[SPOILER ALERT: Read only if you have already watched The Walking Dead midseason finale, “How It’s Gotta Be.”]
Just when you thought it couldn’t get more shocking than Negan bashing in the brains of two fan favorites, The Walking Dead proved it had some more twisted tricks up its sleeve. The zombie drama unleashed its most surprising move in eight seasons when it revealed that Carl Grimes (played by Chandler Riggs) had been bit by a walker, signaling his impending death on the show.
Not only is Carl one of just five original characters still on the show — and another one of those, Lennie James’ Morgan, will be leaving by the end of the season to move over to Fear the Walking Dead — but Carl remains a major figure in the comic book. In fact, not only is Carl still alive in the original source material, but the comic book often seems to be just as much about the younger Grimes growing up in the apocalypse as it is about his dad Rick, leading many to wonder if Rick might actually be killed off, with Carl taking over leadership duties.
The episode began with a flashback to Rick and Carl after their first meeting with Siddiq, with Carl explaining to need to find a way forward that was not just killing everyone. And then it was Carl who called the shots when the Saviors attacked Alexandria, barking out orders to Michonne and company while reminding everyone, “This is my show. This is my plan.” And the plan worked. He said “kill me” to Negan, telling the big bad he was willing to die if that’s what it would take to bring peace, but it was a distraction to allow the others to bust out the other side in a caravan.
Eventually, Rick returned, only to get beat by a waiting Negan with a baseball bat, who threatened to raise Carl himself. The fight ended up a draw, with Rick taking off into the streets to find his son. Instead, he first came across Michonne slicing up a Savior. They finally made their way down to the sewers where they found everyone, ending with Carl who lifted up his shirt to reveal he had been bitten by a walker.
In other news, Aaron and Enid headed for Oceanside (killing Natania in the process), Simon captured Jerry and murdered someone right in front of Maggie to keep the Hilltop in line, and grumpy Gavin took control of the Kingdom. But all was not done for the alliance. Dwight turned his gun on his own to help Daryl and Co. score a measure of victory out on the road, Eugene changed his mind and helped Gabriel get Dr. Carson out of the Sanctuary, and Ezekiel finally emerged from his funk to help the Kingdomers escape while surrendering himself in the process. But perhaps nobody went further than Maggie. After watching someone killed in her own car, she picked out a Savior from her Hilltop prison and murdered him in cold blood retaliation.