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When The Walking Dead begins its ninth season on Sunday (Oct. 7), it begins a brand new era — an era that’s difficult to predict.
Note that it’s impossible to predict. Sure, there are great changes in store as Walking Dead moves into uncharted territory: Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) is about to exit the scene, a massive shift from the stories still being told in the pages of Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard’s comic book series. In addition to Lincoln’s departure, the show will also say goodbye to Lauren Cohan as Maggie Rhee in the weeks ahead, though the limited fanfare around her exit signals a less permanent affair. Still, losing these two pillars of the Walking Dead universe (not to mention Carl’s untimely demise in season eight) make it challenging to match the future events of the TV series with future events from the comics.
Challenge accepted, then. Here are nine of our predictions for how The Walking Dead will play out this season, based on knowledge from the comics and information about casting, as well as more than a few wild swings.
1. Rick Grimes Will Die
Such a bold prediction! But the truth about Lincoln’s exit is this: No one knows how it’s going to go down. It’s not impossible that Rick will ride off into the sunset for some far-off adventure, with the promise of returning some day. But the promotional effort behind Rick’s final run of episodes sure makes it sound like a more permanent conclusion to his story is on its way. This flag is planted on the “Rick’s going to die” side of the fence.
2. Maggie Rhee Will Survive
Showrunner Angela Kang insists there’s more story to tell with Maggie beyond the scope of what we’re going to see from Cohan’s limited run in season nine. It would be hard to accomplish that story if Maggie wer no longer alive. As for how she’ll survive and still manage to leave the series? That’s a much harder prediction to make … back to the Greene family farm, maybe?
3. There Will Be Time Jumps
Nothing new there, as it’s already confirmed season nine takes place more than a year after the end of “All Out War.” But why stop there? If Rick Grimes is about to die (and that is indeed an if, prediction aside), how long could The Walking Dead linger on the grief and mourning of such a loss before growing stale? A likelier outcome is a further leap forward into the future, as all of the communities in the Alexandria Safe-Zone are at the height of their powers.
4. Long Live the Queen
Who will be in charge whenever Rick leaves the Walking Dead universe? Many people are looking at Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) for the job. But Reedus has made it clear he has no desire for Daryl to fall into such a role. The person who makes more sense for the job: Michonne (Danai Gurira), who has fought side-by-side with her boyfriend Rick and shared the load on hard decisions all the way. As the show moves into its new era, it makes a lot of sense to push the narrative forward with Gurira at the forefront, what with her skyrocketing star.
5. Enid is the New Carl
At this point in the comic books’ run, there’s a great story featuring Carl Grimes, no longer active on the show. It involves Carl befriending and falling in love with an outsider, a romance that directly leads into one of the Walking Dead universe’s most recent and violent conflicts: the Whisperer War. With Carl out of the picture on the TV series, the natural person to pick up the story is Enid (Katelyn Nacon), which could add new depths to the romance story. Alternately, the nature of the relationship between Enid and the outsider could change, similar to how season nine plans to change the relationship between incoming newbies Connie (Lauren Ridloff) and Kelly (Angel Theory); in the comics, they are lovers, but the show has them as sisters.
6. Medium-Sized Ass Kicker
“There’s some very good stuff coming up with Judith,” Robert Kirkman told a packed audience at New York Comic Con this week, an exciting prospect to be sure. Whenever Rick leaves, Judith will be the last of the core Grimes family remaining, carrying forth a legacy fans will remain invested in for however many seasons are still to come. Pair this comment with the prediction for multiple time-jumps, and perhaps viewers will actually see Judith at an old enough age to make an impact on the story beyond waking up from naps at inopportune occasions.
7. On the Fence
The Whisperers are coming, and when they arrive, they may come equipped with one of the most brutal moments from the comics. In that version of the story, leader Alpha (Samantha Morton) makes her people’s power known by abducting several Alexandrians and Hilltoppers, killing them, and skewering their severed heads on a fence in order to mark a border between Whisperer territory and Alexandria territory. At least two main characters still alive on the show are killed off in this manner in the comics. It’s not impossible the show could lose Rick in this manner. Whoever goes, there’s little doubt that the fence will arrive on the show — likely at the midseason mark.
8. Get to the Chopper
In season seven, The Walking Dead presented occasional glimpses of a helicopter flying through the sky. There was very little explanation for the helicopter at the time. Even with time standing between the events of seasons eight and nine, there’s still room for the helicopter in the year ahead, as evidenced by the show’s new opening credits sequence; the helicopter makes a quick appearance, signaling its return into the story. As for where it’s from? Well…
9. Welcome to the Commonwealth
The current arc in the Walking Dead comic books deals with a new community called the Commonwealth, in which civilization as we knew it is almost back in working order — complete with huge and unfair divides between the upper, middle and lower classes. Following the end of the Whisperer War, the Commonwealth arc is by far the next biggest signpost for the Walking Dead comics, and therefore the show. Don’t expect to dive into the story too deeply next season, but a tease of the community, a la the first sighting of the prison at the end of season two? Very much in the cards.
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