How Carl Has Turned into a Leader on 'The Walking Dead'
How Carl Has Turned into a Leader on 'The Walking Dead'
Christine Petralia
Christine Petralia
Contributing Writer, BuddyTV
Carl has grown up on The Walking Dead. Not just physically, but emotionally. He has turned into a real leader, just like his father. He has no fear anymore. And if it wasn't for him in "The First Day of the Rest of Your Life," the war might not have started, and more people might be dead. So just how and when did Carl become such a badass?


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Growing up After the Outbreak

When we first met Carl Grimes in season 1 of The Walking Dead, he was a shy, reserved child. He thought he lost his father, so he clung to his mother and his father's friend and partner Shane. After learning his father is alive, he opens up a little more, but is still a quiet kid trying to figure out this new world.

Throughout seasons 2 and 3, Carl realizes he needs to get stronger and learn to protect not only himself, but also those around him. After witnessing his mother's death, Carl forces himself to become even stronger and recognizes that his father needs him.

Somewhere in season 4, Carl starts to be a kid again at Rick's advice. However, he still realizes that the group needs him to be strong to protect the prison against the governor. After escaping from Terminus, Carl starts to take on the role of protector of his sister, Judith.

Making Friends

Toward the end of season 5, Carl struggles to find a place in Alexandria. He has a hard time fitting in with the other kids his age, due mostly to what he has been through on the road and his survival skills. Eventually, he befriends Enid, who is also a sort of outsider.

It's in season 6 that Carl starts to really become a leader. The environment in Alexandria allows him to really focus on learning more from his father, while at the same time teaching others how to survive. It's a confrontation with Ron, whose father Rick killed, that eventually leads to Carl losing his eye in a herd of walkers. And despite his despondent attitude after his injury, Carl keeps growing and taking on more of a leadership role in Alexandria as his father goes on more and more runs.

The Turning Point

Carl's bravest moment, I think, is at the beginning of season 7. The episode everyone talks about. After Negan kills his loved ones, he doesn't flinch as the bat-wielding pyscho targets him. In fact, as Negan urges Rick to chop off Carl's hand, Carl is the voice of reason for his father and tells him to just do it. This is something the old Carl never would have done. But this post-apocalyptic world has hardened him.

Later in the season, Carl hops on one of the Saviors' caravans back to the Sanctuary, where he kills a few of Negan's men. Negan takes a liking to Carl. And despite the fact that he thinks Negan could possibly kill him, he does as Negan asks. Eventually, Negan brings Carl back home to Alexandria, where he makes Carl prepare dinner for him as he waits for Rick to return.

At this point, Carl could kill Negan, but he waits. He knows better. All of the lessons Rick has taught him over the years allows him to wait until the right moment to lash out. And that moment comes as Negan arrives to Alexandria at the start of the war. Carl knows his group is in trouble as the garbage people turn on them, so as soon as there's a distraction in the form of zombie Sasha, Carl starts shooting to try to gain the upper hand. Despite this, the Saviors still round up the Alexandria group. And as Negan raises Lucille to kill Carl, you can see on his face he's accepted his fate. But Carl's story is not over as Shiva, the Kingdom and the Hilltop save the day.

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What's Next?

I know what's next for Carl. Or at least I hope I know. In the novels, Carl's relationship with Negan continues to grow. And it's such a good relationship. So I really hope the TV series allows this relationship to happen in season 8.

But even if he and Negan don't get there, Carl will continue to grow into a leader, perhaps even taking charge of a community at some point. This is a role Carl has grown into and deserves to take on.


When you do you think Carl's turning point was? Was it in season 7 with Negan? Or maybe it was earlier after his mother's death? Do you think Carl will eventually make a good leader on The Walking Dead? Let us know in the comments below.

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(Image courtesy of AMC)