Dalton Ross
January 30, 2018 at 11:30 AM EST

Things have gotten pretty heavy on The Walking Dead lately, what with Alexandria being bombed to high hell, the Kingdom coming completely undone, and Maggie watching someone executed right before her eyes. And things are about to get even heavier when the show returns on Feb. 25.

That’s because the midseason premiere will also be the swan song for another one of the original season 1 characters. At the end of the midseason finale, we saw that Carl had been bitten, and cast members and producers have not bothered playing coy about it, signaling that the next episode will be the last for both the character and the actor who has played him from the very beginning, Chandler Riggs. (This does not count the possibility of a future flashback or dream sequence, which pop up from time to time.)

When asked about having to say goodbye to Riggs, the man who has played his on-screen dad for eight seasons does not hold back. “I’m not going to lie to you, that was sad,” says Andrew Lincoln. “The beautiful thing is it’s what we rarely do in our show — we actually give the opportunity for a goodbye. It was unusual in that regard. Usually, things happen and people are ripped from you in this world that we inhabit. Thankfully, there was some sense of catharsis on this one, because we got to leave it all out on the screen. I thought Chandler did a remarkable job, as he always has done, but particularly in this episode.”

Gene Page/AMC

Lincoln still gets emotional and has trouble talking about Riggs’ final chapter, and — like castmates Norman Reedus and Lauren Cohan — often has trouble believing that it’s actually taking place. “It’s a very sad farewell,” he says of the midseason premiere. “And a farewell that I never thought would happen. Neither did most of the rest of the cast, I would imagine.”

Like Riggs, who takes solace in the fact that Carl’s final words will carry so much weight in the episodes that follow, Lincoln notes that this is a death that will greatly impact the story as it unfolds, even after the character is gone. “He is the linchpin,” says Lincoln of Carl’s pleas to his father to rethink his post-apocalyptic approach. “It goes back to the flash-forward where my mercy prevails over my wrath. There is a balancing of the scales in Rick’s life that happens in the back eight episodes. A lot of it is because of what is said in episode 9, by his son.”

Now we just have to wait until Feb. 25 to find out what those final words actually are.

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

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