I write a lot about The Walking Dead for Uproxx — a lot — while we typically limit our coverage of the series over here to Brian’s weekly recap (which will be along shortly). However, there’s a thought that’s clogging my head today, and I’ve already written enough about the show for Uproxx, so I’m going to say it over here:
I’m glad that Carl was killed off of the series last night (and if there’s any question about his fate, Scott Gimple put it to rest on The Talking Dead).
There’s a few reasons for this, but I’ll start with the most petty: Chandler Riggs never really nailed that role. I’m sure he’s a very nice kid, and I wish him all the success in his future endeavors, but Riggs’ performance in as Carl Grimes was the equivalent of the Eli Manning face. He may care a lot about the part, and he may master the lines, but he never brought much enthusiasm to the role. I know that he cared (just as I know that Eli Manning cares), but he never gave that impression onscreen. He walked through the motions, and while he has admittedly improved over the years, he never really grew into the role the way the series needed.
There’s a time jump coming, and in the post All-Out War The Walking Dead, Carl is a more mature character who takes on a leadership role. Chandler Riggs, bless him, cannot pull that role off. I mean, even in last night’s midseason finale, when Carl told Michonne that he was calling the shots, it felt mildly ridiculous. I saw a number of people on Twitter take issue with it. Like, why in God’s name would Michonne take orders from this kid? Riggs is an 18 year old guy who still behaves like a 15 year old on the show, and he was never going to be able to pull off what was expected him in the future of the series. His best scene in recent years, in fact, may have been when he went roller skating with Enid, because that actually looked natural. He was never going to be able to play the Carl Grimes depicted in the Whisperer War.
There’s another reason I’m glad he was killed off, too. As one of many people who follow the comics closely, no matter how good or bad a particular episode of The Walking Dead is, there is always this air of inevitability about it. We know what’s going to happen, and while it may not happen exactly as it did in the comics, the events usually remains fairly faithful. It’s partially why the All Out War this season has been something of a drag: There are weeks where it feels like paint-by-numbers. The joy of surprise is gone. I know and understand that for the majority of readers here on Pajiba that’s been the case for a long time. But for whatever reason, I still get into the series. I don’t think it’s the best show on TV, or even in the Top 25, but I feel invested in the characters, and I love finding little wrinkles on the show and blowing them up. Those have been few and far between of late, and it’s gotten to where the theories that surround the series (many of which I help propagate) are more interesting than what actually happens.
Carl’s death changes that. Not only was his death wildly unpredictable (not even the spoiler sites had revealed it), but it changes the entire The Walking Dead landscape going ahead. Storylines will have to be completely altered. Scott Gimple is going to have to find different paths forward. It’s gonna piss off a lot of comic readers who find comfort in the reliability of the series, but I welcome the new dynamic. It’s a little like killing off Jon Snow on Game of Thrones, even though George R.R. Martin had him going until the end. It will force a much needed new perspective, especially as Fear the Walking Dead has overtaken the parent series in terms of creative development (The way they revealed Carl’s death, for instance, was straight out of a Fear the Walking Dead episode last season. RIP Ofelia).
Finally, and this is also kind of petty: I don’t really like the way that Riggs, or more specifically, his father, has handled his exit. I understand hurt feelings are natural, but this is a business, and none of these jobs are guaranteed.
“Watching Gimple fire my son 2 weeks before his 18th birthday after telling him they wanted him for the next 3 years was disappointing,” Riggs’ father wrote. “I never trusted Gimple or AMC but Chandler did. I know how much it hurt him.”
I get wanting to protect your son and his feelings, but calling out the showrunner and the network isn’t exactly the best way to advance your son’s career in the future. Gimple made a decision based on what he thought was best for the future of the series. He may end up being completely wrong, but you can’t hold it against the showrunner for trying to shake things up on a show that desperately needs a shake up. The behavior exhibited by Riggs’ father may be exactly why The Walking Dead decided to part ways with his son.