[This story contains spoilers from the season eight finale of AMC's The Walking Dead
, "Wrath," as well as from the comics by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard on which the show is based.]
The war is over. The time for peace is at hand.
At least, it's on hand for a little while. Who knows what the future holds for The Walking Dead as it says goodbye to season eight and embarks on its ninth revolution around the postapocalyptic sun. But virtually all parties involved agree on one thing: The show is about to undergo some serious changes.
"The show will evolve in a huge way," Walking Dead chief content officer Scott M. Gimple tells THR about what's next. "They'll be dealing with things we haven't seen them deal with before, and dealing with each other in ways that we haven't seen before. What [the writers] have planned ... it just feels new. It feels like an evolved show. [The past eight seasons] very much lived in the world that Rick began with. It was so informed by the pilot. It just takes this quantum leap forward in the stories we're telling."
Fans who have read the comics on which Walking Dead is based already have a sense of what's coming: a leap forward in time, as Rick's community becomes much more advanced than its current iteration; the late Carl Grimes would certainly be proud. Will such a calendar jump occur on the show? Gimple and his team (including recently promoted showrunner Angela Kang, who has been with the series since season two) are keeping their lips sealed about specifics, but most signs point to at least a version of "yes."
With that in mind, we have a few questions of our own about how the series plans to tackle some of the comic books' most pressing milestone events. Read them below, but beware: Major spoilers from the comics are ahead.
1. Are the Whisperers coming next season?
Negan wielded a baseball bat. The next enemies facing the Alexandria Safe-Zone are in possession of a much more dangerous weapon: an entire herd of walkers, the apocalypse's answer to napalm. These enemies are known as the Whisperers, and they're a group of survivors who blend in with the dead by wearing suits made out of human flesh. Gimple has stopped short of confirming their presence in season nine, but if the show follows the comic book's time line, these are the next major adversaries on the board. Keep an eye out.
2. Who will play Alpha and Beta?
Alpha and Beta are the two most recognizable members of the Whisperer community, and should be among the most important casting decisions as a result. Some background on both: The bald-headed Alpha is the fierce leader of the group, appropriately named due to her position as the head of the pack. Beta is her lieutenant, equally appropriately named, absolutely gigantic in stature. In fact, the comics include a great twist about Beta's identity, which is kept secret due to his unwillingness to ever remove his flesh-suit mask. We'll know for sure if Walking Dead plans to follow that path if an athlete is cast at some point in the coming months.
3. What about Lydia?
Lydia is Alpha's daughter, another member of the Whisperers, albeit one who eventually decides to integrate with the Alexandrians. She's brought into the fold through Carl, with whom she develops a romantic relationship. Since Carl is dead, how will the show handle the Lydia arc? Will Kang and her team of writers craft a new version of Lydia and a new story accordingly, perhaps one that ties her closer to Enid — or even Judith, depending on how much of a leap forward in time the show takes? Siddiq is another contender to take on Carl's story load, given how he was brought into the show's fold.
4. How will Maggie's revenge against Negan play out?
Among the most highly cited scenes in the finale: Maggie, Daryl and Jesus plotting to subvert Rick's plans to keep Negan alive. In the comics, Maggie eventually gets her shot at Negan, and ultimately decides to leave him alive to wallow in his misery. It's unclear if season nine would reach that same point for Maggie, or even if she'll follow the path all the way to the end of the line. (In fact, she has another person within the Hilltop that she may have to fight it out with first.) As up in the air as anything else: Lauren Cohan's role with the series. If a deal isn't struck, Maggie's vengeance storyline may be over before we know it.
5. Is Alden the new Dante?
It's hard to imagine Maggie with anyone other than Glenn, but in the comics, she finally finds room in her heart for someone new: Dante, a member of the Hilltop community. The character doesn't exist yet on the show, nor should he; his first appearance on the page takes place after the time jump. But Alden, the Savior who spent all of his time in season eight trying to convince Maggie of his worthiness, appears to be positioned to take on the role Dante serves in the comics. If he returns in season nine, watch his interactions with Maggie closely; he might just be the spiritual successor to both Glenn and Dante.
6. Will we ever see Dwight again?
Daryl exiled Dwight in the finale, warning him to never return on fear of death. Last we saw him, Dwight was making headway in his attempts to reunite with his long lost wife, Sherry. Is there any good reason for Dwight to return? If he does, it's almost certain that he won't have the same storyline as he does in the comics, where he succeeds Negan as the leader of the Saviors. In fact, one wonders if Daryl might be the man who takes on that job, considering he's not from the comics at all. Unless...
7. Will Daryl become a pirate?
It's among the most ridiculous questions one can ask with a straight face, but nonetheless a question worth asking! It requires some backstory: Michonne and Ezekiel are an item in "All-Out War," and in the midst of the time jump, we learn that they encountered some trouble in their relationship, leading Michonne to hit the high seas in search of anyone else who survived the apocalypse. Michonne and Rick are happily together, so it's unlikely she'll follow the same route as in the comics — unlikely, but not impossible. As a wild card, Daryl is another contender for the role; who would be mad at Pirate Daryl? The easiest bet is Carol taking on the gig, considering her closeness with Ezekiel on the show.
8. Will Michonne become Andrea?
There are already two spoiler warnings in this article. It's time for a third, because this one is potentially
seismic. In fact, let's put this right here: SEISMIC SPOILER ALERT. Still here? In the comics, Rick and Andrea are an item, not Rick and Michonne. Andrea dies during the war against the Whisperers, bitten in battle. Season nine might not go as far as the full-blown Whisperer War, but if it does (and it's more a matter of "when" than "if," in terms of the greater Walking Dead), will this be the moment that claims Michonne? With Danai Gurira's career skyrocketing, it's not an impossible scenario to fathom, even if it's a painful one to consider.
9. Who will wind up on the border?
Equally painful to consider: The way in which the Whisperer War is declared. There are many ways to digest Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard's comics, including the giant-sized compendiums, which collect nearly 50 issues a piece. The third compendium ends with what is a very likely contender to end the final episode of season nine — and we're going to be liberal with what happens in that scene thanks to the three preceding spoiler warnings: the Whisperers make a stand against Alexandria, creating a literal line between the two communities in the form of severed heads impaled upon spikes. The border was teased in the season eight finale (even if it was an inadvertent one, according to Gimple), and it's very difficult to imagine how it doesn't wind up in season nine. The only question is ... whose heads will wind up on the line? The comics' version of events offers up two very important deaths in this moment: Rosita and Ezekiel. Will the show follow suit, or will it find other sacrifices for the cause? However it shakes out, the show's depiction of the next Glenn-level event should be coming as soon as season nine.
What are your biggest questions heading into season nine? Sound off in the comments below and bookmark THR.com/WalkingDead for complete coverage.
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