The latest episode of “The Walking Dead” shocked a fair few viewers of the show.
(Spoiler alert, by the way, for “How It’s Gotta Be”, the eighth episode of the current season).
In an unexpected turn, we witnessed the reveal that Rick Grimes’ beloved son Coral Carl is not long for this world. Having sustained a serious Walker bite, he’s basically just biding time until he turns into a monster.
This feels like it should be a bigger deal than it is. Had this happened a few seasons ago, it might have been genuinely upsetting for the majority of viewers. Rick’s personal story arc was all about keeping Carl safe, and it would have come as a complete surprise to see him fail so badly.
Now, though, Rick’s got a solid romantic relationship, and has bigger fish to fry with his war against Negan. It feels as if the desperate, “Finding Nemo” style focus of the show has ebbed somewhat, and instead Rick has embraced a wider philosophy as he’s been playing the bigger game. Carl isn’t as important to the story as he used to be – which is no doubt why he’s easy to kill off.
It doesn’t help that rumors of Carl’s death have been floating around ever since the young actor who plays him, Chandler Riggs, was accepted to study at college. No doubt the challenge of Riggs’ busy schedule was part of the reason for his character’s diminished importance in the overall story.
Even though the showrunners behind “The Walking Dead” insist that this wasn’t the reason he was killed off, it makes sense that Carl became less important to the plot, and therefore easier to kill, once Riggs wasn’t around as often for filming.
There’s probably a hope that this event will bring audiences back to the show. “The Walking Dead” hasn’t been doing to great from a ratings perspective lately, and this feels awfully like the kind of gimmick that AMC hopes will get people’s attention.
This is a character that everyone who’s ever watched “The Walking Dead” will remember, and his importance in earlier seasons might mean that people will want to see the fallout when Rick loses his son.
It could be that Carl’s death is designed as a way of bringing the show back to its roots a little, with a personal family story that will deeply affect the show’s protagonist.
At the same time, though, it’s hard to feel like people are really going to care all that much. A large chunk of the “Walking Dead” audience have already moved on to other shows, and it feels like this last-minute death isn’t really going to be enough to bring them back.
At one point, Carl’s death would have rocked the fandom. By now, it’s just a dying gasp from a show that’s already running on borrowed time.
“The Walking Dead”, much like Carl himself, is just biding time, treading water, until its inevitable demise brings things to a close.