This Walking Dead article contains MAJOR SPOILERS for both the show and the comics.
While we don’t deal in leaks at Den of Geek, we have made it our tradition for the past few years to speculate on where the new season of The Walking Dead might go based on all of the reading material it’s based on. Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard’s long-running comic is the foundation for the show, and showrunner Scott Gimple has pretty consistently followed many of the storylines from the original pages – with a bit of remixing of events here and there.
So where might the first half of The Walking Dead season seven go based on what we know from the comics? First, we need to break down what story arcs will probably be covered. If I were a betting man, I’d say Negan will terrorize his way through the following arcs: “Something to Fear” (#97-102), “What Comes After” (#103-108), and “March to War” (#109-114).
In fact, season six explored much of the events in the first half of “Something to Fear,” which is the arc that introduced Negan in the comics. The villain made his first appearance in the big anniversary issue #100. That issue is where the season six finale left off and where we pick up the story in the season seven premiere, which is titled “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be.” Fun fact: that title actually refers to something Dr. Jenner from season one said to Rick after he thanked him for letting the group escape the CDC before it exploded. There’s no doubt that Jenner’s prophetic words have finally come to pass for Rick and the remaining survivors of that initial group.
Anyway, first thing’s first – and we’re really getting into the BIG SPOILERS now – who does Negan kill in issue #100? After the picture of our spoiler walker, it’s the point of no return…
Negan left his mark on The Walking Dead universe by making beloved husband and father Glenn his first victim. In what’s still undoubtedly the most gruesome scene in the entire comic book series – I imagine it’ll be just as fucked up on the show – Negan bashes Glenn’s head in with Lucille until his head is mush and his eyeballs pop out. Oh, that’s not good enough a description for you? Here’s Charlie Adlard’s panel-by-panel murder of Glenn:
Glenn’s last word is “Maggie,” which he manages to call out several times in increasingly garbled speech before he’s nothing but brains scattered on the ground. Like in the season six finale, Maggie is present in that line-up of would-be goners when Glenn eats it in the comics. Ouch.
Rick’s words to Negan immediately after the execution mirror the final panels of issue #100. Check this frame by frame comparison, courtesy of TheWalkingDead.com:
The sneak peek made the direct aftermath of the execution a bit foggy to predict, especially since it teased a big moment from much earlier in the comics. All of Negan’s taunting about “right hand men” and Rick’s hatchet was a callback to issue #28, in which the Governor (remember him?) cuts off Rick’s right hand.
Of course, it’s not the first time the amputation has been teased on the show. Last season, there were rumors that Rick’s hand would be cut off after it was injured in “Thank You,” but Gimple shut that theory down in an interview with THR. Even as early as 2011, Kirkman told reporters at SDCC that he didn’t think Rick’s hand should suffer the same fate on the show: “One thing I’m adamant about is I don’t think that we should cut Rick’s hand off [on television].” Their hesitance in the past could be a sign that Rick is safe from ever suffering the amputation. The Walking Dead has never been shy of teasing big moments from the comics that don’t come to pass – such as Judith’s death during the second Prison attack.
“Something to Fear” doesn’t end with Glenn’s execution. The rest of the arc has the remaining members of Rick’s group arriving at the Hilltop, where they bury Glenn. Maggie stays behind to have the baby at the colony, which she thinks will be a safer place to raise her baby. This all echoes Maggie and Glenn’s sentiments at the end of season six. Maggie’s worsening condition during the pregnancy really fast tracks the character’s departure from Alexandria and makes it so that they have to leave the walls in such a hurry, only to get ambushed by the Saviors.
The other storyline in the comics is the Saviors’ attack on Alexandria, which the group repels while Rick and the others are busy getting owned by Negan on the road. The battle leaves several Saviors dead and also leads to the capture of Dwight. While many of the Alexandrians ask for Dwight’s blood after Glenn’s death, Rick is clearly shaken from the events of the past few days and lets Negan’s lieutenant go so as to not piss off the big man with the bat, although he tells Jesus to tail Dwight in order to get as much information on the Saviors as he can. Rick wants Negan to think Alexandria is scared so that they can strike when he least expects it.
