This Walking Dead article contains MAJOR SPOILERS for the show and comics.
The Walking Dead season 7 ended with a bang, as all of the different factions introduced this year converged for war. Rick, Ezekiel, and Maggie will lead Alexandria, the Kingdom, and the Hilltop, while Negan and Jadis round out this universe’s version of the Axis Powers. The Saviors and the garbage people certainly have the numbers, but the heroes are determined to fight back and free themselves from the oppressive villains. I put my money on Sheriff Rick.
While the first half of the season was a bit slow in terms of story progression, the second half covered quite a bit of story in eight episodes. In all, season 7 adapted three arcs: “Something to Fear,” “What Comes After,” and “March to War,” with a few liberties taken here and there – such as the introduction of Jadis and the Heapsters and Sasha’s fate.
The first half of season 8 will probably take its time with the conflict between Rick’s Militia and the Saviors, if for no other reason but the budget. Call me a bit cynical, but it’s likely that season 8 won’t deliver a big battle sequence until the midseason finale – usually the moment The Walking Dead tends to go very big (except in the case of season 7’s midseason finale, of course.) The show has a tendency to drag out certain character arcs or events from the comics at a sometimes frustrating pace, and I don’t see that really changing much when it comes to one of the comic’s most action-packed arcs.
Here’s what might happen in The Walking Dead season 8 based on what we know from the comics:
All Out War
The first half of season 8 (which is what I’m focusing on here – I’ll do a separate guide for the second half) will most likely cover material from just one arc, “All Out War,” from the comic book series by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard. If you want to pick up the complete arc in trades, that’s Vol. 20 and 21 or issues #115-126.
The “All Out War” arc really is what it says on the cover. It chronicles the war between the Militia (Alexandria, the Hilltop, and the Kingdom) and the Saviors, including several battles both at the Sanctuary and Alexandria. Again, these events will most likely be spread out – and one of the fights in the first part of the arc was sort of remixed for the season 7 finale, actually – so you can probably expect to see only one of these battles in 8A.
My guess would be that we’ll see the Militia’s first attack on the Sanctuary, where Negan is bunkered in after being surprised by the Hilltop and Kingdom’s forces at Alexandria – much like in the season 7 finale. In the comics, Rick’s plan is not to go head to head with the Saviors at the Sanctuary but to lure a large walker horde to the enemy base in order to cut off Negan’s main force from the smaller Savior outposts. The Militia’s plan is then to take the outposts, chipping away at the Saviors’ numbers.
It’s a plan that works for the most part except that a character named Holly dies after being captured by Negan. Much of Holly’s final storyline plays out like Sasha’s. Negan offers a zombified Holly back to the settlement as a peace offering. Holly, who has a bag over her head as she walks into Alexandria, bites Denise (yes, the doctor who died in season 6 of the show) and all hell breaks loose in the settlement, as the Saviors begin to lodge grenades over the settlement’s walls. This actually inspired a bit of the battle in the season 7 finale, except zombie Sasha caught Negan by surprise when he opened the coffin.
Moving up this second confrontation to season 7 means that the writers are free to add a lot of build-up to the first battle at the Sanctuary. For example, I fully expect that we’ll see a version of the attacks on the individual outposts BEFORE the bigger attack on the Savior base.
In those smaller confrontations – which would be a fun, action-packed way to open season 8 – Rick and Ezekiel split into two groups to take out two outposts. While Rick’s team succeeds in taking out all of the Saviors at their outpost, Ezekiel’s force is ambushed and many are killed, including Shiva, who sacrifices herself in order to save the King from a walker horde. The loss of his men and loyal pet seriously shakes up Ezekiel’s confidence in his own leadership, which could be a major setback for his TV counterpart as well. It’s likely that we’ll see the Militia beaten back a bit in the early part of the season, especially since Negan has overwhelming numbers at his disposal, and the midseason finale will inevitably be when the tide turns in the good guys’ favor.
There are still plenty of threads left over from season 7 that will undoubtedly fill in the blanks in season 8. Character-focused storylines will still make up the bulk of the season, even though it’s adapting a largely action-oriented arc. This doesn’t account for any original storylines the show might throw at us. Will we get our first glimpse of the Whisperers, for example? (That’s probably not going to happen, considering how many factions already exist in this universe, but this fan-favorite zombie cult could eventually make its way to the show in the latter half of the season.)
Gregory is perhaps season 7’s most glaring cliffhanger. It’s pretty clear to me that Gregory will not join the Militia’s cause on the show, instead choosing to side with Negan in order to save his own life at the expense of his people. In the comics, Gregory makes a surprise appearance at the Sanctuary during the Militia’s attack, and he declares that the Hilltop will side with the Saviors. While several Hilltoppers switch sides at Gregory’s behest, Paul “Jesus” Monroe remains at Rick’s side.
Fortunately for the Militia, the Hilltop doesn’t make up the bulk of their fighting force in the comics, something Gregory led Negan to believe when they struck a deal to work together against Rick et al. Negan literally kicks Gregory out of the Sanctuary during the battle, and the cowardly leader is forced to make his way back to the Hilltop where he’s welcomed by Maggie’s fists. Yes, it’s safe to assume that Maggie will take full control of the Hilltop by the end of season 8.
As for Gregory, it can be assumed that the cowardly villain will follow a similar trajectory to his comic book counterpart, especially since he was headed to meet with Simon in the penultimate episode of season 7. While we didn’t catch up with him in the finale, I think we’ll probably see what Gregory’s up to at some point in 8A. I have a feeling that things won’t fare well for him.
