The Walking Dead midseason premiere: grieving and moving forward

Chandler Riggs as Carl Grimes - The Walking Dead _ Season 8, Episode 9 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC
Chandler Riggs as Carl Grimes - The Walking Dead _ Season 8, Episode 9 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC /

Balancing grief and excitement about The Walking Dead season 8 midseason premiere is a tough line to walk and many fans are on that tightrope right now.

The Walking Dead is finally back, but for many fans, this midseason premiere is a strange mix of abject grief and excitement. Fans have known since the midseason finale that the premiere would be Carl’s last episode and have had some weeks now to process the loss.

But a lot of fans, myself included, are ambivalent about The Walking Dead midseason premiere and are uncomfortable with the mix of grief and excitement that they’re feeling.

On one hand, we’re really excited to see Savage Rick return and to see Team Family go after Negan and The Saviors with everything they have in the last stand. But on the other hand in order to get to that place we have to process the loss of Carl.

For several seasons now Carl has been more of a background figure, but the idea of him looms large. Carl represents family and the life that existed before the apocalypse came. Everything Rick has done for all these seasons has been to protect Carl.

Clinging to the memory of what his world was like before society fell has been what has kept Rick going. Protecting Carl. Protecting Lori. He lost Lori, and now he’s losing Carl. And fans are sad and scared of what changes we will see in Rick when that last link to his old life is gone.

It’s a loss we all feel and that shaken the fandom. We see ourselves and our families in the Grimes family. We want to believe that in a world where death is everywhere we can survive anything as long as we have our loved ones. Family and love and loyalty can overcome anything, can’t they? That’s what we have believed throughout the entire series. But Carl’s death threatens that belief in the power of those things.

The Way It Often Happens

And the manner of Carl’s death seems so ridiculous. A boy who has grown up in a world of walkers and has slaughtered thousands of them being taken out by a walker bite? Carl, who has survived being shot and losing an eye, downed by a walker? It seems inconceivable.

But isn’t that really the way that things often happen in life? One chance encounter, one moment of carelessness, one slip of attention and it’s all over. It happens every day. Carl’s death was a shock, but maybe we needed to be shocked out of our complacency. Maybe we needed to be reminded that walkers are still dangerous.

More from Undead Walking

They have always told us that no one on this show is safe, ever. And we laughed it off and thought that they would never really kill off Rick or Carl. Most of us assumed that Carl would be the one left standing at the end of the story. But now we’re faced with the fact that our assumptions were wrong, and the vision we had of what the future of the show would be isn’t going to happen.

Grieving And Moving On

Even though Carl’s redemption/death arc is problematic in many ways his death also will open a new world for the story moving forward. Now the future that we thought was going to happen isn’t going to happen, so what comes next? It will be exciting to see where the story goes and what new worlds will be built by new showrunner Angela Kang. And it will be very exciting to see Rick fighting against Negan with nothing left to lose. As a fandom, we need to grieve and move on, together. The way we always have done. Because in the end, it’s still true that we survive together. We pull together, not apart, and we grieve and move on.

Next: Preview of The Walking Dead 809 'Honor'

Carl’s final goodbye on The Walking Dead airs on Sunday, February 25th but his influence will remain a part of the show forever.