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Carl’s death marks the most significant change from the Walking Dead comic books to date, as the character not only remains alive and well in Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard’s source material on which the show is based but stands poised to some day take over the lead role if and when the day arrives that his father, Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), is no longer around. The show will have to carve a new way forward, with Carl set to succumb to his infection by the end of the first new Walking Dead episode of 2018, called “Honor.”
Who will take on Carl’s role from the comics moving forward? There’s so much still in the character’s future for the show to explore, most intriguingly his key relationship with one of the most memorable sets of villains in the comic’s lore.
“I was excited to do a lot of those storylines in the comics because there’s a lot of really cool stuff,” Riggs previously told The Hollywood Reporter, speaking in an interview published on the night his character’s fate was revealed. “I’m more excited to do other things than The Walking Dead than I was excited about doing those things on Walking Dead.”
Riggs’ optimism about the future is surely emboldened by the work he already accomplished in his time on the show. As one of few characters from season one still active (at least for now), Carl has seen and done more than most others in the zombie apocalypse.
With his exit looming, here’s one last look at Carl Grimes’ greatest moments during his time in the world of The Walking Dead.
10. Take No Prisoners
Carl started the series as a wide-eyed innocent, helpless in a hopeless world. By the end of the show’s third season, however, he was taking matters into his own hands, gunning down one of the soldiers from Woodbury in the finale’s climactic confrontation. It was a dark moment for Carl but a necessary one for the next phase of his journey, as Rick worked tirelessly to bring his son back from the brink of a world gone mad.
9. Going Clear
The entirety of “Clear,” the season three episode centered on Rick, Carl and Michonne (Danai Gurira) encountering Morgan Jones (Lennie James) for the first time since his appearance in the pilot, stands out as a highlight in Walking Dead lore. But Carl’s storyline with Michonne in the episode — in which they fight together to find some rare family heirlooms — is an unsung part of its success, not least because it was the first step in the unexpected friendship between Kid Grimes and his sword-swinging stepmom.
8. Assault on the Sanctuary
Carl was often impulsive, acting out against the wisdom of his elders. Case in point: his impending demise, a direct result of abandoning his post in Alexandria. Before that final, fatal example, Carl’s most memorable rogue mission took place in season seven, when he tried to single-handedly take down Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and the Saviors. The mission failed, but it succeeded in bringing a few iconic moments from the comics to life.
7. The Last Stand
Another memorable scene between Carl and Negan, and quite likely their last: the confrontation between the two survivors at the gates of Alexandria in season eight’s midseason finale. At the time, we didn’t know Carl’s offer to sacrifice himself for the safety of his people came with an asterisk, that his clock was already ticking down to zero due to the zombie bite. In hindsight, it’s a haunting moment between Carl and his father’s greatest adversary, one that’s easily among the character’s single most heroic moments.
6. Science Dog
Less of a Carl moment, and more of a Carl thing (and stuff): the “Science Dog” t-shirt he wears throughout the first season of the series. For those who aren’t aware, Carl’s shirt in season one is a direct reference to one of the earliest works by Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman: Science Dog, a character who you pretty much already know everything about based on his name. It was an excellent Easter egg for fans of Kirkman’s works and the Walking Dead comics in the early going of the show, and it’s easily Carl’s best clothing accessory all series long — with all due respect to the hat.
5. Becoming a Meme
Again, less of a Carl moment and more of a meta moment involving Carl. In the aftermath of one of the single most brutal scenes in the entire series — the death of Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) early on in season three — Rick and Carl share a tearful acknowledgment about what’s just happened to the most important woman in their lives. It’s a devastating scene, absolutely, but outside of the show, it’s the source of some unexpected hilarity in the form of a meme in which Rick slays Carl with awful dad jokes. Here’s one example, and here’s another. Fine, one more for good measure. The Walking Dead isn’t best known for its sense of humor, so it’s worth tipping the cap in those rare occasions.
4. Days Gone Eye
The biggest heart-in-the-throat moment involving Carl, his death notwithstanding, arrived at the midpoint of season six. In an attempt to escape an overrun Alexandria, Rick and the gang wore zombie guts to blend in with the surrounding walkers. It did not go so well for the Anderson family, leading to some violent pandemonium in which a stray bullet knocked Carl’s eye clean out of its socket. The moment reads like it’s Carl’s last, thanks in large part to epic effects work from Greg Nicotero and his team.
3. The Great Pudding Caper
In the aftermath of the prison’s decimation, Carl is left to defend his father, and fend for himself. As a result, he goes off on an expedition in which he battles a walker, loses a shoe, and gains a huge tub of chocolate pudding for his troubles. Carl eating pudding is the pinnacle of Carl memes, sure, but it’s more than that. It’s a great moment of levity at a time the show desperately needs it; after losing the prison, Hershel (Scott Wilson), and temporarily baby Judith, Carl pounding pounds of pudding on a roof with no one to witness it except a lone walker was the exact thing we needed.
2. The Killer Within
Among the reasons why season three is often considered one of the best Walking Dead runs in the show’s history, the early assault on the prison ranks high on the list — especially as it results in the end of two prominent characters, including Lori, a much earlier departure than her death in the comics. Carl’s involvement in the moment is a big shock as well, as he’s present at the time of her death, and even goes on to stop her from coming back as a walker. It’s one of the most emotional and upsetting scenes in the series, one that derives much of its power from a young Riggs’ work as Carl, and one that serves as a huge turning point for the character.
1. The End
Without getting into too much detail, Carl’s final moments will stand out as his most memorable in the history of the show. His exit episode, “Honor,” lives up to its title: it fully honors Carl Grimes and his impact on The Walking Dead, complete with what’s easily Riggs’ best acting in his eight seasons with the series. As a teaser: We may have already seen shades of Carl’s final moments earlier this season. We’ll leave it there for now, and we’ll have much more to say after the episode airs.
What are your favorite Carl moments? Sound off in the comments below, and keep checking THR.com/WalkingDead for more coverage.
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