The Walking Dead returns February 25th. Carl will die leaving only 3 survivors from the original Atlanta group. Is anyone safe?
Let’s face it. Carl is dead.
The original group of Season 1 survivors will absolutely lose another of its alumni when The Walking Dead returns from its midseason break on February 25th. While the larger group went through a rapid whittling down over the course of the first three seasons, the “Atlanta 5,” comprised of Rick (Andrew Lincoln), Carl (Chandler Riggs), Carol (Melissa McBride), Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Daryl (Norman Reedus) continued surviving together for another three seasons before Glenn died at the hands of Negan. And then there were four.
That number briefly returned to five with a short-lived re-introduction of Morales a few episodes ago, but Daryl saw to it that his comeback was limited to a few threatening barbs before delivering a crossbow bolt to his very surprised face. And again, there were four.
Though fans of Carl have made several cases for his possible survival, those theoretical pardons have already been dismissed by the creators and performers themselves; thus, the debates have ended. Carl will die, and now there are three.
The remainder of the Atlanta group consists of three of the show’s most popular and beloved characters. Their television story lines have been completely severed from the source material, and like it or not, by eliminating Carl’s presence on the show, the writers have effectively reaffirmed their initial pledge that absolutely no one is safe on The Walking Dead.
Carol originally met her demise in issue #41 of the comic book, during their time at the prison. That said, the two iterations of this character couldn’t be more different, making it difficult to predict what lies ahead. Meek and dependent on others in the comic-verse, her television counterpart has earned the reputation of a reliable and predictable warrior. Despite repeatedly leaving the group to deal with her conflicting emotions when it comes to killing to protect, she has always returned to save the people she truly cares for.
Carol’s alternate trajectory on the show leaves plenty of room for a long future, but her history of abandoning the group to deal with her crises of conscience in solitude may lead viewers to believe that this “all out war” could be her final battle.
It’s no secret that Daryl Dixon exists because Norman Reedus exists. And for that we are all thankful. Daryl has curated a cult following of fans while serving as a free spirit for the writers to flex any time the show’s narrative changes course from the comic book. He has been unpredictable at times, but always loyal to Rick – until recently. After his own actions led to Glenn’s death by Negan’s bat, he was taken prisoner and tortured in a way that rewired him for vengeance. Rick’s cautious approach no longer works for this transformed Daryl, evidenced by their brotherly brawl in this season’s fifth episode.
With Daryl no longer taking orders from Rick, his actions have already had a negative impact on the war plan set in motion by Rick, Maggie and Ezekiel. Now on a rogue’s path of revenge, and with the previously unthinkable death of Carl looming, is the historically “low-risk” stock claimed by Daryl Dixon’s fandom enough to shield him from the next shocking twist?
Until the last episode, there was really no cause for alarm when it came to the long-term survival of Rick Grimes. Sure, he hasn’t been the best leader in the worst of times, and yes, anywhere he enjoys a few good sleeps eventually burns to the ground, but Rick’s has been the story we have all been following, hasn’t it? Or, some may argue, until recently, that The Walking Dead has been a journal of Carl’s survival. We now know this can no longer be the case in the television universe, so what about Rick?
In this new reality, it’s entirely plausible that the show could be going in a radically different, and maybe even Rick-less, direction. The death of Carl further divorces the co-linear relationship between television and comic book, perhaps to a point where there’s no longer a need to link the two, and potentially making Rick expendable.
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The decision to kill Carl may have been met with a negative reception by some, but it may be just what viewers need to reset the complacency that fostered a belief that all things would eventually align with a destiny laid out in print. In fact, this further distinction from the source material no longer ties the television universe to the future portrayed in the books at all, for that future is one that includes Carl’s presence, actions and influence, and ignores the grief, sorrow and transformation that will soon follow his loss on the show.
The Walking Dead returns to AMC on Sunday, February 25th at 9PM ET.