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Following the deaths of Henry (Matt Lintz), Tara (Alanna Masterson) and Enid (Katelyn Nacon) in the penultimate episode, the Walking Dead season nine finale has its work cut out for it. The biggest death sequence of the season is almost certainly in the rearview mirror at this point, as the Whisperers’ grim border wall comes straight from the pages of Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard’s comic book series — and few things have rivaled its tragic horror before or since.
In other words, if things are about to get worse in the finale, called “The Storm,” then we’re talking about truly unfathomable stakes — assuming it’s not too soon to use the word “stakes.”
It’s a dangerous game, trying to predict The Walking Dead right now, given how showrunner Angela Kang has steered the ship all across season nine, carving out unexpected paths at nearly every turn. But let’s play the game anyway. Here are our final predictions for the heroes and villains of The Walking Dead as the never-ending AMC drama prepares to close the books on one of its deadliest seasons yet.
1. Winter is Coming
It’s not Game of Thrones, but winter is coming to Alexandria all the same. For the first time ever, The Walking Dead will unleash snow upon characters and viewers alike — a first for the television series, at least. In the early run of the comics, Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and friends are forced to contend with snowy conditions. The AMC adaptation will translate those same conditions for the characters’ present predicament, a nice visual way to match their current mood. Since we already know it’s on the way, how’s this for a prediction: our heroes will be forced to battle their way out of a zombie death trap using nothing more than snowballs. Please, for the love of all things Greg Nicotero, make it happen.
2. Negan Unchained
It’s time to let Jeffrey Dean Morgan out of his cage. The Saviors’ former leader enjoyed a brief period of time out on the road earlier in the season, before immediately deciding to return to Alexandria. Since then, he’s offered his assistance to the Alexandrians, and has been rebuked at every turn. Now, given the severe circumstances (not to mention nearly a decade spent in captivity), the council may want to recruit Negan as a soldier in the war against the Whisperers.
3. Royal Rumble
Speaking of soldiers in the Whisperer War, Alpha and her flock better beware their newest enemies: King Ezekiel (Khary Payton) and especially Queen Carol (Melissa McBride). Having lost their son, both of the Kingdom’s leaders are incentivized to return to their warrior roots and rise up against the men and women who killed Henry. Regarding Carol, we’re predicting a “Felicity moment,” in which she cuts her hair off once again and resumes action hero status. As for Carol and Ezekiel’s future together? One certainly hopes they can push through the pain, but it’s hard not to wonder if their relationship will be on the rocks in the aftermath of losing their son.
4. The Hilltop Rises
With both Tara and Enid dead, the Hilltop is left without a clear point of view — except for the fact that Magna (Nadia Hilker) and her group were allowed residence shortly before Jesus (Tom Payne) died. In the future, they will likely be the main perspective for the Hilltop story; the show won’t abandon the community willy nilly, since the build is such a big part of the sprawling Raleigh Studios set. In fact, we expect we’ll see another hero rise to prominence as the Hilltop’s new leader: Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus), alongside his trusty sidekick Dog and his newest friend (and possible love interest) Connie (Lauren Ridloff).
5. The War Begins
If the heads on spikes weren’t enough to signal increased hostilities, then the finale will certainly cross the line with full-blown war breaking out between the Whisperers and the denizens of the Alexandria Safe-Zone. In the comics, Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard launched a story arc known as “The Whisperer War,” bringing increased bloodshed between the two disparate communities following the traumatic deaths of so many beloved figures. Since this is the series’ final note until it returns in the fall, expect a similar declaration of war between the groups — presumably coordinated by Michonne (Danai Gurira) and her allies, in response to the border creation.
6. Return of the King
No, Rick Grimes won’t return to The Walking Dead proper, at least not this season. But a sign of his continued survival? Certainly possible. After all, the series needs to put the wheels in motion for Michonne’s eventual exit, and what better way to lead her out than to put her back on Rick’s path? It could come in the form of a cutaway to Rick’s present location. It could be even more enigmatic, like a broadcast from the radio Eugene (Josh McDermitt) and Rosita (Christian Serratos) were last seen trying to fix. However it comes to pass, with Rick’s departure such a big part of the first half of the season, and with such hopelessness following the Dead beheading, it feels only right to restore some hope by way of the missing hero’s comeback, even if it’s just a wink and nod.
7. Return of the Queen
If we don’t see anything from Rick in the season finale, then we will at least hear about another long lost leader: Maggie Rhee (Lauren Cohan), currently somewhere else in the world working alongside Georgie (Jayne Atkinson). Even if she doesn’t appear directly in the final episode, Maggie’s name will almost certainly be checked, given the string of tragedies at the Hilltop recently. As a means of willing it into existence, however, let’s put it out there: Maggie herself will show up again, seen hearing about the deaths of Jesus and Tara, and getting ready to return to her home in order to fight in the Whisperer War.
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