The Walking Dead's Midseason Finale Marked Its Biggest Change From the Comics Yet & It Surprised Just About Everyone

Stars Chandler Riggs and Andrew Lincoln open up about the surprising death in the AMC hit's last episode of 2018

By Billy Nilles Dec 11, 2017 5:51 PMTags
The Walking Dead Season 8, Chandler RiggsAMC

Well, we clearly didn't see that coming.

Heading into The Walking Dead season eight's midseason finale, we were certain that someone with a penance to pay would settle their debts with their life (coughEUGENEcough), so imagine our surprise as we watched poor Carl (Chandler Riggs) reveal to a horrified Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Michonne (Danai Gurira) that, after single-handedly keeping the people of Alexandria out of Negan's line of fire, he'd been bitten on the ribs, all but guaranteeing the kid's death. Not only was the death incredibly unexpected, but it also marks one of the biggest departures from the source material that the producers of the AMC hit have scripted yet. 

With the character still alive and kicking in the comic books, even Riggs was left stunned by showrunner Scott M. Gimple's decision to kill him off. 

"I found out when I was doing rehearsals for episode six back in June. It was quite the shocker for me, Andy and everyone because I don't think anyone saw it coming," Riggs told The Hollywood Reporter. "Scott wanted to meet in person because it was such a big deal. We had just finished rehearsing for a scene in episode six and he wanted to meet with me and my mom and dad and talk about what's going to happen."

The young actor, who just bought a house in Senoia, Ga. near where the show films, admitted that Carl still has some story left in him. (After all, he does still have to actually die.) And even though this is the end, he's happy with how the character met his demise. "He was the reason that they all got to safety—because he stalled the Saviors and diffused them from finding any Alexandrians with his smoke grenades and he led them away from everyone and saved everyone," he said. "It was a pretty cool way to go out."

Leading man Lincoln was equally stunned when he learned that he'd be outliving his on-screen son. "My first reaction was silence. Scott Gimple called me up and said, 'You're going to hate this one.' He's very good about alerting the cast when there's going to be a [character] death. I tried guessing four times and was nowhere near Chandler Riggs' name," he told THR. "Scott had to say that it was Carl. I just didn't speak for a minute. I always thought Carl was going to be the one who led the show forward; that Rick would hand over his boots and revolver when he walked off into the sunset in season 28."

While Gimple hasn't defended his decision publicly yet, he did appear on Talking Dead immediately afterwards to shed some light on what happens next.

"That is a bite on his side.… It will play out as bites play out on the show," he said on the aftershow. "It's very important to Carl's story and the entire story, what happens in the next episode. I'm just focused on the fact that Carl right now is alive and he has some business to attend to. That is a one-way ticket. But I'd like to think that the things we see in the next episode are so important to his life and the other characters' lives."

Of course, this isn't the first time the show has wildly veered off course from the comic books. Read on for all of the rest!

The Walking Dead's Biggest Changes From Comics to TV

Seven seasons in, The Walking Dead remains one of the most successful comic book adaptations on television ever, attracting both fans of the books and newcomers to the universe. Comic fans are watching with feverish anticipation, awaiting the big moments from the comics they know are coming, but non-reader fans of the series may be surprised to know that the trip from page to screen hasn't been 100 percent faithful. In fact, there's been plenty of surprising swerves in the story. What follows are the biggest changes the producers of the AMC hit have made from their source material. 

Naturally, there are spoilers ahead. Click at your own risk.

Carl's Catastrophe

During the intense midseason premiere of season six, poor Carl became collateral damage when Jessie's kids ruined everything during the daring escape plan after Alexandria is overcome with walkers. After Sam lost his cool, turning him and his mom into walker food, Ron lost his damn mind and tried to kill Rick. Michonne stabbed him through the back, basically slicing him in half while keeping Rick alive, but Ron still fired off a round, sending the errant bullet right into Carl's eye. In the comic books, the big scene goes down a little differently. During a walker attack, Alexandria's leader Douglas begins wildly shooting into the herd, hitting Carl in the process.

The Curious Case of Daryl (& Merle) Dixon

Daryl Dixon is so popular on The Walking Dead, women are literally biting Norman Reedus when they see him in public, but the character (along with his ornery brother Merle) simply does not exist in the comics. In fact, there aren't even any characters analogous to the brothers in the books. Robert Kirkman created Merle to test Rick's moral compass in the early years of the show. Daryl's presence? Just a very fortuitous addition.

Maggie's Baby Announcement

In the first half of season six, after much fan speculation, Maggie revealed that she's pregnant with Glenn's baby—to Aaron of all people. How did she confirm that she's pregnant? Well, we never got that scene. In the comics, though, she and Glenn are surprised to learn the good news together during a visit with Alexandria's Dr. Cloyd—Denise to those watching at home.

We Don't See the CDC

Remember at the end of season one when Rick and gang made it into the CDC, only to learn they're all infected and there's really no hope? Never happened in the books, they never saw the virus in the brain. In fact, this is one of Robert Kirkman's biggest series regrets.

Rick's Mitts

Notice how Rick has two hands in that photo? If this were the comics, he wouldn't. When Rick and the gang first arrive at Woodbury in the books, he's shown some of the Governor's twisted idea of hospitality: His right hand is chopped off.

