The Walking Dead just killed off an original character and fans are pissed off

There are now just four stars left from season 1

Spoilers follow for season 8, episode 1

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At the start of The Walking Dead season 8, just five characters remained from the show’s opening season: Morgan, Carol, Daryl, Rick and Carl. In Sunday’s season 8 midseason finale, it was confirmed that only four will survive into season 9: Chandler Riggs’ Carl has been bitten in the ribs by a walker, and is set to die in the second half of season 8.

The shocking plot development follows rumours from last year that Riggs’ contract with the show was set to end, as well as a recent ratings plummet to a six-year low. In response to the news, fans of the show have expressed frustration on social media.

In the comics on which The Walking Dead is based, Carl Grimes is not only still alive, but he also continues to play a central part to many of its plotlines. Some comic-reading fans are perplexed about how far the show will continue to diverge from the comics in a bid to surprise viewers:

Some simply hated the idea of Carl being killed off at this stage:

Fan account The Walking Dead World wrote: “I feel completely betrayed… why did this need to happen? Carl’s [death] feels like a gimmick, a shock-value moment… the heart [of the show] has been removed.” They added: “Carl’s post-War comic arc is probably my favourite in the entire series. It saddens me that Chandler won’t be able to adapt that; I knew he was excited to. The future of the story is a mystery to me at the moment. Who will carry the torch?”

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Riggs’ own dad complained about it in a since-deleted Facebook post. “Watching [showrunner Scott] Gimple fire my son two weeks before his 18th birthday after telling him they wanted him for the next 3 years was disappointing,” he said. “I never trusted Gimple or AMC, but Chandler did. I know how much it hurt him.”

Riggs only found out about his character’s death while rehearsing episode 6 of the season – only two episodes before shooting the midseason finale. He had just bought a house near Georgia, where the series is filmed.

In an interview published since the episode, actor Chandler Riggs has corroborated that leaving TWD “wasn’t my decision”, though he added that “it was all story-related” and said: “It made sense story-wise for it to happen for Rick and Michonne and all the other characters.”

The Walking Dead season 8 returns to FOX on February 26, 2018.