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[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the Walking Dead comic books.]
The Comic-Con trailer for The Walking Dead‘s season eight was like a classic issue of the Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard comic book series on which the show is based: quick flashes of scenes popping here and there, with monologues linking the otherwise disparate images together.
It was like the comics in another key way: the ending.
In a surprise move, the final image of the Comic-Con trailer features what appears to be Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) as an old man — or, at least, an older man. After more than four action-packed minutes, the final stretch of the teaser slows things down, with the return of the soft music commonly associated with Morgan Jones (Lennie James). The camera focuses on a cane and then on a bouquet of flowers, before landing on a cloudy and ethereal bird’s-eye view of an older Rick, with short cropped hair and a massive beard, waking up.
Was The Walking Dead all a dream? Hardly, though the fear is understandable. (In fact, in the comics there is a memorable “it was all a dream” sequence featuring an epic alien invasion; sadly, it’s not canon.) Instead, what’s being teased here is some version of the biggest twist of the post-Glenn Walking Dead era: the story skipping forward in time.
In the comics, following the events of the forthcoming “All Out War,” Rick and his fellow survivors succeed in their vision of building a brighter future for their communities. Within years of the war, Alexandria and the surrounding areas are loaded with fully functioning farms, barter systems, large stretches of road that are completely walker-free (thanks to people who patrol the open world) and even a prison that houses one familiar face. (One clue: He talks an awful lot about “shitting pants” in the trailer.)
As for Rick? He’s the main man in charge, but he’s still seen better days, if only physically. The zombie-killing hero suffers an injury in All Out War that leaves him needing a cane for the rest of his days. Somewhere along the way, he decides it’s time for a makeover, too, hence the huge beard and shaved head.
The combination of the Morgan music and the fogged-up view of Old Man Rick suggests that this could be one of the show’s many fantasy sequences — a la Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) joining in on a family dinner at the end of the season-seven premiere — but it’s such a massive moment in the comics that it’s virtually impossible for the show to sidestep it. But why are there already glimpses of Old Man Rick when production on season eight is still a ways away from completion? And why would the Walking Dead team feel willing to pull the curtain back on such a big moment this early on?
However it shakes out, one thing is clear: The Walking Dead is aiming for a faster and lighter tone in its season-eight trailer. Look no further than the music choices — “Music for Pieces of Wood” by LSO Percussion and “Prisoner’s Song” by the Dropkick Murphys — and the one-liners that some of the characters get to deliver, like Jerry: “Thank you, your Majesty, for being such a cool dude.” There’s even Rick’s rousing line to his fellow soldiers: “No matter what comes next, we’ve won. We’ve already won.” After an insanely bleak season seven, it sure looks like The Walking Dead is stepping into the light, even as it marches to war, in season eight.
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