The Walking Dead wrapped up the first half of its eighth season by dropping a shocking whammy on fans. Thanks to a walker bite, Carl Grimes is not long for the post-apocalyptic world.
It came as a huge surprise to fans. And it marks a big departure in terms of how they’ll handle Carl in the comics versus on TV. Is it the biggest change The Walking Dead has ever made from page to screen?
1. There have been plenty of significant changes between The Walking Dead comics and TV shows before
As with any adaptation, AMC’s version of The Walking Dead is both very similar to and very different from the comics. The first episode followed creator Robert Kirkman’s first few comics pretty closely.
But since then, the TV show has often diverged a lot, or even entirely, from its source material. AMC has introduced characters, like Daryl and Enid, that never appear in the comics. And they’ve changed how some comic characters’ stories, like Carol’s and Tyreese’s, play out to the point that they’re almost unrecognizable.
2. Many deaths have played out differently between the comics and the TV show
AMC’s The Walking Dead has also killed off a lot of characters at different points, and in different ways, from their comic counterparts. Shane, for example, died much sooner in the comics. Sophia is still alive and kicking in the comics, while her mother, Carol, committed suicide early on.
And Tyreese met his end at the hands of the Governor, rather than from a random walker bite — and lost his head much like Hershel did on TV. Up until now, the biggest shocking death for comics fans happened in all the way back in Season 3.
3. A Season 3 moment was a big shock for The Walking Dead comics readers
Fans of The Walking Dead comics knew pretty early on that AMC’s version of Andrea was going to be a lot different than the one they knew. And she quickly became one of the most disliked characters on the TV adaptation.
Most of the backlash against Andrea can be distilled down to one simple fact: In the comics, she’s one of Rick’s biggest allies, and his eventual love interest. On TV, she wound up spending a decent amount of her screen time falling for men who wanted to kill Rick.
Still, some fans held out hope that she’d redeem herself — that is, until the Season 3 finale when she died. It was, at the time, one of the biggest changes from the comics, since Andrea stuck around well past the introduction of Negan.
Fans lamented the loss of all the potential for Andrea’s on-screen incarnation. And they’ll be doing the same for Carl, too.
4. Carl’s always been one of the most interesting characters in The Walking Dead comics
He’s endured a lot of ups and downs. And in both The Walking Dead comics and on TV, Carl has consistently been one of the more interesting characters. Though a lot of his growth and maturing has been condensed in AMC’s version of events, Carl has grown from a selfish, moody child to a thoughtful, brave young man.
In the comics, following the All Out War, his story got especially interesting. He continued his peculiar relationship with Negan. And he even became a major focal point when a new enemy, The Whisperers, came into play.
And that’s not even the most interesting part of his post-war life.
5. Carl’s comic storyline took a decidedly mature turn recently
Following the war, the Whisperers came looking for trouble. This dangerous tribe posed a huge threat for Rick and his allies. But Carl was too busy falling in love with the leader’s daughter, Lydia. In fact, the two took to each other so much that Carl lost his virginity to her and ran off with her when she had to return to her family.
This push toward more adult storylines for Carl has helped him transition from a character that everyone thinks of as a child to one that seems capable of some pretty heavy decisions.
6. Carl’s death has changed the series in ways no other death has
From the looks of things, Carl doesn’t look like he’ll be bowing out of Kirkman’s pages any time soon. And when you take that into consideration, along with the huge significance he had on the other major characters, it’s fair to argue that his death is the biggest divergence from the comics so far.
After all, Rick is ultimately the hero (and sometimes antihero) of The Walking Dead. And the death of his son will change him more profoundly than any other loss could. The Rick we know on TV is already somewhat different from Kirkman’s Rick. Moving forward, the two men will likely become even different — in spirit, if not in action.
7. What will happen with Carl’s remaining comic storylines?
Comic fans don’t have to even love Carl to understand what his loss on the show will mean. And some are wondering how AMC’s The Walking Dead will handle some of Carl’s bigger stories from the comics now that he’s gone. Key moments with Negan will have to be transferred to someone else — maybe Rick, or Michonne, or even Enid. And if and when the Whisperers come into play, there will have to be another character to bridge the gap between their camp and Rick’s.
We’ll see how showrunner Scott Gimple and his crew tackle the major changes ahead when The Walking Dead returns to AMC in 2018.
Follow Katherine Webb on Twitter @prufrox.
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