Crazy Carol

You think you know Carol? You have no idea. Far from the badass we've come to know and love, the Carol of the comics became spectacularly unhinged, going so far as to suggest a polyamorous relationship with Rick and Lori. After she's rejected, she becomes convinced a walker wants to be her friend, feeds herself to it, and dies in the prison. That's right: Carol's dead.

Deanna Monroe

There was no Deanna Monroe in The Walking Dead comics series. Instead, there was Douglas, the leader of Alexandria.

Tyreese's Tragedy

The differences with Tyreese in the comic and the show are staggering. First off, he had relationships with both Carol (the differences between Carol in the comics and the TV character are out of this world) and Michonne. The Governor also beheaded him and his zombified head was put down by Michonne. Those differences aside, Tyreese also had a daughter in the comics. Sasha sort of filled that role in the show. He was fiercely protective of Julie and wary of her boyfriend Chris. Tragedy struck when Julie and Chris made a suicide pact (after having sex) and Chris killed Julie. Tyreese later killed Chris. Emotions, man.

Tainted Dale

Remember that badass moment when, after waking up to a bunch of cannibals snacking on his amputated leg, Bob announced that they were eating tainted meat, revealing he'd been bitten? Never happened in the books. Instead, ol' Dale (who'd died seasons before that moment in the show) had the honor (?) of feeding his infected flesh to a bunch of creeps.

Shane's Exit

Man, Shane was the worst, right? Bitter, angry, and willing to abandon people he deemed a liability, he became the biggest liability himself. Rick finally killed him at the end of season two, with Carl having to save his dad from the reanimated Shane right after. But in the comics, the world was rid of the jerk much earlier. Shane's insanity began almost immediately after Rick found the group, but instead of Rick taking him out, it was Carl. When Shane tried to murder Rick, Carl shot him in the neck and killed him. Rick only took out the walker version of his old friend.

A Whole Different Andrea

Aside from Carol, Andrea's trajectory on the show probably diverted the most from the comics. For starters, she's still alive in the comics world and in relationship with Rick. In the comics, she's a sharpshooter and leader. On the show, well, they really botched her. She never got with the Governor in the comics. At all. Or Shane. She was with Dale though. Oh Andrea, how the show failed you.

Sasha's Existence

In the comics, Tyreese arrives with his daughter, Julie, and her boyfriend Chris. Sasha kind of takes Julie's place in the show as Tyreese's sister. However, Julie did not last as long as Sasha has. Sasha has also taken Andrea's spot as a sharpshooter.

Losing Lori

In the series, Lori's death was a brutal moment that Lauren Cohan has admitted almost caused her to quit the show. But the death-by-child birth is nothing compared to her fate in the comics. In the books, Lori lived on a bit longer—long enough to have some time with Judith, but the two were gunned down during the Governor's raid on the prison.

The Z Word

Apparently no one has ever seen a zombie movie in the world of the show because no one has ever uttered that word once. Instead, they refer to the infected as "walkers" or "biters." Not so in the books. The word "zombie" does get used.

Morgan's Mentality

Oh dear, Morgan. Being unhinged is a similarity between the comics and TV character, but there was never any Namaste Morgan in the comics. He faught in the comics and also slept with Michonne before meeting his bitter end.

Hershel's Beheading

In the Governor's big assault on the prison, poor Herschel has his head chopped off while the others, including his daughters Maggie and Beth, are forced to helplessly watch. In the books, Herschel does die during the raid, but not in this most hideous of ways. Instead, it's poor Tyreese whose head rolls when Rick won't turn the prison over to the Governor.

Sophia's Survival

After going missing in season two, the search for Carol's poor daughter Sophia was a driving factor for the remainder of that season, leading to one of the earliest WTF moments when the poor girl bounded out of Herschel's barn hungry for flesh. It also marked one of the biggest departures from the books because, in the comics, Sophia is alive and well, making her one of the longest surviving female characters.

MORE: The Walking Dead then and now—See how much the zombie apocalypse has changed the cast

Abraham's Death

That nefarious Negan! Jeffrey Dean Morgan's character finally made his debut and took out two beloved characters. In addition to killing off Glenn (Steven Yeun) in the season seven premiere, Negan also murdered Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) with Lucille, his barbed wire covered baseball bat. In the comic series, Abraham is murdered by Dwight with an arrow through the eye.

Carl's Big Bite

In the final shocking moments of season eight's midseason finale, Rick and Michonne learned that Carl (Chandler Riggs) had been bit on the ribs by a walker, making the death of one of the few remaining original cast members imminent. In fact, by the end of the midseason premiere a few months later, after saying his goodbyes, he made sure no one he loved would have to put him out of his misery and pulled the trigger himself. In the comics, however, Carl is still alive and kicking, having spent some time living at the Hilltop as a blacksmith apprentice and entering into an adult relationship with one of the Whisperers (a villain group we've yet to meet on the show) before returning to Alexandria.

Are you still reeling from Carl's mortal wound? Sound off in the comments below!

The Walking Dead returns to finish up season eight in February on AMC.