This second bit of story seems unlikely to happen the same way on the show, and could be subject to some remixing from Gimple and the writers. It could, for example, be mixed in with the events at the end of “March to War,” which we’ll get to in a moment. While it makes sense that the Saviors would try to take Alexandria while its best fighters are away – leaving Father Gabriel in charge of defenses seems really ill-advised – I don’t think the show will necessarily push a big battle scene before the midseason finale. There’s a lot to explore character-wise in the aftermath of Negan’s introduction – such as how Rick is going to cope with being someone else’s bitch and Maggie dealing with Glenn’s death – that The Walking Dead will almost certainly slow things down and focus in on the individual character stories before things erupt.
What Comes After
The next two arcs, “What Comes After” and “March to War,” will make up the meat of the first half of season seven. There are three major things that happen in “What Comes After” that we might see a version of on the show: Negan’s first visit to Alexandria to collect half of the settlement’s supplies, Carl’s adventure to the Sanctuary (the Saviors’ base), and the introduction of Ezekiel and the Kingdom. All of these events are notably quieter in terms of action. It’ll be interesting to see how the writers inject action into the episodes. Certainly there will be the usual amount of walker killing, and there’s also that Tara/Heath supply run storyline that was teased in the season seven trailer (this is probably the episode where they’ll kill off Corey Hawkins’ Heath, since the actor is now the star of 24: Legacy).
Negan’s first visit to Alexandria is relatively uneventful in the comics, besides some crude jokes about Olivia and Negan making Rick hold Lucille while the villain takes half of his settlement’s shit. That said, this “supply run” allows for Carl to sneak into one of the Saviors’ vehicles in order to travel back to the Sanctuary and kill Negan.
I’ll be very interested to see how Carl and Negan’s time together plays out on the show. For one thing, Carl is a lot younger in the comics at this point than he is in the TV series. Chandler Riggs is still playing a teenager in season seven, and he’s certainly not as naive at this point as his comic book counterpart – who isn’t quite sure what “fucking” means.
We do know from the season seven trailer that we’ll get to visit the Sanctuary in the first eight episodes, and Carl’s storyline in this arc might be the means of getting us there. The Sanctuary is the Saviors’ home base – a large factory surrounded by a chain link fence and a wall of walkers ready to chomp on intruders. It’s an intimidating palace for the cruelest of dictators.
During Carl’s time at the Sanctuary, we learn how the Saviors function as a society. The Saviors operate like a cult (“We’re all Negan,” etc.), bowing when Negan enters a room and listening to his every command. There’s even a class system – those closest to Negan and the rest of the survivors living in the Sanctuary – and a currency called “points” for those in the lower class. One way for a woman to become a higher ranking member of the Sanctuary is to become one of Negan’s “wives,” women only he can touch. When someone breaks that rule during Carl’s visit, Negan takes a searing iron and burns one side of his face, permanently disfiguring him. It’s a mark of shame at the Sanctuary. One of Negan’s lieutenants, Dwight, has such a mark for being with his ex-girlfriend Sherry after she became one of Negan’s wives. I’m sure we’ll learn more about that story in season seven, too.
Negan has set many other rules at the settlement, rules the Saviors believe keep them alive. They follow him blindly out of both fear and because, for all intents and purposes, he does keep them alive by stealing from all of the other settlements. There’s no reason not to follow him, right?
In the comic, Carl manages to kill several Saviors when he arrives to the Sanctuary stowed away in a truck before he’s finally captured by Dwight. Carl demands to see Negan, who immediately takes a liking to him. In fact, Carl’s relationship with Negan is a very special one. If done right on the show, Negan and Carl’s scenes together could add a whole new level of complexity to these characters.
For one thing, you could even say that Negan is “nice” to Carl after the boy is captured. Of course, all that means is that Negan doesn’t kill the kid or mutilate him. Instead, the villain shows him around the Sanctuary, and even sits down to get to know him a bit better. These scenes are a real mindfuck, and very tense. You’re not quite sure how Negan’s going to punish Carl for killing his men. At one point, Negan makes Carl sing for him while the villain swings Lucille very close to the boy’s head. And there’s a scene where he makes Carl take off his eyepatch and comments on how disgusting the wound looks. But when he makes Carl cry, Negan actually apologizes:
In the end, Negan allows Carl to go back to Alexandria unharmed. It’s not the last time these two will talk, though. They develop a weird father/son relationship in the comic, where Negan seems genuinely interested in the boy, who represents the son he never had, and Carl still wants to kill Negan but can talk to him about things he wouldn’t go to Rick about.
