The Walking Dead season eight returned last night with one of its most shocking midseason premieres, as fans said goodbye to another member of the cast. Without going into spoilers, it’s one of the saddest deaths on the show yet.
Before the dust’s even settled, showrunner Scott Gimple, who will soon exit the series to make way for Angela Kang, has some things to say about the season eight finale, which will air on April 15. Gimple told EW that this year’s season finale is “very big.”
“Probably currently a little too big,” Gimple said. “It was pretty amazing the scope of some of the things that we got to do. And yet the emotional intensity was insane. And it very much sets up the start of the next story.”
Gimple has said in the past that season eight will bring a definitive end to the conflict between Rick and Negan. If that’s still the case, then it’s not too surprising that we’re in for an explosive finale in April. What happens after that…well, Gimple is being a bit more coy about that.
In the comics, there is a five-year time jump after Negan and the Saviors are defeated. The show seemed to tease this exact time jump with the flash-fowards scenes in the season eight premiere. We got a few more clues about this glimpse into a possible future timeline in the midseason premiere, but not enough to definitively say there will be a time jump.
Naturally, Gimple addressed whether there would be setup for season nine in this year’s finale.
“There is some,” Gimple said. “It certainly is not all setup. But the seeds to the next turn of the story are planted. And some of them are not. Some are subtly planted in as much that we know in many ways the next turn of the story.”
Whatever that next story may be – some fans are theorizing the Whisperers from the comics will show up next season – it won’t be exactly like the source material. After all, there are one or two characters who have died on the show but are still alive and kicking in the comics. Gimple said that the show’s storytelling is aiming to approximate the “same feeling” of Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman’s comic book, while diverging from the actual plot in certain ways.
“I think emotionally we’re aspiring to evoke the same feeling that [creator Robert Kirkman] achieved in the book,” said Gimple. “But from the butterfly effect and different characters around that weren’t and vice versa, and even just the thrust of the story, how things play out are quite different in a lot of ways. There are some big changes that change the very outcome of certain aspects of the story — still trying to be true to the emotions of the story, but changing some big parts of it. It plays out very differently.”
We’ll have to wait and see what exactly Gimple has planned for his final hurrah as showrunner. For now, we have quite a few more weeks of All Out War to enjoy.