This article comes from Den of Geek UK. It contains spoilers for the TV series and comics.
After two seasons, the all out war between Negan’s Sanctuary and Rick’s rebel alliance is finally over. With a supply of sabotaged bullets and some Molotov cocktails, the Saviors were beaten back in the season eight finale. No more fifty percent tithes, no more eeny-meeny-miny-mo with Lucille, no more irons-to-the-face… Negan’s throat was cut and his threat was neutralized (if not extinguished).
Next step? Rebuild civilization.
Before Rick can do that, he faces dissension in the ranks. Keeping Negan alive and in prison wasn’t everybody’s idea of a happy ending. All out war could well give way to civil war in season nine.
Here’s a look ahead at what else the new season might have in store…
A New Showrunner
After five seasons with Scott Gimple as head of The Walking Dead, Angela Kang has taken the reins for season nine (Gimple took over the role after the departure of Glen Mazzara, who had taken over from original showrunner Frank Darabont). Kang has been a writer on The Walking Dead since 2011 and a producer since 2012. She’s clocked up twenty-four episode writing credits between seasons two and eight, either writing or co-writing the season four, seven, and eight finales. Her promotion might be just the thing to shake up The Walking Dead and finally move things along, something fans have been crying out for.
Gimple, by the way, hasn’t left The Walking Dead, far from it. He’s been promoted to Grand Poobah of the whole deal, overseeing the entire Walking Dead universe, including Fear the Walking Dead and any other potential offshoots.
Rick Grimes: Start Everything Over?
Over the years we’ve had Deputy Rick, the Rick of the Ricktocracy, distraught prison-hallucination Rick, throat-biting Rick, fantasy old-man Rick, and more… Which incarnation will season nine introduce? Could Rick once again become a family man, starting afresh with Judith and Michonne?
Carl’s deathbed letter to his dad urged him to find a way to make peace with Negan and make people feel safe again without killing. Carl dreamed of a return to the normality of Friday night pizza and father-son walks in the countryside.
Rick instructing Siddiq to treat Negan’s wound was the first step towards achieving Carl’s peace. “My mercy prevails over my wrath,” said an exhausted, grieving Rick in the finale, paraphrasing both Siddiq’s mother and the Qur’an. Negan being kept alive and as Rick’s prisoner would serve as evidence of the new civilization Rick’s building, one in which enemies aren’t murdered, but reformed.
Can Negan Be Reformed?
Season eight opened with Carl’s rose-tinted vision of a potential future for his loved ones… a future that included a grinning, plaid-shirt-wearing, tomato-farming Negan. Filled with the joys of life and stripped of his trademark leather jacket and Lucille, Negan smiled broadly at little Judith and bid her good morning.
Is that transformation possible – can Negan be domesticated? From Tara to Gabriel, Rick’s group has welcomed in former enemies before, but nobody on the scale of the Savior leader. “You’re gonna be evidence that we’re making a civilization,” Rick told Negan in the season eight finale. “Something like what we had. Something we’re gonna get back… That’s the part you’ll play.”
Along with a deep-seated hatred, Negan has always had respect for Rick, and even more for his dead son. It’ll take more than acknowledging the worthiness of his adversary, though, for Negan to start playing nice. Dwight might have been able to put out the fires of Tara’s revenge by saving her life, but will any of them be able to forgive Negan for what he’s done?
The Widow vs. Rick
“Rick was wrong to do what he did,” Maggie said to Jesus in the season eight finale. What Rick did was order medic Siddiq to stitch up the gaping neck-wound he’d left in the leader of the Saviors courtesy of a shard of stained glass, keeping Negan prisoner rather than killing him.
Understandably (after all, Negan did bash her husband’s head in with a baseball bat), Maggie wants the former Savior leader dead. Nothing, not even Carl’s dying wish for peace between all factions, or the valuable resource Alden and the other captured Saviors have turned out to be to Hilltop, will convince her that mercy is the best option in this case. Rick had better put some trusted guards on Negan’s cell while she’s around.
“We’re gonna bide our time, wait for our moment, and then we’re going to show him,” Maggie told an assenting Jesus and Daryl. Maggie’s displeasure at Rick saving Negan’s life has sown a seed of dissension. Season nine will see that seed grow.
