Major spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 8 midseason finale! AMC's long-running zombie drama went into its midseason hiatus with its most heartbreaking reveal yet. Carl was bitten by a walker on The Walking Dead at some point this season and was keeping it from Rick and Michonne. The wound is on his side, so as executive producer Scott Gimple told Chris Hardwick on Talking Dead afterwards, it's not as if the infected part can be amputated. So though Carl didn't die in the Dec. 10 episode, it seems as though it's only a matter of time. So when is actor Chandler Riggs leaving The Walking Dead?
As one of the few remaining original cast members, Riggs has been on the series since he was 11 years old. Now a teenager, Carl has stepped up in the zombie apocalypse, even getting some grudging respect from Negan, the most ruthless villain the show has ever seen. The relationship between Carl and his father Rick (and later, with his mother figure Michonne) has been at the heart of the show since it debuted in 2010. The first group of survivors the audience met has been thinned out considerably, and sadly, it appears that Carl will make one more.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Riggs confirmed it. "Yes, Carl is going to die," he said. "There's no way he can get back from that. His story is definitely coming to an end."
Riggs told the publication that it was not ultimately his decision to leave the show, though he intends to put another year into acting and music before going to college. (He's now 18.) Carl and Riggs' last episode will be the Feb. 25 midseason premiere, and of course he's already scheduled to be a special guest on that night's Talking Dead. Those exit interview subjects are usually kept a secret, but there's no need to be coy here. Carl is out, for sure.
Gimple told the Talking Dead audience that Carl's "bite will play out as bites do on the show," so preemptively debunked any theory that Rick's son will be able to escape his fate. In his last conversation with Negan, Carl seemed to have already accepted what was happening to him. And he was able to save his family and the people of Alexandria before the infection took him for good.
In the previously mentioned THR interview, Riggs said that he hadn't expected Carl to "ever get killed off," but promised the his last episode would involve him imparting some outgoing words of wisdom to his dad. He said:
"Episode 809 is really Carl trying to teach Rick as much as he can about what he's learned and trying to convince Rick to not kill every single Savior because there's still good people out there. The Alexandrians, the Hilltop and the Kingdom — all those people probably see him as a villain like the Saviors. There's some humanitarian aspects that Carl is going to try and teach Rick in his final moments."
When asked whether there was ever an alternate plan to possibly let Carl live on to experience some of the upcoming storylines he had in the comics (as Carl is still very much alive there), Riggs said he didn't know. According to the actor, the decision was final when Gimple informed him. And he also said he had not spoken to The Walking Dead comic creator and show EP Robert Kirkman about it either.
So while Riggs has apparently accepted his Walking Dead exit without question, fans will probably have a harder time with it. Carl and the actor who plays him have grown up with the show, and this goodbye will be far from easy. After all, someone will have to put Carl down before he turns. And that feels like a poetically tragic job for the father who's successfully protected him until now.