Again, Carl is a bit older on the show. This dynamic might not work as well since Carl is not quite at an impressionable age anymore. Still, it should make for some really great scenes for both of the characters. Especially Carl, who really doesn’t get his fair share of memorable moments – beyond getting shot, of course.
Ezekiel & the Kingdom
Negan and the Saviors aren’t the only new additions to The Walking Dead this season. Season seven will also introduce King Ezekiel (Khary Payton), the leader of a settlement known as the Kingdom, and his pet tiger Shiva. We’ve already seen some glimpses of Ezekiel and Shiva in the official trailer. Shiva, who was created for the show through a mix of CGI and animatronics, looks especially cool.
Before he became a postapocalyptic leader of man, Ezekiel was a zookeeper. His exact origin isn’t known beyond the fact that he grew up without much support from his parents. The closest thing he has to a family by the time he’s introduced is Shiva, whom he’s known since she was born. Ezekiel is somewhat vain, declaring himself king of his people, whom he calls “subjects.” He’s also a bit of a showman – not unlike Negan – and even has a throne to sit on.
But for all the pomp, Ezekiel is a relatively nice dude, and a wise advisor to Rick and Jesus. Kirkman even suggested in the letters section of #113 that the character could be the smartest person in the comic book series. Ezekiel’s demeanor is sort of for show. He knows that pompous leaders sitting on their thrones while the rest do the work usually die in this world. Which is why he has a ferocious tiger, of course. But even when he’s not with Shiva, Ezekiel has a bit of a surprise in store for assailants. Like Michonne, Ezekiel carries one of the iconic weapons of the series: a shikomizue, which is a sword fashioned as a cane or walking stick. Using the veil of his age, Ezekiel is able to cut attackers down when they get to close.
The Kingdom is as impressive as its leader. The settlement is made up of what was formerly a school building surrounded by a wall of buses and sheets of metal. During the winter, the Kingdomites live inside the school building, and in the summer they set up tents and have a sprawling community outside of the main building. The soldiers that protect the settlement dress like knights, donning heavy armor and carrying spears. They even ride on horseback. This is absolutely the most unique of the four settlements you’ll see in season seven
The Kingdom is first introduced in issue #108 – the very last of “What Comes After.” Jesus takes Rick to see Ezekiel in order to recruit him and his settlement for the impending war against Negan. After some time under Negan’s rule, Rick has decided that it’s time to strike after Carl learns the location of the Sanctuary. Jesus agrees, although the Hilltop’s leader, Gregory, is much more hesitant. (We’ll probably see some conflict between these two character this season.) Regardless, Ezekiel is on board to join forces with Alexandria and the Hilltop to take down the Saviors. Dwight, Negan’s disfigured lieutrnant who has a bit of a rivalry with Daryl on the show at the moment, shows up at the last minute and promises to help them take down the big guy, too. The game is afoot!
Now, this is by far the most difficult storyline to predict, since we already know its Carol and Morgan who first meet Ezekiel on the show. At the end of season six, two of the Kingdom’s soldiers arrive to save Carol after she’s wounded in the fight with the Savior. The soldiers decide to escort them back to their settlement to give Carol medical attention. We know Carol will make her recovery at the Kingdom, and there are even glimpses of Morgan pushing her in a wheelchair in the official trailer.
The writers will introduce the character very differently than in the comics then, which means we’ll probably get an original story from the show, one that will probably see Carol and Morgan become more integrated at the Kingdom, which could become their new home. They’re not aware of what Negan’s done to Alexandria, which means that there’s no reason for them to recruit Ezekiel to their side. For all intents and purposes, Carol and Morgan aren’t part of the war at all, more bound to each other at this point than Alexandria.