Georgie: A Key to a Future
Speaking of seeds, one was planted in season eight with the introduction of new character Georgie. Played by Jayne Atkinson, Georgie appears to be traveling the South in a camper van stocked with food, relying on the kindness of strangers. She’s been trading valuable world-restarting info for vinyl records (“no spoken word”) and sussing out the survivor communities along the way.
In Maggie’s Hilltop community, Georgie thinks she’s found something special. From it, she tells Maggie after voluntarily donating half of her food supplies to Hilltop, she expects “great things.” Armed with Georgie’s book of blueprints for building windmills, aqueducts, and other early civilization inventions, Maggie just might be able to deliver. The question remains, after everything that’s happened – can people believe in people again?
Anne and the Helicopter
The Scavenger experiment is over. Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh) and the Scavengers were an entirely fresh invention of Gimple’s with no basis in Robert Kirkman’s comic books. It makes sense then, for them to have been wiped out in time for his departure, and for Jadis’ character to have been given a new beginning for season nine. Jadis’ real name, we learn in the finale, is Anne. She no longer dresses like the bassist in a ’90s industrial band from Berlin, and even uses the full complement of conjunctions, articles, and adverbs. She’s off to join Rick’s community, leaving Morgan in her former digs at the dump.
What, though, is Anne’s backstory, and what does she have to do with the helicopter spotted earlier in season eight? She was ready and waiting with a flare and walkie-talkie to flag down said chopper before a captive Negan interfered with her plans. She was also seen drinking from a tin of applesauce bearing the same interlinked rings logo as spotted on said helicopter. Season nine will have to explain all.
Actor Lennie James’ move from the cast of The Walking Dead to that of Fear the Walking Dead has been well-publicized. Now part of the spin-off prequel, James’ character Morgan Jones shouldn’t be expected back in the parent show for the time being. (In the season four premiere, three characters tried to persuade him to return to Rick’s group, but he refused.) After suffering another breakdown following the death of the Kingdom’s Benjamin, Morgan has given his armor to little Henry and is trying to go it alone. Will he ever be back?
Dwight and Sherry’s Reunion
Where did Dwight and Sherry go on honeymoon? That might be a clue to the location of Dwight’s Sanctuary-escapee wife. The season finale saw Dwight freed by Daryl and told to go in search of Sherry. At their former home, he discovered a note from her with the word “honeymoon” and the infinity symbol. If season nine picks up Dwight’s story, we might expect one of The Walking Dead‘s regular full-episode diversions to tell the story of how these two find each other again and where Sherry’s been all this time.
When the season eight finale showed an enormous herd of Walkers in the distance, and a number of evenly spaced poles on the hillside where the final battle with the Saviors took place, readers of Kirkman’s comics pricked up their ears. Could that herd and those poles be introducing a new group of villains known as the Whisperers?
The Whisperers, led by a brutal leader named Alpha, literally wear the skins of the undead and live among them, not raising their voices above a whisper. They survive by blending in with, rather than killing, the dead. That’s not to say they don’t kill at all. This is where the poles come in – they’re boundary markers on which the heads of enemies are placed as a warning not to enter.
The Walking Dead TV show established in season eight how ingesting undead blood and guts can prove dangerous and often fatal to the living, so the skin idea seems imprudent to say the least. Guts-drenched clothing, however?
The cowardice of Eugene Porter was the cause of heartbreak in season seven and anger throughout most of season eight. How could he sell his friends out for an Atari, a gremblygunk, and a jar of pickles? Then it happened: Eugene’s redemption. His deliberate act of sabotage on the Saviors’ bullets, inspired by Gabriel and Rosita, scuppered Negan’s battle plans and saved Rick’s people. If Negan’s allowed to live, then Eugene certainly must too. But where does he fit in now? With the surviving Saviors, or back with his original crew?
Let’s Do the Time Jump Again
In Kirkman’s comics, there’s a two year time jump after the war with the Saviors, the longest in the entire series. Will season nine follow suit? They’ve already cast an older actress to play Judith (for Carl’s utopian fantasy), so that’s one job done. The time-jump would also make the much-discussed matter of Maggie’s pregnancy moot, as Lauren Cohan could simply look the same with a baby on her hip instead of a pillow stuffed up her jumper.
The Walking Dead season 9 is expected to air in October 2018.