Jesus talked about, the Kingdom, the Hilltop, there's gotta be more places, more people out there, a chance for everything to change and keep changing. Everyone giving everyone the opportunity to have a life, a real life. So if they won't end it, you have to. You have to give them a way out. You have to find peace with Negan, find a way forward somehow. We don't have to forget what happened, but you can make it so it won't happen again, that nobody has to live this way, and every life is worth something. Start everything over, show everyone that they can be safe again without killing, they can feel safe again, that there can go back to being birthdays, and school, and jobs, and even friday night pizza somehow, and walks with a dad and a three-year-old holding hands. Make that come back Dad. And go on those walks with Judith, she'll remember them. I love you, Carl.
To Negan: Negan, this is Carl. I was helping someone, I got bit. I didn't even have to be doing what we were doing, I was just helping someone, and now I'm gone. You might be gone, maybe my dad made your people give you up and he killed you, but I don't think so. I think you're still around, and you're working on a way out. Maybe you got out, maybe you think we're a lost cause, and you just want to kill all of us. I think you think you have to be who you are, I just wonder if this is what you wanted. I wanted to ask you, I wish I could've. Maybe you'll beat us, and if you do, they'll just be someone else to fight. The way out is working together, it's forgiveness. It's believing that it doesn't have to be a fight anymore, because it doesn't. I hope my dad offers you peace. I hope you take it. I hope everything can change. It did for me. Start over, you still can, Carl.
Similar to when Rick first told Negan about Carl's death, the contents of Carl's letter seem to hit Negan pretty hard. He's built up such a wall around his emotions, but Negan had clearly developed genuine affection and appreciation for Carl. Could they have ever realistically had a real friendship? Probably not, but in Negan's mind, it's not hard to imagine him wanting to ultimately take Carl under his wing and groom him to be a future leader of the Saviors. Negan may end the conversation with Michonne by declaring his intention to kill all the Alexandrians and their allies, but his face betrayed just how much Carl's sentiments hurt. Perhaps in his own twisted way, Negan truly believes that lasting peace could have been accomplished, had Rick just got with the program and fallen in line.
Sadly, while Carl's letters to both his father and his enemy encouraged peace, the further ramping up of the war between Rick and Negan seems inevitable. Too many lives have been lost on both sides to turn back now, at least in the minds of both men. Will season 8 end with the toppling of Negan's reign? We'll find out next Sunday.
The Walking Dead returns next Sunday for the season 8 finale, "Wrath", at 9pm/10c on AMC.