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The impending demise of Carl on The Walking Dead has rocked TWD fandom to the core. (And the decision rocked both the cast as well as actor Chandler Riggs when they found out.) Yet it is a creative decision that has been defended by Robert Kirkman, who created The Walking Dead comic and has kept Carl alive in that original source material.

Kirkman told EW that current showrunner Scott M. Gimple (who is turning over the reins to Angela Kang after this season to oversee the entire Walking Dead kingdom — including both shows, video games, and other brand extensions) has a long-term plan to make it work, and that plan begins with the midseason premiere on Feb. 25. So we spoke with Gimple to find out more about what the Carl death means moving forward.

Credit: Gene Page/AMC

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: We saw Carl has been bitten. We know it’s going to be fatal. What can you say about how this is going to play out in the next episode?
SCOTT M. GIMPLE: Well, I can’t say exactly what happens, but there is a story there and there are remarkable performances by everybody involved, led by Chandler Riggs. And a certain compulsion is given to the story, certain ideas and wishes and even reveals with incredible importance to this season in the overall story.

You mentioned last time we spoke how we’re going to see the Old Man Rick stuff play out more in the next episode. How much of episode 809 is coming full circle back to 801?
That’s a really good question. Though it’s not the end of the overall story, in many ways its relationship to episode 1 is pretty important in terms of how it does end certain things and reveal certain things. There is a deep relationship between the two episodes.

We’ve seen Carl pleading with this dad to sort of rethink his approach in the wake of everything that has happened with Negan. How much of that is going to guide the second half of season 8, even after Carl is gone?
This episode, 809, sets very important ideas for the rest of the season — very important motivations and it re-contextualizes everything that’s been going on and gives it a perspective that just can’t be denied. It scrambles some things. But Carl’s presence is felt very deeply in the story throughout the story. It’s a critical aspect of the season.

How much of what we’re going to see coming up in the back half of the season is about winning the war against Negan, and how much of it is going to be deciding at what cost?
Them deciding who they are going to be is certainly part of it and how they might be able to win this thing and also rethink the entire effort to beat Negan rather than find another way. And that’s all pretty heavy emotional, philosophical stuff, but there are also a lot of practical realities going on about how Alexandria has been definitely, you know, screwed up.

We saw what happened in many ways. Now it’s where are they going to go? What are they going to do? Is it a question of beating Negan or just surviving at this point? Is it a last stand? Is it a surrender? Is it an escape? There are those big philosophical questions but then there are practical questions that just kind of surmount everything. Which is: How do they survive the night?

For more exclusive Walking Dead scoop, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly and follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss. The Walking Dead returns on Feb. 25 on AMC.

Episode Recaps

The Walking Dead

AMC's zombie thriller, based on the classic comic book serial created by Robert Kirkman.

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