We’ve had the last six months, two trailers, and a few news updates to ponder what might happen in season 8 of The Walking Dead, and this Sunday, we’ll finally be able to piece the puzzle together when the series kicks off with its 100th episode.
Here are the most pressing questions we’d like answered in this season:
What’s the Deal with the Time Jump
We know there’s a time jump. The trailer gave the time jump away, and Robert Kirkman has not only confirmed it, he said that the jump will happen in the first episode. That time jump will take us ahead a few years, but Scott Gimple has also suggested that this season of The Walking Dead may operate on several different timelines. We may be hopping back and forth between the present and the future. The big question: How far into the future will the series jump, and how much of that future will we see? The comics suggest a jump of between two and five years, but so far, the trailer has indicated only that Rick will be present in the time jump. Will we see Michonne (or is she dead)? Carl? Or Judith, who would obviously change the most dramatically in two to five years.
Who Will Die?
More than any other show on television, who will die is what drives the story and grips the fandom. Kill the right characters (Lori, Andrea, The Governor) and the fanbase will grow; kill the wrong characters (Glenn, Abraham, Sasha) and the fans will lash out. It’s a delicate balance: The series needs to kill off characters to keep fans interested, but it has to kill off the right characters to avoid alienating them. Who will die this season? We place odds here. We can’t say anything for sure, except that a lot of characters will die, at least one will be a beloved character, and one will definitely be Gregory. I mean, he has to die, right?
How will Jadis factor into the season?
Jadis and the Junkyard Gang provided the biggest twist in season 7, and for graphic novel readers, one of the only plot points we weren’t expecting. That’s because she’s a TV creation, and now that that Pollyanna McIntosh has been elevated to series regular, we’re left to wonder how her faction will play into season 8. In the All Out War between Alexandria, The Hilltop, The Kingdom and The Saviors, the Junkyard Gang remains the wild card. Jadis is an alliance for hire, and it sure seems like she’s going to offer her services to the highest bidder. Can Rick persuade her to come back to the Alexandrian side? Could he even trust her? How can she trust Negan? Or will Jadis sit on the sidelines and wait for both sides to kill each other before weighing in?
Will Eugene Switch Sides Again?
The character I am most concerned about this season is Eugene. He’s not a bad guy. He’s just a coward. He defected to the Saviors mostly out of self-preservation. I like Eugene, but he’s got himself in quite the pickle, stuck between his friends and the people he believes will keep him alive the longest. When the All Out War is over, I worry that Eugene — if he manages to survive — won’t be welcomed back to Alexandria, not without proving his loyalty. But Eugene can’t survive on his own, and if the Saviors are wiped out, that doesn’t leave a lot of space on the show for him. He’s not a “core character,” exactly, but I’d hate to lose him.
Will Maggie Ever Have Her Baby
Questions about Maggie’s baby have mostly been generated by the internet (including us) based on one statement showrunner Scott Gimple made that we have ascribed a lot of meaning: “Maggie’s baby will not be born in season eight.” That statement shouldn’t be as loaded as it is, but it is. Why? because we found out that Maggie was pregnant in November 2015; it’s been nearly two years and there has been no evidence of it. Of course, there’s a reason for that: Only two months have passed in The Walking Dead universe.
The other reason that statement is so loaded, however, is that we do see a time jump of two to five years in season eight, so is it that Maggie’s baby will not be “born” in season eight because the series time jumped over the birth? Or is it because we don’t see Maggie and her baby in the time jump? Or is it that Maggie loses the baby between now and the time jump?
What happens after the war?
The All Out War will eventually end, and the leap into the future will arrive, but what happens at that point? What happens with The Kingdom? The Hilltop? Will they exist any longer? Will the series regroup in Alexandria? Or will the Saviors destroy that, too, and force Rick and co., to move on to a different refuge? The series has been set in Alexandria since February 2015. There’s a whole wide world out there; it might be time to move on.
Will this season tease the upcoming Fear the Walking Dead crossover?
There’s a lot of speculation about the crossover between Fear the Walking Dead and The Walking Dead, which will not occur until next year. Most likely, it will be a character from The Walking Dead crossing over into Fear because of the way that the timelines are set up. After the time jump, The Walking Dead will be years ahead of Fear. However, there is the possibility that Luciana — who vanished from Fear earlier this season — will reappear years later on the East Coast. It’s also possible that meet a new The Walking Dead character this season who once belonged among the Fear crowd.
Will the ratings return?
Ratings on The Walking Dead dipped 23 percent in the 18-49 demo last year, although it is still the highest-rated series on basic cable and it’s not even close. Was last year a fluke? Or will ratings continue to deteriorate? It’s tough to say at this point. The other networks are not offering a lot of competition on Sunday nights, the fandom — judging by crowds at comic conventions — has not lost its passion for the series, and the season will embark on what’s expected to be 16 episodes of action-packed battles pitting Rick against the series’ most popular villain in Negan. If it can avoid needlessly infuriating viewers as it did with a series of cliffhangers in season 6 and two deaths that many saw as too violent in season seven, the series should be able to at least maintain its current viewership.
What kind of season will it be?
That’s the question I am most concerned with. If, as we expect, it takes 16 episodes to wage the All Out War, how will the show manage to sustain interest on a week-to-week basis? Will viewers fatigue of the constant battles? Will there be any room left for character development? Will it just be 16 episodes of tit-for-tat warfare, bookended by exciting episodes but weighed down by filler? That’s my chief concern. I expect an exciting opening few episodes and a thrilling, intense final few episodes, but those in the middle? How will Scott Gimple keep us invested, especially since we know that — at the very least — that Rick will survive.