By honoring what happens in The Walking Dead comics at the end of the “all out war,” AMC’s zombie action drama put itself in a tough place, mainly because there’s a Carl-sized hole in the plot moving forward. In the comics, Carl lives for far longer than he does in the show, so if they continue to roughly adapt what happens in the comics, then Season 9 is going to get very creative with what it changes. Perhaps the most significant change could mean a much larger role for young Henry moving forward.
Spoilers follow for The Walking Dead Season 8 finale “Wrath.”
Much like in the comics, the war ended with Rick slashing Negan’s throat, but Negan lived so they can lock him up and use him as an example. Inspired by Carl’s nobility, Rick wants to build a brighter future for everyone, which means he can’t be the ruthless killer he once was.
So Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s Negan will probably spend Season 9 imprisoned, and if he lives as long as he does in the comics he could have a long future on the show. But without Carl, it presents a problem for Negan’s future.
The comics storyline picks up two years after the war, with Carl paying Negan frequent visits to chat. He admits to still wanting to kill Negan, even if the two of them have sort of become friends. Show Carl seemingly matured much quicker than his comics counterpart, but you know who hasn’t, who would be the perfect Carl replacement on the show? Henry.
Season 8 has already hinted at Henry — a character new to the show — replacing parts of Carl’s story. After all, Henry is problematically driven to violence, which makes him obsessing over Negan a bit more logical. And as we saw in the Season 8 finale, Morgan took off, leaving his armor for young Henry to use. So not only is Henry newly equipped with some great gear, but he also lost one of his closest mentors. It would make a lot of sense for him to bond with Negan in sick ways moving forward.
So far, Henry seems to just cause problems for everybody else. Maybe the show would do well to give him some character development down the line.
He’s got a lot of growing up to do if he’s going to fill Carl’s big shoes moving forward, so maybe developing his relationship with Negan could do just that?