Dalton Ross
January 24, 2018 AT 11:00 AM EST

Fans of The Walking Dead were stunned when it was revealed at the end of the Dec. 10 midseason finale that Carl (Chandler Riggs) had been bitten by a zombie, signaling that both the character and the actor’s days were numbered on the show. And fans weren’t the only ones surprised.

Cast members were also thrown for a loop by the news, including Lauren Cohan, who plays Maggie. “I didn’t really believe it,” says Cohan about when she was first informed. “I was definitely in shock. I’m still in shock about it.”

She is far from alone. Andrew Lincoln told EW that, “I never saw it coming. I always thought that the kid would be the future, and that was the whole point of this — that I was going to hand over the revolver and let him walk off into the distance.” And Norman Reedus, who admitted to being “desperately unhappy” about the move, told us, “I always thought Chandler would be the last man standing, to be honest.”

Gene Page/AMC

Instead, Carl’s last stand will take place in the Feb. 25 midseason premiere, and while the cast is unanimous in expressing disappointment at seeing Riggs leave, they also are excited for the actor/musician’s future and intrigued by what it means for the story moving forward. “I feel so happy for Chandler and everything that he’s going to do,” says Cohan, referencing Riggs’ music career (under the alias Eclipse). “And I feel really interested in how this is going to change the future of story because we know how much the story follows Carl’s journey. I’m interested in what ideas we’re going to have moving forward because I was just really devastated.”

So what can we look forward to in the back half of season 8? “We basically go into a huge battle,” teases Cohan. “We’ve had a lot of action, and now we have this revenge plan in place. The group all comes together and we make this plan for our future while trying to really hold the pieces together in the grief and in the aftermath of Carl. It’s a little bit emotionally scattered but militaristically focused.”

And while a lot of the focus has been on Rick in this regard, we’ll also get to see if Maggie — who just murdered a Savior in cold blood — will allow her mercy to prevail over her wrath. Seeing as Cohan already told us that Maggie “continues down this path of vengeance,” that one looks like it could go either way.

For more Walking Dead scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

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