It was a major shock to viewers when Carl Grimes was bitten by a zombie in the midseason finale of The Walking Dead’s eighth season. Not only does this not happen in the comics, but there is not a single storyline in the comic book series that killed in a similar way.

Ultimately, it has given the show’s creator some pause about the future of the series. “I think [showrunner Scott Gimple] first brought it up to me as a possibility probably about a year ago at this point. At first, I was kind of like, ‘Well, that’s a big one, you know?’ I might have had a little bit of trepidation.”

Gimple added a few more details, however, Kirkman changed his mind. “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.”

Fans of the series, however, do not have the ability to see the future of the series, so many people are concerned. In fact, someone has even launched a petition to have Scott Gimple fired.

Carl is one of only five cast members remaining from the first season, and another one, Lennie Jamies, is leaving the show at the end of the season to appear in Fear The Walking Dead. Kirkman understands and appreciates the concern.

“We are supposed to be worried about what comes next,” he told EW. “And anticipating what comes next, and stressing about what comes next. That just shows that you’re engaged and you’re interested. Our job is to now pay that off and fulfill that interest, and prove that this was a decision worth making. That’s what we’ve got to do.”

Robert Kirkman, Gimple and even Chandler Riggs insist that the midseason premiere will give fans something to look forward too.

“There are big, huge stories coming up that you might think will be massively altered because of the absence of Carl,” says Kirkman. “But we have known these storylines have been coming for years. There are plans in place to make it all work. The loss of Carl doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re going to be losing big swaths of the comic book story. It means that there will be some differences to them. The goal is that those differences will be as exciting to the audience as they are to me.”

The Walking Dead returns to AMC on February 25th.

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