Warning: Spoilers for the latest episode of The Walking Dead past this point.
Well, that's it then: Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs) is winking at us with his one eye (maybe he's blinking?) in heaven, as one of the few remaining OG Walking Dead characters was ostensibly killed during the midseason finale, "How It's Gotta Be."
The event was jaw dropping not just because of how Carl went out via walker bite — and as a note, he will be back on the next episode for a proper goodbye — but that he went out at all. In the comics, the younger Grimes is very much alive, and the hope for the future. There are no plans to end the book any time soon, but creator Robert Kirkman has been pretty open that if there was an ending it would involve Carl. Not on the TV show, though! Carl's dead, dudes!
"This is a one way ticket," showrunner Scott Gimple noted on Talking Dead, "but the things we see in the next episode are so important to his life and the other characters' lives."
And to that end (pun intended), our favorite little psychopath headed to the Walking Dead post-show, Talking Dead, to, uh, talk about being dead.
"Every moment in the series has led up to that moment, where he's leading everyone in Alexandria," Riggs said in a taped statement. "He's definitely happy with the way things ended up, with him saving Alexandria... It's going to be really interesting to see what happens next."
The prospect of Riggs leaving the show has hung over the proceedings for a long time now. Unlike in the comics, where Carl is (don't know if you're aware of this) an inanimate drawing with no other commitments, Riggs has applied to colleges, started other projects, including dabbling in music, and generally has a real life to live. He's been a part of the show since he was 10 years old, so it's perfectly reasonable that at age 18, he'd like to go and do something else.
This also allows the show to branch out in new and surprising directions. This season has been a relatively straight adaptation of the comic storyline "All Out War." But with Carl gone, that means we have no idea what is coming next. Or at least, like how the show varies from the comics to deal with original characters such as Daryl (Norman Reedus), there's the opportunity to veer into unknown territory in the future.
Still, we'll miss Riggs in all his long-haired, tree-making-out, roller-skating glory. RIP, Carl.
The Walking Dead returns Sunday, Feb. 25 at 9/8c on AMC.