I remember when the NBC series ER first aired. Right out of the gate, it was evident that this was a show about Dr. Doug Ross (George Clooney), Dr. Mark Greene (Anthony Edwards) and nurse Carol Hathaway (Julianna Margulies). But, if you stuck with the show for all of its many years, you quickly learned that the true story was that of Dr. John Carter (Noah Wylie).
We saw life in a busy county hospital through the newbie eyes of Carter, following his journey from medical student to administration. Characters came and went, but Carter was always there. His transformation from naive intern to the confident doctor-without-borders, was the backbone of the series. Witnessing someone’s personal growth through the highest and lowest point of their life…that is what gave the series staying power for me.
If you watch the AMC series, the Walking Dead, it’s very easy to assume that the main story line is that of Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln). Our first glimpses of the post-zombie-apocalyptic world were through his eyes. We’ve feared with him, rejoiced with him, mourned with him, and as of late, taken a trip to crazy town with him. But is he the one that we should really be focusing on?
That simple question, posed over and over again by his parents on the show, has become one of the biggest catch phrases associated with the entire series. Where is Carl? Carl is over there, preparing to take over the world. (Keep in mind, that for the sake of this post, I am referring entirely to the universe set forth by the television program and not that of the comic book series.) While we all sit back and watch the adult characters make the “hard decisions” we are content to tease and make jokes about the character of Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs). The rest of the group is making a plan, or having a sing-a-long, and meanwhile, child soldier Carl is out on guard duty.
In the course of about a year, going by their timeline, Carl has made the transformation from boy to man. He, sadly, has become desensitized to the crumbling world around him, and yet never seems to lose hope. He is willing to do whatever it takes and has made better decisions than his father has in recent weeks. He is good, and fair; every bit the son of Rick Grimes. But Carl is also tough, displaying evidence that he is every bit the boy that Shane (Jon Bernthal) helped raised for a time. In the episode titled “Clear”, just watch closely as Carl “learns” from the back seat of their car. Carl observes the behavior of the adults riding in the front seat, and of the hitchhiker. He sees, he processes, he files it away. It’s how he learns. Like a Terminator. Later, he uses Rick’s own words to defend his choices. But through it all, his heart remains intact. He has become harder, but not cold. If that were so, he would not have gone on a mission for that picture frame, kickin’ it Winchester Pub style.
We think this is Rick’s story. But it’s not. This will be Carl’s journey; the John Connor of Georgia.
Where’s Carl, we ask? Don’t worry, he replies…I’ll be back!