It could also all just end up being a coincidence where Rick and Jesus show up at the Kingdom to recruit Ezekiel and run into Carol and Morgan. Or perhaps Rick goes out looking for Morgan after he doesn’t return to Alexandria and tracks him down at the Kingdom. That might be the way in.
March to War
The show will probably get most of “March to War” out of the way during the midseason finale. This arc is the final straw between Rick and Negan that sparks the war between the Saviors and everybody else.
After Ezekiel agrees to join Alexandria and the Hilltop in their war against the Saviors, the three leaders begin to plan their attack at the Kingdom. The plan is to take out the individual Savior outposts before moving in on the Sanctuary. An attack on one of those outposts might be a good way to kick off the midseason finale…
Meanwhile, Negan and his boys arrive to Alexandria for their next supply pick-up earlier than expected. Olivia informs him that their aren’t enough supplies for the Saviors yet, so Negan decides to spend the night in the Safe-Zone and wait for Rick to get back from the Kingdom. In the meantime, Spencer tries to make a deal with Negan to replace Rick as the leader of Alexandria. Throughout “What’s Come Before” and “March to War,” Spencer becomes more dissatisfied with Rick’s leadership, especially after he bows down to Negan and fails to keep Alexandria safe. Spencer asks Negan to kill Rick and place him as Alexandria’s leader in exchange for complete cooperation with the Saviors.
One thing Spencer definitely doesn’t understand about Negan is that he values strength, even in his enemies. It’s one of the reasons Negan doesn’t just kill Rick right off the bat and replace him with a puppet leader. When Spencer goes behind Rick’s back, Negan sees this as weak and cowardly. So Negan does what anyone would do: he guts Spencer…
We haven’t seen much dissent from Spencer on the show, beyond being present when Carter tried to overthrow Rick in last season’s “First Time Again” and stealing food from the Alexandria pantry during the first half of season six. The writers have mostly been busy setting him up as a potential love interest for Rosita. That could all change once Spencer finds out what Negan’s done to Alexandria, of course. Spencer is his mother’s son, even if he hasn’t quite been a leader in the same way Deanna was, so he might end up showing some ill-advised cowardly ambition by the midseason finale.
One thing to note is that “What Comes Before” and “March to War” are surprisingly low on major deaths. They’re really the deep breath between “Something to Fear” and “All Out War.” I imagine it will be the same situation on the show, which tends to keep big deaths to season premieres and finales anyway.
Besides whoever Negan kills in the season seven premiere, Spencer will probably be the other major character death. And again, I’m guessing Heath will also die during that supply run episode with Tara.
The rest of “March to War” is about the first big confrontation between Negan’s forces and the coalition of settlements. When Rick arrives to find Spencer dead, all hell breaks loose. Rick and Negan make nice while the Saviors are loading up Alexandria’s supplies, but as soon as the bad guys are beyond the gates, Rick’s group ambushes them. They almost manage to kill Negan until more Saviors show up from beyond cover. Negan apparently keeps a unit of snipers with him everywhere he goes. Just in case.
Now, with the tables turned, Negan has Rick and the group lined up on their knees once more for another game of “Meet Lucille” when out of nowhere Carl shoots Negan’s prized bat and cracks it. This sends Negan over the edge, who demands that the Alexandrians still inside the gates throw Carl over the wall. So much for their friendship.
Right as Negan is about to execute Rick and his group, the Hilltop and Kingdom forces show up and the Saviors are forced to retreat. Shiva even eats some people. It’s awesome. During their escape, Negan tells his men that they’re going to war.
I can see it now, the final shot of the midseason finale: zoom in on a smiling Negan, who’s standing before his men, the men he will send to war to crush his enemies, and he says…
I really hope Jeffrey Dean Morgan gets to say these exact lines. I won’t accept anything less than erect penises taking off like helicopters.
Ehem. So that’s a map of season seven based on what we know from the comics. Again, expect the writers to come out of left field with some stuff and not entirely stick to the script. It’s vital that the show has its own identity after all. That said, there’s no doubt that many of these story beats will stay, including the death we’ve all been dreading for the past six months…
What are your theories for The Walking Dead season seven? Tell us in the comments!
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