5:05am PT by Josh Wigler
'Walking Dead': 11 Questions for the Second Half of Season 8 (and Beyond)
[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the season eight midseason finale of AMC's The Walking Dead, "How It's Gotta Be," as well as spoilers from the comics on which it's based.]
Following the explosive midseason finale of AMC's The Walking Dead, everything viewers and comic book fans alike ever thought they knew about the show has been thrown into chaos.
In what is easily the biggest departure from Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard's comic books to date, season eight of the AMC zombie series started the process of killing off Rick's (Andrew Lincoln) son Carl (Chandler Riggs), one of the most enduring characters in the entire franchise. It's a huge shift in the show's status quo, and even if Carl isn't dead quite yet, the inevitability of his demise should leave viewers with a sense of paranoid despair.
While Carl is deservedly front of mind, he's not the only character we're wondering about as we once again embark on the biannual Walking Dead hiatus. Here are 11 burning questions about The Walking Dead between now and the show's Feb. 25 midseason premiere.
1. How Much Longer Does Carl Have?
It's only a matter of when, not if. Carl sustaining a walker bite on a body part that can't be amputated means one thing and one thing only: The zombie apocalypse's No. 1 pudding fan is on his way out. Riggs told THR that his final episode will be the Feb. 25 midseason premiere, though given the way The Walking Dead has had a penchant for bringing back old faces — in flashbacks and visions alike — let's hope for a return of the one-eyed wonder in any fashion.
2. Who Will Carry Carl's Weight?
Among the many reasons why Carl's imminent demise is a shock to the system, his massive role in the Walking Dead comic books has to stand pretty close to the top of the list. In the comics, Carl remains a major player, so much so that he's at the center of Alexandria's next major fight: the Whisperer War, a battle between Rick's community and a group of survivors who thrive in the apocalypse by wearing skin suits and walking among walkers. Carl becomes involved in the drama when he embarks on a relationship with Lydia, the daughter of the Whisperers' leader. How will his death impact the show's adaptation of the Whisperer arc? It's one of the biggest question marks on the show right now, and one without a clear answer.
3. Is Siddiq Here to Stay?
First and foremost, our apologies to Carl's new friend, who we spent some time suspecting as a Savior spy. It would seem that he is indeed on the level. But will he be on the same level as Rick for much longer? Siddiq only exists within the Alexandria group thanks to Carl's kindness — and that means he's the reason why Carl was bit in the first place. Will Rick's wrath over Carl's death, whenever it comes to pass, cause him to kick the newest member of the community back out onto the open road, if not worse? Or will he heed Carl's hope for the future?
4. When Will Enid Find Out About Carl?
Granted, Katelyn Nacon's scrappy survivor has more immediate danger on her plate right now, last seen alongside Aaron (Ross Marquand), the two of them surrounded by a very angry group of Oceansiders. (That's what happens when you kill their leader, even if it was self-defense!) Let's assume Enid and Aaron escape their predicament, ideally with Oceanside on their side somehow. Eventually, Enid's going to learn that Carl didn't "just survive somehow." What kind of impact will that have on the character? Will it bring her closer with Maggie (Lauren Cohan), someone with whom she was already developing a significant bond? With Carl gone, who will Enid turn to as a peer in the zombie apocalypse?
5. How Much Longer Does Gabriel Have?
While we're spending so much time rightfully concentrated on Carl's impending exit, it's worth remembering we're on the cusp of losing yet another series regular: Seth Gilliam as the good Father Gabriel, nursing an infection due to his exposure to zombie gore. Technically, we don't know yet if he's going to die from the infection — we're in somewhat uncharted territory here with regards to the lethality of guts ingestion — but it definitely looks like he's on his way out. If that's the case, how much time do we have with Gabriel? As with Carl, it's mostly a matter of whether the pace of the next half-season will match the first eight episodes, which took place over little more than a day.
6. Why Will Morgan Leave?
Carl isn't the only season one veteran eyeing a Walking Dead departure. (Too soon to use "Carl" and "eye" in the same sentence? Given current events, that injury feels pretty tame.) Original castmember Lennie James will be taking his act as Morgan Jones over to the spinoff Fear the Walking Dead in time for season four (he's already wrapped the flagship and started production on the other). There are some who believe this means Morgan will die during season eight of Walking Dead, due to timeline discrepancies between the flagship series and Fear. For what it's worth, those people are wrong, and here's why. Morgan isn't going to die; in fact, he's the safest character on the show right now. The only question is, why is he going to leave Alexandria? What brings him to Texas? We'll know the answer before too much longer.
7. How Can Viewers Ever Forgive Daryl?
Really, almost everything that's wrong on the show right now belongs to Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) and his impulsive decision to accelerate the attack against the Saviors. If he had stuck with Rick's plan, Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and the rest would still be stuck in the Sanctuary. So, thanks for that, Daryl! Easily one of the most beloved characters within the Walking Dead fan base, we now have to reconcile Daryl's popularity with his foolishness. How can the show and the character recover from his very, very, very bad decision? Let's see if the back half of season eight has an answer, or if Daryl will need more time for character rehab.
8. When Will the War End?
Once again, it's a question about the pace of the season. So far, season eight has taken a slow and deliberate approach to "All-Out War," explosive action notwithstanding. Hardly a day has passed over the course of the conflict. Whether or not the show moves at a brisker pace remains to be seen, but is it possible we'll make it all the way through season eight without an end to the war? The good news is showrunner Scott M. Gimple has confirmed that the war will conclude before season nine. Whether or not it concludes earlier than the season eight finale, on the other hand? Another matter entirely.
9. Which Saviors Will Die?
Given the darkness surrounding the midseason finale, it's only a matter of time before some of the notable Saviors start dropping. Carl's coming death changes everything we know about the show's relationship to the comics, but even still, it would be a really big change if Negan doesn't somehow survive the war. Same deal with Dwight (Austin Amelio), though his role in the comics could easily shift onto Daryl in the future. Sadly, the likeliest candidate to die from the Saviors' side of the aisle is also the most colorful character of the bunch: Steven Ogg's Simon. Hate to will it into existence, but it feels like a safe bet.
10. What's the Deal With the Flash-Forward?
In the comic books, following the events of "All-Out War," The Walking Dead skips forward in time, thrusting readers into an Alexandria a few years removed from this brutal conflict. Viewers caught a glimpse at that world in the beginning of season eight, with the vision of an older Rick Grimes. Can we trust that it's a locked-and-loaded future, though? Carl was part of that future, after all, which means it's not fully reliable. Consider this one of the biggest wild cards of The Walking Dead as it currently stands.
11. Are Rick's Days Numbered?
It's our biggest fear on the board right now, and in fairness, it's perhaps a bit reactionary. After all, we're in the midst of losing Carl, which throws all of our firmest beliefs about this show into complete and utter disarray. But are there reasons to believe Rick might not survive season eight? If AMC's adaptation is willing to kill someone as high-profile as Carl, then we have to at least entertain the notion that Rick could be the next one out the door. At the very least, we'll say this: We are currently as worried for Rick Grimes as we have ever been.
Follow THR.com/WalkingDead for all of our ongoing coverage of season eight.