Former The Walking Dead star Chandler Riggs poked fun at Carl’s death after the AMC series’ Instagram published a photo of Carl’s half-siblings, Judith (Cailey Fleming) and RJ (Antony Azor), showing Judith teaching her little brother “everything Carl taught her.”
In a reply, Riggs wrote, “‘Just don’t trip into a deer carcass while fighting a bunch of walkers and you’ll be fine.’”
In Season 8 episode “The King, the Widow, and Rick,” Carl sets out to help the lone Siddiq (Avi Nash), earlier scared away by a careful Rick (Andrew Lincoln). When returning to Alexandria with Siddiq, the pair work together to put down a small pack of walkers as a way of honoring Siddiq’s mother, who believed killing the undead would “free their souls.”
As he moves to rescue Siddiq from the grip of a walker, the squirming corpse knocks Carl into the path of another gnawing corpse that sends Carl toppling backwards over a half-eaten elk carcass. As would be revealed later, it’s during this struggle that Carl, to his horror, is bitten in the midsection.
In 809, “Honor,” suffering the worsening side-effects of the incurable walker bite, Carl shoots himself after saying his goodbyes to father Rick and mother Michonne (Danai Gurira).
Because the death was a major departure from creator Robert Kirkman’s comic book, Kirkman once admitted he had “a little bit of trepidation” when then-showrunner Scott Gimple told him Riggs’ Carl would be killed off in the Season 8 mid-season premiere.
“At first, I was kind of like, ‘Well, that’s a big one, you know?’ I might have had a little bit of trepidation,” Kirkman told EW in 2018. “But once he laid out to me exactly what his long-term plans were, and the things that come out of it, and the things that it leads to, it was something I got on board with.”
Carl’s death would ultimately inspire Rick to spare Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and bring a non-violent end to the war against the Saviors. In Season 9, inspired by Carl’s letter and his hopes for a peaceful future, Rick and Michonne worked to usher the survivors into a new, more civilized era. It was during this time of peace that the couple conceived RJ, born months after Rick appeared to die in a bridge explosion.
Riggs previously said it would have been “really interesting” to explore Carl after the six-year time jump that followed Rick’s disappearance.
“It’s kind of hard to know what Carl would be like after a six-year time jump,” Riggs said during a convention appearance in December. “I think he definitely would take on this, if Rick wasn’t in the picture anymore, I think Carl would definitely take on this, I guess, just the older brother role, and really take care of [his siblings], and do what he’s been doing — or do what he was doing — for the years that he spent with Judith.”