The eighth season premiere of The Walking Dead aired this week on AMC and while the events of the All-Out War seem fairly straightforward, there has been some confusion among viewers about the multiple timelines.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Scott Gimple would not technically even acknowledge that there are multiple timelines — leaving open the possibility that the “future timeline” is a dream — but it’s clear to anyone who has read comics exactly what is going on with old man Rick and 5-year-old Judith. We’re looking at the future, two to four years after the All Out War, after a peace has settled upon Alexandria, which has been rebuilt after the All Out War.
Where most of the confusion resides, however, is in the third timeline. We only see glimpses of the third timeline in the season premiere, and it mostly seems to involve a beat-down and defeated Rick — red-eyed and exhausted — trying to regain his resolve and continue the war. My original thought was that this timeline sees Rick just as he’s about to confront Negan for the final time in the All Out War, after Rick has presumably lost a number of friends in Alexandria, The Kingdom, and The Hilltop. After seeing so much death, Rick is trying to convince himself not to kill Negan, hence the phrase taken from the new character, Siddiq: “May my mercy prevail over my wrath.”
If that is indeed the case, it would put the third timeline somewhere near the end of the All Out War and, assuming the War lasts the entirety of season eight, the show would catch up to this timeline in the season finale. That, however, does not jibe with what Scott Gimple told The Hollywood Reporter:
I will neither confirm or deny what [the timelines] are but you will know halfway through the season what they are, why they’re there, what they mean and what they mean for the future of the show. Answers will be had around episode eight or nine.
That statement suggests that the show will likely catch up to the third timeline not in the season finale but in the mid-season finale, and unless the All-Out War ends in the front half of the season, it wouldn’t make sense that we’re seeing Rick before he confronts Negan in the climactic battle of the War.
Gimple also said something else that was interesting, and could shed some light on that third timeline. He told THR:
The difference between the first half and the second — I won’t say story-wise what is resolved and when — but the tone and the stakes are very different between the first and second half of the season. There’s a left-hand turn that really focuses things up in a very different and weird way.
I’m not exactly sure what Gimple means by that, but it’s possible — and would be interesting — if the point of view shifts at the midway point in the season. In other words, in the front half, we see Rick and the Alexandrians taking the battle to Negan, but in the back half, we see the same events unfold from Negan’s perspective. Why? Because if Negan is to be a character who will survive the All Out War and continue on in the series in season 9 and beyond, then it would behoove the series to generate some sympathy for him. How better to do that than to present the back half of the season from his point of view. We see him lose friends to the All Out War, and we see him struggle with the emotional toll the casualties take on him while also trying to devise a plan to win the war.
In this point of view, for instance, we’d see what Negan was discussing in that meeting before Rick and the Alexandrians showed up in the Savior compound. We’d see what’s going on with the other side of the War, with Eugene, Simon, Dwight and Negan’s other lieutenants, as well as Jadis and the Junkyard Gang. It would also present a great opportunity for the series to introduce Negan’s long-awaited backstory. Negan, after all, is far more liked in the comics than he is in the TV series, and it would be of great benefit to the series to create some sympathy for him as a character.
Such a switch in perspective, I believe, would qualify as focusing “things up in a very different and weird way.” We’ll find out for sure in either the midseason finale or the midseason premiere. In the meantime, as Scott Gimple tells THR, “It is OK to be confused. If people came away from that confused, I’d hope they’d hold on because all will be revealed in due time.”