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The final two words of Lori Grimes (Sarah Wayne Callies) are bound to hang heavy in the air Sunday when The Walking Dead says goodbye to her son: Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs), revealed to be at death’s door at the end of December’s season eight midseason finale.
In the coming premiere, titled “Honor,” Carl will finally succumb to the wound he sustained off-screen a few episodes earlier, marking the departure of one of the show’s few remaining season one veterans. It’s a massive status quo shift from Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard’s Walking Dead comics, in which Carl remains alive and well.
How will Carl’s death impact the show moving forward, as it continues adapting a comic series that’s slowly but surely approaching 200 issues with no signs of an ending in sight? The answers will start coming in as soon as this next new episode. Beyond Carl’s death, here are some of the developments we’re expecting to see pan out in the remainder of the season.
1. The Death of Rick Grimes
Two Grimes, gone in the same season? It’s an unfortunate possibility, given the “red-eye Rick” images seen so far in season eight. In losing his son in the thick of “All-Out War,” one can easily imagine the scenario where Walking Dead cuts bait with the Grimes family by the end of season eight — Rick included. As Lincoln himself has told The Hollywood Reporter previously: “There deserves to be an end point. There needs to be an end game and that is something that is definitely being talked about.” We’re planting the flag now: the end game for Rick will come as soon as the end of this season.
2. The Life of Negan
One character we’re not likely to lose by the end of “All-Out War,” despite the nature of the storyline: Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). The baseball bat-wielding maniac has unleashed untold amounts of horror on the Alexandrians, most recently by destroying their home and forcing them underground. But if the comics are any indication, there’s still a lot of story left for Negan as Rick’s people move into the future. With that said, Carl’s death shows us that the comics aren’t a reliable road map for the show’s depiction of events; at this point, anything is fair game.
3. Eastman’s Disciple Goes West
This one’s a gimme, even if the specifics aren’t so clear: Morgan Jones (Lennie James) is about to take his leave. The character will move over to AMC’s sister show Fear the Walking Dead in a series regular role for season four, meaning season eight marks the end of Morgan’s time in Alexandria, at least for now. Exactly how will Morgan make it all the way out to Texas and why? We have our theories. Distilling it down in simple terms: We expect the psychologically fragile Morgan to realize the danger he poses to himself and others in the Kingdom and surrounding area, causing him to once again hit the road in search of meaning — but not before reminding Rick that there’s a certain prison cell in Alexandria that could use an occupant (hint, hint: Negan).
4. Maggie Goes Nowhere
Lauren Cohan’s days with The Walking Dead could be coming to an end, as the actress — who does not have a contract for season nine amid a salary stalemate with AMC — signed on to star in ABC pilot Whiskey Cavalier opposite Scott Foley. By all accounts, Cohan’s potential exit is an unplanned one; certainly, Maggie is not only still alive in the comic books on which Walking Dead is based, but serves as one of the title’s central characters. If AMC and Cohan are unable to reach a deal, we expect an unsatisfying conclusion to Maggie’s arc. The show is simply not ready to lose someone of such importance, especially not this soon in the wake of losing Glenn (Steven Yeun) last season. It’s an even more devastating blow, considering the amount of veteran series regulars already fleeing The Walking Dead this season: Riggs, James and now quite possibly Cohan.
5. The Return of Heath
Corey Hawkins’ fan-favorite character from the comics disappeared early on in season seven, due to the actor’s starring role in 24: Legacy. The show has since been canceled, raising the question: Is it time for Heath’s comeback? We’re betting yes, and the show is positioned for such a return. In the midseason finale, Aaron (Ross Marquand) and Enid (Katelyn Nacon) were left in the clutches of Oceanside. In his (for now) final episode, Heath disappeared just outside of the same community. With so many familiar faces set to leave The Walking Dead this year, and with two of the show’s main castmembers positioned within the Oceanside storyline, now feels like as good a time as any to bring Hawkins’ Heath back into the mix.
6. The Rise of Siddiq
Carl’s death means new life for a brand-new player: Siddiq (Avi Nash), the young man Carl brought into the Alexandria Safe-Zone, at the expense of his own life. It’s tempting to look at Siddiq as one of the safest characters on the show right now, since Carl’s death revolves around his decision to save Siddiq. Would the show reverse course on the meaningful impact of Carl’s exit by having Siddiq follow suit so soon after? In fairness, it wouldn’t be unprecedented; Beth (Emily Kinney) died in season five largely due to her decision to fight for Noah (Tyler James Williams), who promptly died in incredibly gruesome fashion just a few episodes later. But with all due respect to Beth, Carl is a considerably more important character in the Walking Dead mythos; his death should buy some time for Siddiq as he becomes a critical new member of the Grimes gang.
7. The Comeback Kids
A few players are primed for returns to their former glory over the back half of season eight. For one: King Ezekiel (Khary Payton), who was the subject of one of the season’s best episodes, “Some Guy,” which ended in the death of the Kingdom’s finest warriors, including Shiva the tiger. Although he’s wallowing in despair, expect Ezekiel to rise to the occasion before the end of the year. As part of that resurgence, expect a renewed relationship between Ezekiel and Carol (Melissa McBride), who have grown close over their time together these past two seasons; in that regard, Carol has taken on the role of Michonne (Danai Gurira), Ezekiel’s lover in the comics. Speaking of Michonne, if The Walking Dead knows what it’s doing, then it will offer up at least one action showcase for the erstwhile Okoye of the Dora Milaje. Finally, there’s Eugene (Josh McDermitt), who has been firmly Team Negan for the past several episodes. As we prepare for the end of “All-Out War,” it’s worth preparing for the return of everyone’s favorite “Stage Two Badass.”
8. The Future of Alexandria
The first few scenes in season eight focused on flash-forwards into different moments in the future: Rick as an old man in an idyllic Alexandria for one, and a red-eyed Rick in absolute misery for another. Expect full clarification on both points in time as season eight draws to a close. In the latter case, we can safely bet that Carl’s death is a defining factor in Rick’s misery. In the case of the former, the comics point to a massive time jump that would explain Rick’s aged appearance — but, once again, it’s worth keeping in mind just how often the comics and the show diverge. The same could very well be true in the case of season eight’s temporally disjointed story structure.
What are you expecting to see in the second half of season eight? Sound off in the comments below, and check out THR.com/WalkingDead for more coverage.
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