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The march to war is officially on.
After a full season of back-and-forth battles between Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), the Alexandrians and Saviors are now set to escalate their conflict into “All-Out War,” the name of one of the most prominent story arcs from the Walking Dead comic books. In the comic series from Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard, Rick and Negan’s feud gives way to a period of relentless violence between the communities — and by all accounts, the AMC adaptation is about to walk down that same blood-covered path.
With that said, The Walking Dead TV series and comic book series are not always perfectly aligned. In fact, showrunner Scott M. Gimple and the writing team often intentionally veer away from the actions of the source material in what they describe as “remixing,” an approach we should very much expect to see in action as season eight unfolds, beginning with the premiere episode Oct. 22.
It’s in that same spirit that we make the following predictions about what to expect from the new season of Walking Dead. One final warning: comic book spoilers are ahead. Proceed accordingly!
1. The Future Is Not Written
The first full trailer for season eight confirmed the inclusion of a massive twist from the Walking Dead comic books: the time jump. In the comics, following the events of “All-Out War,” the story skips a few years into the future as Alexandria and the surrounding communities have become something close to resembling civilization. The trailer features an older Rick Grimes, the spitting image of how he looks in this era of the comics. But why give up the reveal unless there’s some sort of twist? However the time jump works on the show, it’s likely to come equipped with some sort of massive left turn, the same way other iconic milestones were altered: the deaths of Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn), Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) and Glenn (Steven Yeun), just as a few examples. In other words, anyone who has read the comics and thinks they know exactly how this time-jump is going to play out? Prepare to be wrong.
2. “Clear” and Present Danger
As we look ahead toward “All-Out War,” we need to start taking stock of some of the show’s probable casualties. High on the list: Morgan Jones (Lennie James), the most enduring Walking Dead character outside of Rick Grimes. At this point in the comics, Morgan’s long gone, killed during the walker attack on Alexandria that provided much of the foundation for season six — which is not an automatic death sentence in and of itself, as several characters on the show have lasted longer than their comic book counterparts. (Look no further than Melissa McBride’s Carol as an example.) Still, it’s not a great sign for Morgan’s longevity, especially when paired with where the character currently stands in the story, having fully cast aside his pacifistic ways in favor of shooting and killing virtually anything that moves. We’re predicting one final story arc that humanizes the Morgan Jones experience, before he clears the stage one last time.
3. The Dwight Path
In the comics, Austin Amelio’s Dwight becomes an essential part of the greater Alexandria community. There’s no guarantee that the television version of the character will follow the same path. The end of season seven strongly suggested Dwight’s willingness to work with Rick’s side of the fight, but the show has also laid track for another character to step into Dwight’s comic book shadow: Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus), the biggest wildcard in the mix as a show-only invention and easily the most widely adored figure in the series. Our prediction: Dwight dies somewhere along the way in “All-Out War,” paving the way for Daryl to lead the Saviors in the post-Negan era.
4. Behind the Bars
Speaking of Negan, expect the man to survive the season. Yes, he’s absolutely going to lose the war. Yes, he will find himself on the receiving end of a much-deserved beatdown. But the man won’t face the same kind of vicious end he set upon Glenn and Abraham (Michael Cudlitz). In the comics, after losing the fight, Negan is thrown into prison, left to rot behind bars for the rest of his days. It’s a major story arc for the character, and therefore hard to imagine how or why the show would choose to ignore it. Ditching Negan’s imprisonment would be like ditching season three’s prison storyline: simply not an option. What’s more, remember that jail cell Morgan was building in season six? Now you know why it’s in the mix!
5. Crying Tiger
Another moment from the comics we fully expect to see enacted in season eight: the death of Shiva, the ferocious tiger who dutifully serves at the leisure of King Ezekiel (Khary Payton). During the events of “All-Out War,” Shiva dies saving Ezekiel’s life, torn to shreds during battle against some walkers. Since it has precedent in the source material, and since losing the tiger from the story means less of a strain on the show’s effects budget, we’re betting we’ll lose Shiva at some point over the course of the coming season. Keep your tissues handy.
6. Safety (Not) Guaranteed
Since we’re in the spirit of calling shots on who’s going to die this season on Walking Dead, how about some predictions on who’s going to survive? For our money, here’s the list of people who are definitely safe this season: Rick, Daryl, Carol, Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and … honestly? No safety guaranteed for anyone else. It’s hard to imagine Carl (Chandler Riggs) and Michonne (Danai Gurira) getting killed off, but with that said, it’s not impossible that Riggs could leave the show to focus on school, or that Gurira will have so much success following Marvel’s Black Panther that she will move onto new projects. We’re not betting on it, but it’s in the back of the mind. Meanwhile, folks like Gabriel (Seth Gilliam), Aaron (Ross Marquand), Tara (Alanna Masterson), Eugene (Josh McDermitt), Rosita (Christian Serratos), Jesus (Tom Payne), Simon (Steven Ogg) and Gregory (Xander Berkeley) are all possible candidates to meet bitter ends this season, despite future story material from the comic books in some cases. The point is, we’re embarking on a story arc called “All-Out War,” and with that in place, casualties of all shapes and sizes can and will occur.
7. Whispers of the Future
What will the world of Walking Dead look like once the dust settles on the big battle between Rick and Negan? Once again, the comics give us some indication, and we fully expect the show to start dipping into this territory as well: yet another war, this time with a group known as the Whisperers. These survivors wander their way through the apocalypse wearing human flesh as disguises, enabling them to walk among the walkers. It’s a threat unlike anything the Alexandrians have faced before, one that was introduced into the comic well after The Walking Dead had established itself as a blockbuster TV series, and one that should prove itself to be an extraordinary and exciting creative challenge for Greg Nicotero and his KNB FX team. We’re not anticipating a full-on Whisperer War for season eight — but a tease of that conflict, setting the stage for season nine? You Beta believe it.
The Walking Dead season eight premieres Oct. 22. Follow THR.com/WalkingDead all season long for interviews, news, deep dives and more.
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