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[This story contains spoilers for “Honor,” the midseason eight premiere of AMC’s The Walking Dead.]
In his final episode of the series (any future flashback or vision sequences notwithstanding), The Walking Dead offered as fond a farewell for Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs) as humanly possible.
Carl, one of very few characters from season one still actively involved in the AMC zombie drama, took his final bow in the midseason eight premiere, “Honor.” The exit wasn’t a surprise; Carl’s demise was first teased in December’s midseason finale, when it was revealed that he sustained a walker bite on the abdomen while rescuing a survivor of the apocalypse. Instead, the most surprising element of Carl’s death was the tone of his swan song — about as peaceful as it gets in the world of The Walking Dead.
Here’s an overview of Carl’s final moments on Earth, and how they’re likely to impact the future of the series.
1. Carl’s Final Moment With Judith
“You be good, OK? For Michonne. For dad. You gotta honor them. Listen to when he tells you stuff. You don’t have to, always. Sometimes kids have to show their parents the way. This [hat] was dad’s before it was mine. Now it’s yours. I don’t know … just having it meant I always kept dad with me. It made me feel as strong as him. It helped me. Maybe it’ll help you, too. Before mom died, she told me that I was going to beat this world. I didn’t. But you will. I know you will.”
Carl’s final words to his sister are met immediately with an outburst of tears — both onscreen, and potentially for the folks watching at home, depending on how moving you found the final goodbye between the Grimes siblings. With Carl gone, and with a time jump looming at least in the comic books, one wonders if Judith will some day take on her brother’s role in the storyline. Admittedly, it would have be one heck of a jump to get us there. If nothing else, we know who has Rick’s sheriff hat moving forward — one of the single oldest items still in the series.
2. Carl’s Final Moment With Daryl
“These people … you saved them all. That’s all you, man.”
Carl and Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) weren’t exactly the closest characters in the Walking Dead cast, but Daryl and Rick (Andrew Lincoln) are essentially brothers — and right up until this latest milestone, the veritable siblings were feuding in a major way. Rick wanted to stick to the script, with an airtight plan that would see the Saviors finished in a matter of days. Daryl wanted to accelerate the plan, essentially resulting in the Saviors’ salvation. Daryl volunteering to take Judith to the Hilltop, and his final words toward Carl, indicate that the shaggy-haired biker is ready to let go of some of his rage, or at least put it aside for the good of the group.
3. Carl’s Final Moment With Siddiq
“You are helping me honor my mom. You brought me here. You gave me a chance. I know I can never repay you, but I can honor you by showing your people — your friends, your family — that what you did wasn’t for nothing. That it mattered. That it meant something. Because it did. That’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to honor you, Carl.”
Avi Nash’s Siddiq swears he will carry Carl in his heart moving forward, demonstrating himself to be an invaluable asset to the Alexandrians from here on out. Given what he represents to the greater theme of “All-Out War,” Siddiq stands out as one of the single safest members of the Walking Dead cast at this moment in time. He’s a doctor, for one, which frankly paints a troubling picture for the necessity of Dr. Carson (R. Keith Harris). But he’s the avatar of Carl’s sacrifice as well, someone whose very existence keeps Carl’s memory alive. As Carl puts it to Siddiq in their final interaction together: “Congratulations. You’re stuck with us.” Maybe not forever, but at least for the next good little while, we fully expect Siddiq to be a core Walking Dead castmember.
4. Carl’s Final Moment With Michonne
“It should be somebody you love if you can’t do it yourself. But I still can. I grew up. I have to do this. Me. I love you.”
Michonne (Danai Gurira) has been Carl’s best friend in the apocalypse, and a mother figure as well ever since the loss of Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies). She’s present in Carl’s final moments, and briefly tries to stop him from putting himself down. Carl’s decision to go ahead and take his own life before the infection takes hold, and the reason why he makes this decision — that he’s strong enough to shoulder this burden and not put it on either of his parents — is guaranteed to stick with Michonne, someone who has become vastly more emotionally vulnerable throughout her six seasons on The Walking Dead.
5. Carl’s Final Moment With Rick
“I love you, Carl. I’ll make it real. I will.”
Are Rick’s final words to his son the words he’ll remember most when he thinks about Carl? Will he remember the vision of the future that Carl sketched out for him, one in which all of the wars are over, and Alexandria achieves a semblance of peace? Or will it be the lone silenced bullet that Rick hears forever and ever? This question is phrased another way throughout season eight, whether Rick’s mercy can prevail over his wrath. As he’s sitting beside the tree at the end of the episode, bleeding out, one wonders exactly which version of his son Rick Grimes intends to honor moving forward.
6. Carl’s Final Moment With Negan
Let’s dial it back to the midseason finale, in which Carl bravely faced off against Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), the two survivors speaking at the Alexandria border. Carl offers to sacrifice his own life if it means everyone else gets to live. Negan’s taken aback: “Do you wanna die?”
“No, I don’t,” Carl replies. “But I will. It’s gonna happen. And if me dying can stop this? If it can make things different for us — for you, and all those other kids? It would be worth it. Was this the plan? Was it supposed to be this way? Is this who you wanted to be?”
Seconds later, it’s all-out war once again (if you’ll forgive the pun) as bombs burst all throughout the Alexandria Safe-Zone. Negan’s back to his usual tricks right away, but what’s going to happen when he hears what happened to Carl? For a few brief seconds, Carl’s words seemed to cut deep into Negan’s core, getting him to at least privately wonder if this really is who he wants to be. Given the penultimate image of the midseason premiere, in which we see Negan fully entrenched in the vision for Alexandria’s future, we’re left to wonder if there’s more to Negan after all — and if there is, how much will it be due to his final conversation with Carl?
7. Carl’s Final Moment With You
Was it the silenced bullet? Was it his pitch for peace? Was it one of his many final conversations with the people he loves? Was it the cheese whiz or the pudding he pounded along the way in season four? Was it something earlier? The Walking Dead fan’s relationship with Carl Grimes is bound to vary from person to person, especially in light of the character’s final fate. Sound off in the comments below with your predictions about how Carl’s death will impact the show moving forward.
Follow THR.com/WalkingDead for full coverage of season eight and the fallout from Carl’s death.
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