Carl Grimes, The Shy Kid
When we first met young Carl Grimes, he was just a shy kid. In the first season, he was never too far away from his mother. At the time, his dad was presumed dead, so they were living in a camp under the care of Shane Walsh.
At that point, he was spending time with Shane and Carol’s daughter Sophia. Shane Walsh also thought that Rick Grimes was likely dead, but it was still a bit too soon for he and Lori to already be together.
Not long after they set up camp, however, Sheriff Rick Grimes did find his wife and son and take over. There was a bit of a harsh dynamic between the four, which eventually came down to choosing the best leader.
Rick killed Shane. A reanimated Shane stood. Then, Carl killed Shane. In this moment, Carl metaphorically and physically chose his father and that’s a relationship he continues to choose.
Carl Grimes, The Adult Child
Later, the shy Carl Grimes is shot in the chest when a hunter kills a deer and accidentally shoots the boy at the same time. Rick Grimes carries his wounded son to a nearby farm, where we meet Hershel and the Greene family.
After Carl Grimes begins to heal, Rick Grimes apologizes that he’s no longer going to have a normal childhood. At this point, Rick Grimes is likely accepting his own fate about the harsh reality of their new world.
“No more kid’s stuff,” said Rick. “I wish you could have the childhood I had, but that’s not going to happen. People are gonna die. I’m gonna die,” he said. At this point, Carl Grimes started to become more of a man and less of a boy.
Carl Grimes, The Killer
In somewhat of an overcorrection, Carl Grimes turns into somewhat of a killer by the time they reach the prison. Not only does he kill the reanimated version of Shane Walsh, but he even kills his own mother.
After the group finds sanctuary in the prison, it’s clear that Lori could have a baby at any point. On the television series, Maggie helps deliver the baby, but it means creating a C-section with a knife.
Lori gets the chance to say goodbye to her son, but it’s a brutal scene. Maggie makes the cut, delivers the baby, and then Carl Grimes kills his mother as she turns into a walker. Both Maggie and Carl Grimes are forever changed and Judith is born.
Carl Grimes, The Son
By the time we exit the prison, Carl Grimes is no longer a farmer. Instead, he’s a zombie killing machine. Carl is actually the reason that Rick is still alive as he helps his father escape and find a place to rest in an abandoned area.
In the suburbs, Carl starts to take out zombies one-by-one. When his father finally does awake, there’s a moment where Carl isn’t sure if Rick is really Rick or just another blood-thirsty walker. Luckily, his father is okay.
Carl Grimes starts to get angry with his dad, but this is also the same time that Rick finally starts to see his son as a real man. Carl is no longer the boy in the Science Dog tee shirt. Instead, he’s the future leader of Rick’s crew.
Carl Grimes, The Protector
Beyond his newfound ways, he also turns into a true brother. When Rick and Carl finally found the rest of the group, he became a real brother to Judith. From this point forward, he is her protector.
Not long after, this protection went beyond his family. Carl Grimes did what he could when the group got to Alexandria. Unfortunately, thanks to his father, this eventually led to him getting shot again, this time in the eye.
From this point forward, it would seem like Carl Grimes would be more careful, but nearly the opposite is true. Rather than stepping back or avoiding fights, he’s always at the front line, even when the enemy is something new and unimaginable.
Carl Grimes, The Leader
By the time Season 6 rolled around, it was clear that Carl Grimes would one day take over for his father. Not only does he still wear his father’s hat, but his actions fall between a foolish boy and a natural born leader.
Carl Grimes looks cocky, even when his father does not. When Negan wants Rick to take his arm, he tells his dad to do it. Rick is losing his mind, thinking that he can no longer protect his son.
At this point, however, Carl Grimes no longer needs protection. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. He’s willing to continue without an arm and without an eye. He’s been shot twice and there’s no doubt that he can go on no matter what Negan wants to do.
In Season 7, Carl falls under Negan’s bat once more. In the finale, it looks like he’s going to lose his life. Luckily, however, Shiva and the troops arrive just in time and Negan is forced to run away, with his tail between his legs.
As we approach Season 8, we’re going to see more of this relationship between Negan and Carl. Something is missing in Carl and Rick’s relationship and Negan seems like he wants to fill that void.
We see a glimpse of this relationship in the episode, “Sing Me A Song.” Negan seems sadistic, making Carl show him his eye, but there’s more to it. He seems to be sincerely upset when Carl gets upset. This is perhaps the teacher in Negan.
If the series follows the comic, we’re going to see a lot more of these interactions. Some even believe that Carl Grimes will be the last man standing…