Fans of The Walking Dead should have their Kleenex ready when the series returns in February. Greg Nicotero, who directed the midseason premiere, says the episode was so powerful that it made him cry. Considering that the series is about to kill off Carl (Chandler Riggs), one of the last remaining members of the original cast, fans can understand why.
Over the course of season 8, Rick (Andrew Lincoln), Daryl (Norman Reedus), Maggie (Lauren Cohan), and Morgan (Lennie James) have been in a ruthless pursuit of revenge against Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and the Saviors. Like Jesus (Tom Payne), Rick's son Carl believes that there has to be a better path to peace than bloodshed. After disagreeing with his father's decision not to take in a survivor, Carl went looking for him and was bitten by a zombie. The bite was revealed to a stunned Rick in the closing seconds of the midseason finale. Riggs says the decision to kill off the character was "story related."
In an interview with EW, Greg Nicotero, who has directed episodes of The Walking Dead since season 2, says the midseason premiere is one of the most powerful episodes they've ever produced. Nicotero says while watching the first cut of the episode in the editing room, tears were coming out of his eyes 20 minutes into it. In describing the depth of the episode's emotional impact, Nicotero compared it to the season 5 midseason premiere, "What Happened and What's Going On," the episode that killed off the fan-favorite character Tyreese (Chad Coleman).
According to Nicotero, "What Happened and What's Going On"—which he also directed—is similar to the season 8 premiere in that both episodes focus on the buildup to a character's impending death, allowing the characters time to process what's about to happen.
As to be expected, the decision to kill off Carl has been met with a significant amount of criticism from fans. Thousands signed a petition calling for the firing of showrunner Scott M. Gimple. Creator Robert Kirkman defended the decision and responded to the backlash by reminding us that viewers aren't supposed to be happy when beloved characters die.
Nicotero believes that the fans who oppose the decision will change their mind after viewing the episode. Nicotero thinks that a lot of viewers will "put those feelings aside when they watch this episode because they're really going to get an opportunity to make some peace with it."
Season 8 of The Walking Dead returns Sunday, February 25th on AMC.