It’s a classic conundrum for serialized shows with child actors; younger characters invariably grow older than the story would suggest. The Walking Dead star Chandler Riggs has naturally aged seven years from its 2010 beginnings (compared with a relatively condensed timeline for the show), but even creator Robert Kirkman isn’t certain how old the character is in comics; let alone TV.

One could spend hours and countless corkboards attempting to pin down an exact timeline for The Walking Dead, which has occasionally matched the months in between seasons, but in other instances picked up precisely where if left off. That puzzle isn’t any easier to solve with Carl, whose appearance has naturally aged seven years, while a Season 3 introduction like baby Judith hasn’t yet grown to talking age.

The comic Carl’s age is apparently a source of debate as well, given that an early issue placed the character’s age at the outset of the series as seven, while a 2-3 year time jump in recent years gave him a more teenage appearance. The question was posed to editor Sean Mackiewicz and creator Robert Kirkman in the “Letter Hacks” section of Issue #164 (h/t ComicBook), though neither necessarily had an answer:

Mackiewicz: Robert and I disagree on many things, but maybe none more so than Carl’s age. The irony there is that I know Carl is 7, like you all do, because Robert wrote he was 7 in issue 5. So long as Carl never says how old he is post-time jump, you can just ignore what we say in the letter pages as made up s---. (Except for everything I just wrote.)

Kirkman: Officially, the time jump between 126 and 127 is not tied down to a specific number of years. It seems like around two, but could have been more … It’s totally possible that Carl has aged five years since the beginning of the series. Kids age fast!

The books didn’t mount the time-jump until after a final showdown with Negan and the Saviors, leaving it unclear if the AMC version intends to follow through with a similar reset. Ironically, a two-year skip could bring Riggs’ appearance more in line with the show’s internal chronology, as opposed to the book version complicating matters. Even then, there’s still the question of Judith (the character never made it past the prison in the books), who would likely need to become an actual character capable of speech.

It’s unlikely The Walking Dead Season 7 will resolve any conflict with Negan in only six episodes, but might Season 8 (whose premiere coincides with the 100th episode) eventually iron out some of the timeline? Is Riggs bound to find his way off the series regardless?

Read our review of Sunday’s “New Best Friends,” and check out a preview of next week’s “Hostiles and Calamities” in the meantime.

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