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[This story contains spoilers from The Walking Dead comic book series on which the AMC drama is based, as well as the season nine premiere, “A New Beginning.”]
Rest in peace, Ken. We hardly knew you. As for Gregory … we knew him a bit more, but few people are wishing a restful peace upon the man who attempted to murder Maggie Rhee in a shameful act of cowardice. In any case, it’s official: The first two Walking Dead deaths of season nine are very much on the board, and soon we’ll have even more carnage to sort through.
Heading into season nine, the creative forces behind AMC’s The Walking Dead made one thing clear: This show is very different from its most recent iteration, particularly in the war department. Yes, the Whisperers are on their way, and another war is coming with them. But the “All-Out War” aesthetic of season eight won’t make its way into the brave new world Rick Grimes and his band of survivors are hoping to create in season nine.
Still … this is The Walking Dead, emphasis on “dead.” At least one series regular will meet his or her maker in the weeks ahead, and quite likely, more than one. As is tradition around these parts, The Hollywood Reporter is here to plant some flags in the ground — or heads on spikes, as it were — about which characters are worth worrying about as season nine pushes forward. (Final warning: comic book spoilers ahead.)
Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln): 99 percent. It’s an astronomical shift from how we’ve ranked the odds for the Walking Dead hero in the past, but that’s how much things have changed in the past few months since Lincoln’s exit from the series was revealed. Let’s reserve 1 percent for the hope that somehow, the Walking Dead writing team’s mercy prevails over their wrath, and Rick is written out in a non-fatal manner.
Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus): Zero percent. Reedus is in this for the long haul.
Carol Peletier (Melissa McBride): Zero percent. Same deal as Mr. Dixon.
Maggie Rhee (Lauren Cohan): 50 percent. Certainly, it’s worth considering the very real possibility that Maggie won’t survive season nine, considering Cohan’s own exit from the series. But everyone who has talked about Cohan’s departure speaks as though it’s only “for now,” not forever. Even marking her odds at 50 percent feels high given the rhetoric surrounding Cohan’s move from Walking Dead to her new ABC show Whiskey Cavalier. Consider it a precautionary measure, and not much more.
Michonne (Danai Gurira): 10 percent. Will the sword-swinging hero eventually walk away from The Walking Dead? Almost certainly. But there’s still a lot for the erstwhile Black Panther star to accomplish in the season ahead, including taking on the Whisperers, before Michonne’s story comes to an end.
Tara Chambler (Alanna Masterson): 40 percent. Heading into season eight, our odds for Tara were doubled compared to this season. Now that we stand to lose Rick, Walking Dead needs to hold onto some of its older-school roster — and believe it or not, Tara is one of the senior-ranking members of the cast, debuting in the first half of season four.
Eugene Porter (Josh McDermitt): Zero percent. There’s simply no way the series will cut its most innovative survivor when the whole thrust of season nine is about rebuilding civilization. Eugene’s in this for the long haul.
Rosita Espinosa (Christian Serratos): 90 percent. Here’s where comic book spoilers come in. The Whisperer War is on its way, and with it, the virtual guarantee that some heads are going to wind up on spikes. In the comics, Rosita is one such head. The show tends to take a mix-and-match approach to major deaths, so it’s entirely possible Rosita makes it out of this one unscathed, but due to the way it plays out in the comics, we must rank her odds rather high.
Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam): 75 percent. Another victim in the Whisperer War, eviscerated for all the world to see. It’s a nasty death sequence, one that’s likely to befall someone over the course of the war, if not Gabriel. The only reason he’s rated lower than Rosita is that the evisceration takes place later in the conflict, which means it might not occur until season 10.
Aaron (Ross Marquand): 20 percent. He’s alive and well in the comics, and with all fingers crossed, he will be alive and well through season nine.
Enid (Katelyn Nacon): 15 percent. With Carl gone, Enid stands to take on much of the late one-eyed cowboy’s story material in the season ahead. Enid should be safe for quite some time.
Jesus (Tom Payne): 30 percent. As Maggie’s lieutenant, one has to wonder if we’ll somehow lose Jesus in the course of losing Maggie from the story. Hopefully that’s nothing more than catastrophic thinking, as Jesus is very much still alive in the comics, and full of possibility as the show moves forward.
Ezekiel (Khary Payton): 95 percent, for the same reasons as Rosita, and just a few notches higher due to how his death would impact Carol at the outset of the Whisperer War. Once upon a time, while speaking with THR, Payton had this to say about his character’s comic book demise: “I am aware of what happens in the comic book. But it’s an alternate universe, No. 1. No. 2, it doesn’t change the fact that I’m having a ball playing Ezekiel. If and when he reaches his demise, that’s just the way this show goes. I don’t take anything that is written as anything more than something on the page, until they tell me that my head is dissected, or I’m killed in a different way from the comics. Or I might just hang around as long as Morgan (Lennie James) and Carol, you know? You never know.”
Anne (Pollyanna McIntosh): 80 percent. The other 20 percent is reserved for the possibility of the artist formerly known as Jadis simply joining the Whisperers, rather than being consumed by them.
Alden (Callan McAuliffe): 60 percent. No major knocks against the new series regular, but he’s the new guy on the street with the barest of stories. If The Walking Dead needs to juice its body count stats, he’s an inoffensive option at the moment.
Siddiq (Avi Nash): 5 percent. Not impossible, but it would be incredibly lame to kill off the character whose very introduction paved the way for Carl Grimes’ (Chandler Riggs) death only one season after said introduction.
Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan): 20 percent. There may come a time when Morgan no longer wants to play in the world of The Walking Dead, but not before he gets the chance to dig into a redemption arc for Negan — assuming the man can be redeemed.
Follow THR.com/WalkingDead for continuing coverage of season nine.
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Robert De Niro