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What episode does Carl die in The Walking Dead, and how?

From a scared child hiding behind his father Rick to a battle-hardened survivor, Carl grew up in the unforgiving apocalypse.
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Published onJanuary 30, 2024

When Chandler Rigg’s Carl Grimes first stepped out of the Atlanta woods in The Walking Dead’s 2010 premiere, no one could have predicted the long, emotional journey this young character would take over the next eight seasons.

The writers blew it up by killing Carl off. His journey from freaked-out kid to badass survivor with an eyepatch was the beating heart of the show. Audiences practically watched Chandler Riggs grow up on-screen after eight seasons. So when the news broke in late 2017 that Carl would be dead by Season 8’s halfway point, the hardcore fans weren’t having it. But, showrunner Scott Gimple said offing Carl would push Rick’s story arc more towards the comic books.

What episode does Carl die in The Walking Dead?

The beginnings of his demise happen in that mid-season finale “How It’s Gotta Be”. Carl gets fatally chomped leading new guy Siddiq to safety. He finally dies in the 9th episode of Season 8, “Honor”.

How does Carl die in The Walking Dead?

While helping Siddiq get to the safety of Alexandria, Carl suffers a walker bite to his torso. However, stricken with guilt over failing to honor Siddiq’s mother’s dying wish, Carl hides the mortal injury from his loved ones.

As the agonizing infection spreads, Carl pens heartfelt goodbye letters to those closest to him. When his father Rick and Michonne finally discover the gruesome bite wound, a devastated Carl convinces them to shepherd the other Alexandria survivors to safety through a sewer tunnel. He elects to remain behind with Rick and Michonne, the makeshift family holing up together inside a local church to await his inevitable passing.

The Season 8 mid-season premiere episode “Honor” focuses almost entirely on Carl’s final harrowing days. As Carl waveringly fulfills his self-assigned duty of ushering others to safety, actor Chandler Riggs elevates the drama through an emotional performance depicting the resigned anguish of the dying boy. His intimate scenes reminiscing with Andrew Lincoln’s grieving Rick allow the pair to reconcile their strained relationship.

walking dead scene (1)
Annesha Basu / Android Authority

After recounting happier memories from before the fall, a feeble Carl ultimately convinces his weeping father to step outside. Alone with only Chandler’s anguished face in a tight close-up, a gunshot fires off-screen…bringing an abrupt yet somber end to one of the show’s most impactful characters.

Initially, Carl’s loss sends the volatile Rick spiraling down a dark path of vengeance. Ultimately, this becomes a turning point for Rick in The Walking Dead, as he chooses to honor his son’s optimistic vision for the future by ending the war with Negan and having all communities come together in cooperation. Carl may be gone, but his profound legacy continues to motivate surviving characters working to facilitate true and lasting peace.

Who plays Carl Grimes in The Walking Dead?

Carl Grimes is portrayed by actor Chandler Riggs throughout The Walking Dead’s first 8 seasons. Riggs landed the career-making role in 2010 when he was only 10 years old, growing up on screen alongside his fictional father Andrew Lincoln for the show’s premiere run of episodes.

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Chandler Riggs as Carl Grimes - The Walking Dead _ Season 8, Episode 8 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Tasked with convincingly playing Carl’s arcing maturity from a frightened child dependent on his father’s protection to a determined, battle-scarred leader willing to fight wholeheartedly for his people’s future, Rigg’s compelling performance captured the hearts of even the most ardent zombie genre fans. Simply put, without Rigg’s passionate portrayal of Carl Grimes over nearly a decade, the impact of Season 8’s painful passing would not have cut nearly so deep.

Why did Chandler Riggs leave The Walking Dead?

Shockingly, actor Chandler Riggs himself only learned of his character’s rapidly approaching demise quite suddenly. Riggs notes that show producers indicated they wanted the freedom to “take Carl in a different direction” which he correctly deduced as foreshadowing his looming end.

Blindsided by the show’s decision, this revelation motivated Riggs to swiftly plan for career life after The Walking Dead.

Riggs has stayed active with a variety of projects since his shocking departure from The Walking Dead in 2018. He has continued acting in independent thriller films like Inherit the Viper and Only. In 2019, Riggs began a recurring role on the ABC drama A Million Little Things, playing a teenager named Patrick “PJ” Nelson searching for his biological father.

Outside of acting, Chandler has pursued creative interests like music and live streaming. He works part-time as a DJ under the name “Eclipse,” releasing an electronic song called “Hold Up” in 2017. Riggs also connects with fans by live streaming video games on platforms like Twitch, using his channel to raise money for charities. He makes frequent convention appearances to meet passionate Walking Dead fans as well.

So while no new role may surpass his breakout fame on The Walking Dead, Chandler Riggs has stayed busy across different media. Only in his early 20s, fans can look forward to seeing what projects this talented young actor takes on next.

FAQ

Carl Grimes was only 16 years old when he died in season 8 of The Walking Dead.

Chandler Riggs was about 10 years old when he started playing Carl Grimes in The Walking Dead back in 2010.

Now 24, Chandler Riggs has acted in films like Inherit the Viper and Only. He also began a recurring role on the ABC drama A Million Little Things in 2019, playing Patrick Nelson. Outside of acting, Riggs works as a part-time DJ, connects with fans on Twitch, and attends conventions. 

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