Be warned, if you haven't seen last night's The Walking Dead mid-season finale, there will be massive SPOILERS below, so make sure to read at your own risk. If you're a regular viewer of the show, it should come as no surprise that a pivotal character was killed, since that often happens in both the mid-season finale and season finale of any given season, but this death may be the biggest yet, and it seems the actor who is now out of a job, did not see this move coming one bit, and the actor's father had some harsh words for showrunner Scott M. Gimple as well, in a now-deleted Facebook post. This is your absolute last chance to avoid spoilers from The Walking Dead Season 8 mid-season finale, so read on at your own risk.
While the character they killed off isn't technically dead yet, the character in question is Chandler Riggs' Carl Grimes, who, it's worth noting, is still alive in the Robert Kirkman comics. Still, the show has often diverged from the comics, and there was speculation that the character who will be killed off is Seth Gilliam's Father Gabriel Stokes, since many fans noticed an Easter Egg teasing how he dies in the comics. When it was all said and done though, it was Carl who was bitten in the torso by a zombie, although we learned from showrunner Scott M. Gimple that Carl still has "business to attend to" before he dies, adding that this zombie bite will be dealt with just like all of the other zombie bites in the show's long history. While most characters' deaths are foreshadowed by the comics, Chandler Riggs revealed in a new interview he was quite surprised his character was killed off, adding that he's currently taking a "gap year" after being accepted to Auburn University in Atlanta.
"I'm taking a gap year right now to focus on acting for a while. Leaving Walking Dead wasn't my decision. It was all story-related. It made sense story-wise for it to happen for Rick and Michonne and all the other characters. I was planning on going to college until I found out. I found out when I was doing rehearsals for episode six back in June. It was quite the shocker for me, Andy and everyone because I don't think anyone saw it coming. It's definitely not a bad thing because it has been awesome being on the show, but now I get to go and do a lot of other stuff that I haven't gotten to do before. Scott wanted to meet in person because it was such a big deal. We had just finished rehearsing for a scene in episode six and he wanted to meet with me and my mom and dad and talk about what's going to happen."
The young actor added that learning Carl was going to be killed off was "devastating" for Chandler Riggs and his whole family, since the show had been a part of his life since he was 11 years old, when he was first cast as Carl Grimes. Both Chandler Riggs and Andrew Lincoln are the only series regulars who had been with the show all eight seasons, since the pilot episode, and since Carl is still alive in the comics, many fans thought, just like Chandler himself, that it seems unlikely he would never get killed off. Then again, there was speculation that Carl Grimes may be killed off after he revealed he was accepted to Auburn, and the actor had celebrated his original seven-year contract being fulfilled, but it seems his death happened just a bit later. Here's what Chandler Riggs had to say, when asked why showrunner Scott M. Gimple decided to kill off Carl at this point in the series.
"In the comics, Scott was trying to figure out why there was a hole between Rick slitting Negan's throat at the end of the All-Out War arc and then there's the time jump and Negan is alive and in prison and Rick didn't kill Negan. Scott was trying to figure out how to bridge the gap between Rick not wanting to kill Negan and Rick also really wanting to kill Negan, which he does right now [in the show's story]. Scott's way to get around that was to make Carl this really humanitarian figure and person who could see the good in people and see that people can change and not everyone out there is bad. That's what Carl's talk to Rick was in this episode: There's no way that they can kill every one of the Saviors and not everyone is a bad person and there has to be some way forward than just killing people."
Shortly after the episode aired, Chandler Riggs' father William sent out a now-deleted Facebook post, which claims that Scott M. Gimple fired Chandler Riggs just two weeks before his 18th birthday, after they originally told him that they wanted him to stay on for the next three years. William added that he "never trusted Gimple or AMC, but Chandler did," adding that he knows how much the decision to kill off Carl hurt his son.
"Watching Gimple fire my son 2 weeks before his 18th birthday after telling him they wanted him for the next 3 years was disappointing. I never trusted Gimple or AMC but Chandler did. I know how much it hurt him. But we do absolutely know how lucky we have been to be a part of it all and appreciate all the love from fans all these years!"
Fans will see Carl once more in the Walking Dead Season 8 mid-season premiere, with Chandler Riggs offering some new details about what fans can expect from this episode.
"Episode 809 is really Carl trying to teach Rick as much as he can about what he's learned and trying to convince Rick to not kill every single Savior because there's still good people out there. The Alexandrians, the Hilltop and the Kingdom, all those people probably see him as a villain like the Saviors. There's some humanitarian aspects that Carl is going to try and teach Rick in his final moments."
It was also revealed that the season will continue with the mid-season premiere on Sunday, February 25, where we'll see Chandler Riggs' Carl Grimes for the last time. It remains to be seen how this will impact Rick's strategy against The Saviors going forward, as the All Out War is wrapped up. You can visit The Hollywood Reporter for their full interview with Chandler Riggs.