My Walking Dead Theory
*Spoilers galore* from the mid-season finale.
So, Carl is the next main character to die? The end of season eight’s mid-season finale all but guaranteed as much. To save him now would make the Glenn dumpster fake-out death of a few seasons ago look like genius storytelling and not the gimmicky fraud that it was. Carl dying is shocking to the WD faithful because of the amount of energy the show has put into developing his character. He’s the next leader when Rick can no longer do it, right? Killing yet another well-established character becomes all the more devastating when you take into account the piss-poor job the show has done in building interest in any new characters after Michone showed up in Season 4 (maybe it was season 3). I mean, does anyone even think about Rick’s daughter at this point? What about the weird lady with the short bangs who runs the group that, if it only cost 10 cents to give a shit about, no one would be able to spare a dime?
Who’s left from when the show was at its best? Well, we have Daryl, Michone, Rick, Maggie, and Carol. I guess you could also add Morgan to that group. Imagine if Seinfeld killed off Kramer in season 4 and then tried to keep the fans interested with new, half-assed additions. That’s what The Walking Dead does regularly. I’ll give them credit for a few additions like Ezekiel, Neagan, and Jesus (Ok, you can have the mullet guy too, I suppose), but they’re not Kramer and they’re definitely not Glenn.
This in part stems from the show growing from a wasteland of very few survivors to a Georgia full of different factions with their own armies. On top of killing beloved characters in hopes of creating new Kramers, this flood of different factions dilutes the character development immensely and makes one not care about any of them. Hell, 30 people could be killed in a single episode this year and I challenge you to name one of them.
With such poor character development over the last few years, and the influx of meat (nameless characters) for the grinder, killing Carl is horrible writing at its core. There’s no replacements like when Shane died and we had Hershel and Maggie growing in our hearts. Killing Carl is a cheap, emotional grab. Like killing Glenn and Hershel before.
Or is it?
As fans, we all envision the end of the series happening in our own various ways, but I think most of us hope for some of our beloved characters to save the day. Maybe we’d lose one or two of them heroically at the end for emotional weight, but overall we expect Rick and Daryl to escort Rick’s baby (no use committing her name to memory at this point) and Carl into some sort of Utopia full of cured and happy people. Maybe Maggie brings her and Glenn’s baby along with Carol and Michone in some metaphor for a bright future. That’d be nice, wouldn’t it?
But that’s not the world the creators have created. And we’re fools to think differently.
Before I give you my theory on why I think Carl and Glenn’s deaths had to happen precisely when they happened, I want to add one more point. People often compare the show to the comic book and look for it to follow along in structure if not necessarily to a tee. But there’s a major flaw in that way of thinking. The comic is designed to run forever, but the show has a finite number of episodes by the nature of being a TV series. Unless it’s the Simpsons, shows like The Walking Dead will inevitably run its course and be in danger of getting cancelled. With an end of the series always in mind, killing our beloved characters throughout the series only makes sense when you consider that the story isn’t going to have a happy ending. Let’s pretend everyone is going to die at the end. Have you considered that very real possibility? If this is the case, you can’t be angry because the show has done a good job of preparing you for that inevitability. If a depressing, morbid ending is indeed the endgame, what would be the best way to work toward it? Would it be carrying all of the main characters to the last season and then having to kill them all in a short period of time? That might be more than we fans can handle. Or would you, as the show’s creators, want to get as much mileage out of each of the main characters’ deaths as you could? As a writer who knows everyone is going to die, then it makes perfect sense to kill them along the way for maximum payoff for each death.
This also makes sense when you look at reports of Chandler Rigg’s (Carl) anger over being killed off after being assured he was part of the show’s future. I think he even bought a house in Georgia earlier this year with a future on the show in mind. I believe he did have a future but something changed for the writers. What could that be? The show has been losing ratings year over year and, though I don’t know the ratings this year, the mess that the show has become can’t be good. If the creators have seen the writing on the wall that the show might have run its course, they might have decided to move up their kill-fest of our favorite characters. In this case, say "Good-bye Carl. Sorry you bought a house."
If my theory is correct, this does not bode well for our other friends, Daryl, Maggie, and Michone. If I’m right, look to lose another major character in the season finale next spring as well as a steady drop in main characters next season. We’ll likely lose Ezekiel or Jesus soon as well. I would expect reports to start circulating in the news in the coming weeks and months hinting at the end of the series. If you were sad to see Carl (a character obviously groomed to lead the group) die, brace yourself for what’s inevitably still to come.
Because in The Walking Dead, like in life, no one makes it out alive.