On AMC’s The Walking Dead, the character of Carl, played by Chandler Riggs, is hugely divisive among fans. We even included the son of protagonist Rick Grimes on our list of annoying sci-fi characters we would like to see die on screen. I’m of the camp that he’s in the process of becoming a solid character (the same can be said about most of the cast members), but in Robert Kirkman’s comics that serve as the source material, this isn’t as big an issue, he’s a little borderline sociopathic badass. But this is The Walking Dead we’re talking about, and no one lives forever, and the reveal of a few upcoming covers have people speculating on Carl’s future in the comics.
There are SPOILERS beyond here for those of you not current on The Walking Dead comics. Just a warning.
The Walking Dead recently took a massive turn. The “All Out War” storyline went on for a good long while and saw various groups of survivors come together to battle the villain Neegan, a character so fucked up and sadistic he makes the Governor from earlier in the run look downright warm and cuddly. The dude is serious nasty. In the aftermath of that, the narrative skipped ahead two years, and for all intents and purposes, they’re rebuilding society, establishing trade between communities, and living as normal a life as you possibly can when surrounded by the threat of hungry undead cannibals.
Carl is a moody teen, and recently left the Alexandria Safe Zone in order to become a blacksmith’s apprentice in another community, essentially leaving the nest. Given his general teenage angst, mixed with some lingering instability (he’s seen and done truly terrible things, visits Neegan regularly in prison, and even lost one of his eyes; the kid is traumatized), it’s easy to imagine him flipping out and taking off on his own. This cover for issues #138 has some people wondering if this is Carl.
I don’t think this is Carl at all, but some suspect that the fact that you can’t see this character’s face is important. The comics usually have a face front and center on the cover, so this is a definite departure. If I had to guess, I’d have to say that this is one of the new villains introduced in the series, the Whisperers, who basically cover themselves with zombie skin and move among the undead, whispering so not to draw attention. They’re creepy as hell. And I guess it is possible that in a fit of unruly teen rage, Carl could abandon his people and join the enemy. That would be something big for Rick to deal with, how would he cope with facing his own son? I feel like the belt buckle holds the key to the identity of this character.
The second cover, for issue #139, shows Rick, with his newly short hair and ever present cane, standing and watching a boat in the harbor. Some speculate that Carl is on board and Rick is watching his little boy sail away. Again, I don’t buy that. It’s possible, but from this picture it appears that the boat is coming into the bay, not sailing out.
The issue has the logline, “From the Edge of the World: A new arc begins as our world gets even bigger,” and for my money, that sounds much more like people showing up and entering the main action of the comic rather than anyone leaving. For as long as the run has gone on, The Walking Dead has shown a surprisingly small sliver of the world, and it would be nice to get a wider picture of what’s going on beyond their limited scope.
Carl leaving would be a major emotional moment for Rick. He’s already lost just about everything a person can lose, and to see his son move on would be huge. If it’s by choice, it also presents an interesting scenario we don’t often see in The Walking Dead. We’re used to people dying and being killed by this point, but they don’t usually opt out and head out on their own. That’s a whole other set of issues to deal with. Maybe Rick’s phone will make a cameo.
We’ll see how this all unfolds on the page long before we ever see it on screen. AMC’s hit drama loosely follows the plot of the comics, but even so, there is a lot of ground to cover between where the survivors are now on TV and where they are now on the printed page.
This is all pretty flimsy, but it has people talking. Do you want Carl to leave? I already know Nick’s opinion on the matter. However this goes down, there are, as always, big things on the way for The Walking Dead.