By Megan McCluskey
February 26, 2018

Warning: This post contains spoilers for the mid-season premiere of The Walking Dead.

After revealing that he had been bitten by a walker in the mid-season finale of The Walking Dead, Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs) spent Sunday’s episode saying goodbye to those who helped him survive the zombie apocalypse.

Carl was not only one of the few remaining original characters on the show, but he had also recently become its moral compass. And considering that he spent his final hours attempting to convince Rick (Andrew Lincoln) that there needed to be something left to live for after the war with Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is over, his death likely heralds some major development for the former sheriff.

Riggs, for his part, seems to agree. In a December interview with the Hollywood Reporter following episode 8, the 18-year-old actor explained how he thinks his character’s death will propel the story forward.

“[Showrunner] Scott [Gimple] was trying to figure out how to bridge the gap between Rick not wanting to kill Negan and Rick also really wanting to kill Negan, which he does right now [in the show’s story],” he said. “Scott’s way to get around that was to make Carl this really humanitarian figure and person who could see the good in people and see that people can change and not everyone out there is bad. That’s what Carl’s talk to Rick was in this episode: there’s no way that they can kill every one of the Saviors and not everyone is a bad person and there has to be some way forward [other] than just killing people.”

As Carl lay dying in the Alexandria compound, it was also revealed that the flash-forwards of a much older Rick that were interspersed throughout the first half of the season were actually Carl’s vision of what the world could be like if everyone learned to live in peace. Rick promised his son that he would make his dream a reality.

The devastating end of the episode saw Carl send Rick and Michonne (Danai Gurira) outside so they wouldn’t have to watch him shoot himself in the head to prevent a post-death walker transformation.

There was then one final cryptic flash-forward that showed Negan happily living alongside Rick and the rest of the Alexandrians, perhaps hinting at better times to come.

Rest in peace, Carl. You’ll be missed.

“The Lost and the Plunderers,” the 10th episode of Walking Dead‘s eighth season, will air March 4 at 9 p.m. on AMC.

Write to Megan McCluskey at megan.mccluskey@time.com.

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