The Walking Dead midseason finale was explosive, but the shocking moment fans were promised was surprisingly quiet and poignant. Spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 8 midseason finale ahead. Carl gets bitten on The Walking Dead and while he's not dead yet, this is going to be a painful goodbye. He took charge during the bombing of Alexandria and paid a terrible price.
"That is a bite on his side," said Scott Gimple on Talking Dead, "it will play out as bites play out on the show." He wouldn't say whether or not this meant that Carl was officially killed off on the show — which makes sense, as his story is clearly not completely over. "I'm just focused on the fact that Carl right now is alive and he has some business to attend to."
When exactly did the bite happen? That's difficult to pin down, especially with the way the episode plays with time. It almost seems like he was bitten before he even made it back to Alexandria with Siddiq and has been suffering through this entire battle. On Talking Dead, Yvette Nicole Brown pointed out that Carl tells Negan "I'm already dead" and drops a lot of clues about his condition. He's prepared to sacrifice himself for his family and his people, but the fact that he was already infected adds some weight to the situation. There is a lot of foreshadowing in the episode, from the letter Carl writes Rick to the way he told Michonne "all we need to do is survive tonight." Plus, there aren't that many walkers inside Alexandria during the midseason finale. It almost certainly happened during a previous episode.
Once you get bitten on The Walking Dead, the best practice is not to engage in a fight and/or rescue with your nearest and dearest without telling them. So that's risky if true, Carl. Maybe the others know, and re-watching the episode will reveal if and when other characters were clued in to the situation. Also, declaring "this is my show" — come on, dude. Not to speak ill of the almost dead, but that's a bold meta statement for a TV character to make when their life is on the line.
While Negan dukes it out with Rick and obliviously brags that Carl is going to be his new right hand man one day, the sheriff's son supervises the evacuation of Alexandria into some kind of vast suburban sewer system. It's all very Les Miserables Act II. At the bitter end of the episode, Rick goes down into the pipes and finds his literally shell-shocked family and group of survivors down there, almost safe and almost found. Both Dwight, who betrayed his fellow Saviors and convinced Tara to take him in, and Eugene were there as well. Unfortunately, it's in that otherwise comforting moment that Rick discovers the walker bite on his son's side.
Riggs provided a brief interview for Talking Dead and mostly talked about how pleased he (and Carl) were with the way Carl got everyone out of Alexandria and executed his plan. He clearly isn't saying goodbye to The Walking Dead just yet.
Gimple may have been hesitant to pull the plug on Carl on Talking Dead too, but there's virtually no way that Carl will recover. You can't amputate an abdomen. There's no cutting that out of Carl at this point, especially if it's been there for hours or even days — the infection has most likely spread.
How will everyone react to this when The Walking Dead returns in February 2018? Brown predicted that Michonne will have a harder time losing Carl than Rick, which is entirely possible. No disrespect to those who went before him, but this loss will be felt more than most on the show. Carl is everyone's son. Even Negan feels paternal towards him in a twisted and problematic way. At least we'll have time to say a proper goodbye, because this is going to hurt.