10:00am PT by Josh Wigler
'Walking Dead': Who Will Die in Season 8?
[Warning: This story contains spoilers from The Walking Dead comic book series on which the AMC drama is based, as well as the season eight premiere, "Mercy."]
"Will my mercy prevail over my wrath?"
It's the closing question in the Walking Dead season eight premiere, posed by Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), and uttered toward ... well, who knows? The episode, called "Mercy," features scenes from various moments in time: the main action in which Rick and the Alexandrians initiate their assault on Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and the Saviors; an undetermined moment in what appears to be the near future, featuring a red-eyed Rick; and visions of a further future in which a weathered Rick walks around his home with Michonne (Danai Gurira), Carl (Chandler Riggs) and even an older Judith.
Fans who have read Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard's Walking Dead comic book series already have an idea about the furthest point on the timeline. In the comics, after "All-Out War," the action jumps ahead a few years into the future, as Rick and the surrounding Alexandria communities have actualized their vision for a better and safer world. The show is tipping its hand in that regard a bit early, so should we buy it at face value, or is it possible that someone from Rick's future vision — whether it's Michonne, Carl or Judith — won't actually survive long enough to see a peaceful future?
In regards to the confusing timeline, showrunner Scott M. Gimple has told The Hollywood Reporter: "It is OK to be confused. If people came away from that confused, I'd hope they'd hold on because all will be revealed in due time." He also added: "Are they time periods? What are they? What are we seeing? Are we jumping through time or is it something else? All will be revealed."
If the words "all will be revealed" smell like shenanigans to you, you're not alone. But putting the time questions aside for now, let's focus on one thing that's a certainty: somebody is going to die this season, if not several somebodies. It's "All-Out War," after all. This story doesn't move forward unless we lose some players from the field. In that regard, Gimple makes it clear that there's a whole lot of action coming our way in the next several episodes, setting the stage for someone to take a final bow.
"These first four episodes are the most intense string of episodes that we may have ever had," said the showrunner. "Then it only takes a breath. It's a very intense season. It's a very unusual season for us. It's incredibly propulsive. There are so many people in every episode. This is physically the hardest season we've had for everyone, cast and crew. It's getting exponentially more intense and the first four episodes speak to that. It's that kind of season. This is the most intense season, it's a very action-forward season — and there's emotion in between all the action. Things start to build up from episodes five to eight but these first four, people are still feeling these first four."
For our money, here's what we're feeling in terms of which series regulars will make it out of season eight alive — and which ones won't. Final warning, comic book spoilers are ahead.
Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln): 1 percent. There may come a day when The Walking Dead moves forward without its original protagonist in place, but that day has not yet arrived.
Carol Peletier (Melissa McBride): 5 percent. Carol's days in the comics are long behind her, but the character on the show is virtually unrecognizable from her source material counterpart. Over the seasons, she's grown into her role as one of the biggest badasses and most complicated figures in the series. She's guaranteed to survive for a good while longer, if not the duration of the series.
Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus): 5 percent. Can you imagine the Walking Dead marketing machine moving forward without Norman Reedus front and center? Yeah, neither can we.
Maggie Greene (Lauren Cohan): 5 percent. Plain and simple, there's no way Walking Dead kills the Hilltop's current commander while she's pregnant. It would be too brutal an insult to add to the permanent injury of how we lost Glenn (Steven Yeun) last season.
Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan): 15 percent. The Saviors will absolutely lose "All-Out War," and many of their ranks will die along the way — but not Negan. The grinning psychopath still has stories in his future, based on his pivotal role in the Walking Dead comics.
Eugene Porter (Josh McDermitt): 20 percent. Another character with an instrumental role to play based on his status in the comics, but the real thing that's keeping Eugene safe is that he's one of the show's few sources of outright belly laughs. Sure, he's playing for the wrong side right now, but he won't be Negan forever.
Jesus (Tom Payne): 20 percent. Like Eugene and Negan before him, the Hilltop's personal Jesus still has a role to play moving forward. He's not involved in any storylines that couldn't be offloaded onto characters invented for the show, but Jesus has taken Glenn's place as a shining force of optimism in the bleak world of Walking Dead. It would be too cruel to lose him now.
Aaron (Ross Marquand): 20 percent. The last character we feel truly comfortable labeling as "safe," Aaron stands out as the first person we ever met from the Alexandria storyline — and, much like Jesus, one of the few thoroughly good people still operating within this world. We won't lose him for a while, if ever.
