On Sunday, The Walking Dead killed off one of only five remaining original cast members -- and they picked the wrong one. If anyone was going to save the zombie epic from stagnation, it was going to be teen hero Carl Grimes. If we had to lose a Grimes man from the series, the infinitely better choice would have been his father, Rick.
Season 8 got off to a rocky start. Where the AMC show's Season 7 premiere attracted 17.3 million viewers, the Season 8 premiere only drew 11.4 million -- that's quite a drop. The first eight episodes have been a mixed bag too, largely owing to the "All Out War" plot, which has scattered our favorite characters between the Kingdom, Hilltop, and Alexandria communities. When the most beloved characters on the show aren't given the opportunity to interact very much with each other, The Walking Dead becomes somehow flatter -- a fact not helped by the loss of Glenn Rhee in Season 7. When Glenn died, some of the show's heart did too.
In thinking about the future of The Walking Dead, it's hard to picture it as a particularly interesting place without Carl. Carl was literally the future of the show, as the youngest of the core cast members. Carl was a child of the apocalypse. Because he was raised in it, not only was he a warrior well before his time, but given the opportunity, he would have become an even greater leader than his dad has been. He's already survived being shot! Twice! And he had to kill his own mother!
The possibilities for Carl's future were pretty endless -- especially given his romantic coupling with fellow teen badass (and onetime tortoise eater) Enid. Had he been allowed to live, the pair could have easily become the next Glenn and Maggie.
In classic Walking Dead style, episode 8 chose to rub our noses in all of Carl's potential as a leader, right before the big reveal that he'd been bitten. We saw him single-handedly commanding his neighbors on how to escape, before confronting Negan and his goons in an impressively fearless manner. Not only did Carl attempt to negotiate with Negan -- something none of the adults in his vicinity are fond of trying -- he then offered to sacrifice himself to save others. Best of all though, Carl finally shamed Negan in a manner no one else has ever managed: "Is this who you wanted to be?" he asked. You could see from Negan's expression that the kid had hit a raw nerve.