[SPOILERS Ahead For The Walking Dead Season 8.]
This week's mid-season finale of The Walking Dead featured perhaps the most shocking death in the show's history when the closing moments of the episode revealed that Carl Grimes had been bitten on the stomach by a zombie while bringing Siddiq to Alexandria. Since the episode aired, both actor Chandler Riggs and showrunner Scott M. Gimple have confirmed the death to be genuine and reports have also emerged from Riggs' father suggesting that the young actor was effectively fired from the AMC series.
Carl's death means that the TV version of The Walking Dead will be forced to take a significant detour from its comic book source material as, in the print world, Grimes Jr. is still alive and well. Not only that, Carl is one of the comics' central characters and has played an integral role since the conclusion of the war with the Saviors. Although The Walking Dead has often deviated from the comic books, the demise of Carl is perhaps the most significant change to date and could fundamentally alter the course of the story.
Scott M. Gimple has now moved to reassure fans of both the comic and television iterations of The Walking Dead that the overall course of the show won't be drastically changed by Carl's death, as other characters will take on his comic storyline. Speaking with EW, Gimple stated:
"We’re committed to keep telling the story from the comic book. Yes, it’s going to be different. And yes, Negan’s relationship to Carl was a big part of the story moving forward, especially in the world changes we see early on. But, as usual, we do plan on telling those comic stories. It just will have to be with different people and it’s a different way to tell those same stories. But we hope to still fulfill what those stories do."
Gimple's comments will likely calm any fears within the The Walking Dead fandom that future integral storylines from the comic books won't be adapted into live action. After all, Comic Carl played a key role in the introduction of post-Savior enemies The Whisperers and also represents the key theme of growing up in a zombie apocalypse. Additionally, it's reassuring to know that the long-term narrative of The Walking Dead hasn't been lost sight of in the wake of Carl's death.
With that said, there is still one huge element of the comic books that TV-only fans of The Walking Dead will never get to see: post-timeskip Carl Grimes. Although other characters may indeed take up Carl's comic stories, the character himself matures drastically after the war with the Saviors and this is something no other character can take over. Carl becomes more confident, more badass and a better leader as he grows older - and it's a shame that this transformation won't ever grace the small screen.
The Walking Dead season 8 continues next year on February 25 on AMC.