Enid (Katelyn Nacon): 30 percent. Not that The Walking Dead has shied away from killing kids in the past (here's looking at you, Lizzie and Mika), but Enid's death would be a serious blow to Maggie after already weathering the losses of Glenn and Sasha so recently. We're pretty sure Enid is outfitted with plot armor this season, a gift from Maggie Greene.
Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs): 45 percent. That's pretty high! The comics definitely suggest otherwise, as Carl remains one of the most active forces in the printed version of Walking Dead. But Riggs has grown up over the course of the series, and is now a college student. Is the time right for him to depart the series? It's a question we're seriously pondering, especially given the image of red-eyed Rick.
Michonne (Danai Gurira): 45 percent. Again, quite high! Outside of The Walking Dead, Gurira is poised for an incredible 2018 as one of the co-stars in Marvel's Black Panther. Is the time right for this talent to explore new creative avenues? What's more, losing Michonne would be a massive blow to Rick's morale, and could help explain why he looks so devastated in the red-eyed timeline.
Ezekiel (Khary Payton): 50 percent. It's not a question of whether or not Ezekiel will die eventually, just a question of when. In the comics, the King of the Kingdom's death signals the true threat of the newest enemies on the field: the Whisperers. If the back half of season eight exists within the time-jump universe, then Ezekiel will very likely die this year. If not? He's safe until we're living in a world with Whisperers. (As for his pet tiger, Shiva, well, those odds are considerably higher.)
Rosita (Christian Serratos): 50 percent. Like Ezekiel, Rosita's death marks an escalation in the feud against the Whisperers ... but will history repeat itself on the show? Season seven invested heavily in Rosita, developing the character more than ever before. Her death in the comics is a memorable one, but maybe not suitable given her depiction on television. Then again, if we enter time-jump territory, you should be on the lookout for a Rosita departure.
Dwight (Austin Amelio): 60 percent. Yet another character with an active role in the current run of comics — but also a character who hasn't quite popped on the show the way he has in the source material. What's more, everything that's coming up for Dwight on the show could easily trickle down to Daryl Dixon in his stead. Will the show kill off Dwight, and give his story material to Daryl? That's what we're betting on.
Tara (Alanna Masterson): 80 percent. She's one of the few show-only inventions among the series regulars, so her fate moving forward is totally unknown — and with that in mind, we have to rate her pretty high in terms of the good guys who are likely to die.
Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam): 85 percent. Given his current situation heading into episode two, there's every reason in the world to expect Father Gabriel to die while trapped alongside Negan. Even if he escapes, it won't be for long: Gabriel suffers a gory death in the comics, one that shouldn't play out for another few seasons from now, even though there's no reason it can't be brought in early or outright changed — especially given his close proximity to Negan and a whole slew of walkers.
Gregory (Xander Berkeley): 85 percent. The Hilltop's head honcho (if only in his mind) is one of those characters who will certainly die eventually; it's only a matter of timing. If the show sticks to the script, Gregory still has some life in him yet — but the current state of the narrative dictates bloodshed, and few people are less capable of defending themselves than this duplicitous coward.
Simon (Steven Ogg): 95 percent. Hate to even will it into existence, but someone major on the Saviors' side of the line will kick the bucket before the end of "All-Out War." There's nobody likelier in that regard than Negan's second-in-command, with one exception. (Getting there soon!) Ogg's menacing presence has been a true highlight of the past season and change of The Walking Dead, but we fear it won't be long before Simon says goodbye.
Morgan Jones (Lennie James): 95 percent. An outside contender for the man who could cause the red-eyed Rick image: Morgan, the first man Rick ever met in the apocalypse, the same man who lost his mind after the deaths of his wife and child, the same man who later found his way back to a form of peace, and the same man now on the edge of cracking up all over again. Morgan's death could serve as a wake-up call for Rick, a reminder of why it's worth fighting for a better way forward — someone who could very easily fuel Rick's premiere-closing line about mercy prevailing over wrath. Over the course of his time on the show, James has provided some of the most emotionally satisfying work of anyone in the Walking Dead cast before or since. For the sake of his story and the wider Walking world, this season feels like the right time for one final Morgan arc.
Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh): 100 percent. The Garbage Queen of the Heapsters does not make it out of the season alive. Count on it. Let's just hope Rick takes the trash out sooner, rather than later.
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