The writers have taken a few liberties with Eugene’s storyline in “All Out War,” especially when it comes to the character’s allegiance. While he’s also captured by the Saviors in the comic book, Eugene shows a bit more resilience on the page, refusing to make ammo for Negan and eventually escaping the Sanctuary. The show has played this storyline a bit differently, making Eugene a fully pledged Negan follower by the end of season 7. While Eugene hasn’t done anything truly questionable under Negan, it’s clear that the coward has shifted his allegiance just enough to warrant Rosita trying to blow him up.
Of course, it’s not too late for the man with the iron mullet. He does show that he still cares about his friends when he helps Sasha commit suicide instead of letting her suffer under Negan’s rule. Eugene could yet redeem himself by continuing to be a saboteur inside the Sanctuary.
In the comic, Eugene is helped in his escape from the Sanctuary by other Saviors, something that could potentially repeat itself on the show. My guess would be that Dwight will eventually help Eugene escape, although this particular storyline has a lot of potential to play out very differently.
Oceanside was one of season 7’s bigger surprises, primarily because the settlement has never actually been explored in the comic. While it does exist and is mentioned several times in Kirkman’s original work, the show has fleshed out this particular settlement far beyond the writer’s original intent.
This settlement by the sea is unique in its own right, being made up of women and ruled by women. It’s a very welcome counterpart to the Saviors’ much more patriarchal society. Oceanside is also a great addition to the already impressive cast of female characters on the show. It’ll be interesting to see if they actually join the fight in season 8.
The last time the show visited Oceanside, it was for a very tense meeting with Alexandria. Ambushed by Rick and his group, the women of Oceanside were rounded up and forced to give up their guns. Some members of the group, such as young Cyndie, felt that Alexandria’s cause was just, though, and willingly gave up their weapons and even considered joining the fight. In time Oceanside may finally agree to join the Militia. After all, Oceanside has a very big bone to pick with Negan.
Speaking of new settlements, Jadis and her garbage people are perhaps the standout new group of the series. Straight out of a Mad Max film, Jadis’ group is something of an enigma. We’ve not spent too much time learning about their past – which honestly might be the reason why they work so well, although a flashback episode in season 8 would certainly be justified.
After the twist in the season 7 finale, the garbage people have been established as villains, and it remains to be seen how their relationship with the Saviors might evolve – or if the alliance is only temporary. I’d certainly like to see much more of this group and learn more about how they work and why they live in a junkyard.
While Jadis actress Pollyanna McIntosh revealed on Talking Dead (via Bustle) that the group’s name is the Scavengers, the garbage people don’t really have any relation to the Scavengers from the comics. (The Wolves filled in for the comic book Scavengers in season 6 – this all gets a little confusing!) In fact, some fans have theorized that the garbage people might actually be the precursor to the Whisperers. As Jadis mentioned in her introduction, her people are good at adapting, which means that whatever happens in season 8 could turn Jadis’ group into a full blown killer zombie cult. Again, it’s a theory.
Dwight remains one of the most polarizing characters on the show, and now there’s the question of where his allegiance truly lies. By the end of season 7, he’s working as a double agent for the Militia. Although he must side with Negan in public, Dwight is secretly feeding Rick and his people information about the Saviors’ plans.
We last see Dwight with Negan, Simon, and Eugene, as they prepare to go to war. Dwight and Simon remain Negan’s most important lieutenants, and Dwight will have to figure out how to exploit that next season. There’s also the possibility that Dwight is actually playing Rick et al at the behest of Negan, who loves to play mind games with his enemies. It could be that Dwight has faked his defection in order to get more info on the Militia’s plans. As far as the comics go, Dwight does indeed turn against Negan and helps the heroes during the war. Negan has pushed Dwight to the limit and now he wants revenge.
One thing left hanging for Dwight is the whereabouts of Sherry. This could be something season 8 will explore further. Sherry is the reason Dwight decides to turn on Negan, so bringing her back might add a bit more tension between the two, especially if Dwight has to help her hide from the Saviors.
Speaking of Negan…
While the villain is far from meeting his maker by the end of season 7, many fans are wondering what might await the character next season. Assuming all of “All Out War” plays out in season 8 – I have my doubts – there could be some major cold-blooded retribution awaiting the SOB. It’s really a question of how close the writers want to stick to the comics in terms of the aftermath to the war.
In the comic, Negan is eventually defeated and taken prisoner, sentenced to life in an Alexandria jail cell. While this certainly works well in the book, it might be a little tricky when it comes to the show. Keeping Jeffrey Dean Morgan locked in a cell for whole seasons might not be the best use of the actor’s time, unless he only makes guest appearances every few episodes.
It doesn’t help that the reception to the live-action version of Negan has been a bit mixed. JDM is very charismatic and plays the character pretty close to the source material, yet there have been issues with how the villain translates to TV, seeming cartoonish at times – at points almost a parody of the comic book character. More than once, the villain was cited as one of season 7’s biggest flaws. The show could perhaps rid itself of a bit of baggage by killing Negan. It would certainly take hardcore fans of the comic by surprise.
So if you’re wondering if the show will eventually kill off Negan, I’d say its very up in the air at this point, although given showrunner Scott M. Gimple’s penchant for sticking pretty close to the source material, I’d say we may still have quite a bit of time left with Negan – perhaps well beyond season 8.