Everybody has been talking about that shocking twist during the mid-season finale of The Walking Dead Season 8. During the closing moments of the midseason finale, Carl Grimes revealed that he’d been bitten. While audiences were never explicitly shown the precise moment he was attacked, fans have surmised that Carl sustained the wound in the woods while bringing Siddiq back to camp.
But fans and commentators haven’t just been discussing their sadness at the prospect of losing Carl, one of the show’s few remaining original characters, and one they’ve watched grow from boy to young man. They’ve also been speculating about the fact that his supposed upcoming death is a big fake-out. Cast and crew have discussed his impending demise – but it’s possible that it’s a cover up for a shocking turn of events that sees him not only survive the walker bite, but also present the key to a cure.
It’s unusual for the cast and crew of a TV show to discuss an event like a death so willingly in advance of it actually playing out. In this age of spoiler avoidance, it feels odd that the episode should close on a cliffhanger, only to be ruined by spelling out that it’s curtains for Carl. Usually, deaths aren’t signposted like this, they come as a surprise
It wouldn’t be the first time the show has relied on a fake-out, of course. Remember in Season 6 when it was implied that Glenn was dead? Only for the show to revisit the scene several episodes later and reveal that he was alive and well? It was Nicholas’s guts those zombies were chowing down on, not Glenn’s. He’d had the fortune to have Nicholas fall on top of him during the tumble off the dumpster.
Showrunner Scott M. Gimple was also, intriguingly, vague about Carl’s fate. He told The Walking Dead aftershow, Talking Dead: “It will play out as bites play out on the show.”
He continued: “It’s very important to Carl’s story and the entire story, what happens in the next episode. So I’m just focused on the fact that right now Carl’s alive and he has some business to attend to. That is a one-way ticket, but I’d like to think that the things we see in the next episode are so important to his life and the other characters’ lives.”
So, will Carl survive? Let’s put aside the theory for now that the bite came not from a walker but a Whisperer – a member of a group of survivors who like to wear the skins of the dead and walk amongst them. The Whisperers are a group from the comic book who pose the next big threat the Rick and the gang – and appear in the story right about the moment that the war against Negan ends.
Instead, it could be that Carl is immune to the disease that’s brought on the zombie apocalypse. It would be a brilliant move on the part of Scott Gimple. It’s not hard to imagine that Carl would, therefore, be the crucial element in finding a cure. The group’s renewed focus would be on getting Carl to a person with the know-how to develop a vaccine (Eugene, in a redemption arc?). This would help propel the show to an endpoint, at the same time as injecting new life into the series and adding an extra level of threat, since Carl’s life would suddenly become all the more important.
It’s a great way to boost falling ratings for a show that some criticize for having lost its way with its aimless meandering. And it would bring a glimmer of hope to a show that’s become overwhelmingly bleak and repetitive.
The Walking Dead Season 8 returns on Sunday, February 25 in the US and Monday, February 26 in the UK.