You’d be forgiven to question who, if any of The Walking Dead’s main cast is in danger of dying these days, but certainly Andrew Lincoln’s Rick and Chandler Riggs’ Carl have been largely protected. That said, recent rumblings have questioned Riggs’ future with the series, for which co-star Tom Payne asserts “I think Carl is the guy at the end on the last page.”

Take this with a grain of salt for the moment, but even as Riggs’ Carl is considerably more mature than his comic counterpart (by this point in the story), creator Robert Kirkman has long-suggested that Carl represents one of the few enduring hopes for the story, even if Rick were to be killed off. That sentiment admittedly came into question in recent weeks, as now-deleted social media posts from Riggs and his family pointed out that the actor “completed” his seven-year contract with the series, and would soon attend Auburn University in Alabama.

Scheduling conflicts like that would normally set off alarm bells of imminent departure, but as Jesus actor Tom Payne tells The Huffington Post, Carl is likely safe for the time being:

I think Carl is the future of the show. I mean, is the future of the comic books, I think … At the end of the day, I think Carl is the guy at the end on the last page. And I don’t know if they’ll go that way on the TV show, but I think it would be a logical place for them to go. Who knows?

As we saw with Sunday’s “Swear,” The Walking Dead isn’t above writing out characters for future use, so there’s at least plausible chance Carl could appear less on the series while Riggs concentrates on his studies. Perhaps also worth noting, is that Rick’s other child Judith died long ago in the books, and could potentially be aged up to fill a similar role to the younger Carl, just as a time-jump in the books brought comic Carl much closer to Riggs’ age.

Carl seems safe enough, even if “Go Getters” poised both he and Payne’s Jesus for a dangerous infiltration of Negan’s Sanctuary, but might The Walking Dead find an unexpected solution for Riggs’ studies?

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