Note: Major spoilers ahead if you haven’t yet watched the December 10 midseason finale.
The Walking Dead season 8 premiered October 22, 2017, and picked up on the brink of all-out war between several united groups of survivors — with Rick (Andrew Lincoln) leading one faction and Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) leading the brutal army of “Saviors.” Joining Lincoln and Morgan in season 8 are returning cast members Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon, Lauren Cohan as Maggie Rhee, Chandler Riggs as Carl Grimes, Danai Gurira as Michonne, Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier, Lennie James as Morgan Jones, Alanna Masterson as Tara Chambler, Josh McDermitt as Eugene Porter, and Christian Serratos as Rosita Espinosa. The midseason finale aired on December 10, 2017.
One cast member won’t be returning
As one of the original cast members, Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs), son of Rick Grimes, reached his (almost) end. The episode ended with Carl revealing a walker bite on his torso, suggesting imminent death. Carl will return for the back-half premiere episode on February 25, 2018. But it’s inevitable that it will be his last appearance on the series. The plotline has sparked outrage from fans, who have called for the firing of showrunner Scott M. Gimple, even creating Twitter hashtags #FireGimple and #FireScottGimple in protest.
Riggs, just shy of turning 18, has spent almost half his life on the show. And while rumors abounded late last year that Riggs was looking to end his time on the show to attend college, Riggs suggested to Entertainment Weekly that he was shocked at the decision, and had been looking forward to playing out the character based on events that occurred in the comics, where Carl remains very much alive. Chandler Riggs’ father, William Riggs, who was behind the initial rumors about his son wanting out following an oddly worded Instagram post last November, also reportedly posted then deleted a Facebook comment that expressed his upset at the decision, and mistrust of Gimple and AMC. Gimple, for his part, has said the decision was made as a way to justify why Rick might not immediately kill Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) upon his likely eventual capture — to carry on the wishes of his son. We’ll have to wait until February to see how it all plays out.
‘How It’s Gotta Be’
Following episode seven, “Time For After,” AMC officially dropped the trailer for episode eight — “How It’s Gotta Be” — which will act as the midseason finale. The 30-second trailer (see it below) teases an epic confrontation wherein Rick, now aligned with Jadis against Negan, must simultaneously deal with the nefarious Saviors and with the Daryl-led team of rogues. It looks like the Saviors might attack Alexandria, so prepare yourselves for an all-out war in episode eight.
Just a day after the season premiere, AMC released a preview of what’s to come in future episodes — beginning with a shot of Rick and Daryl heading off in opposite directions on a lonely forest road.
The sneak peek at season 8 also features a stirring speech by Ezekiel (Khary Payton) and various scenes of Rick and his allies preparing for their battle against Negan.
A premiere sneak peek
And when we were mere days before the season premiere, AMC released a clip from the upcoming episode that kicks off the “all-out war” looming for the show’s cast of characters.
The clip features Morgan (Lennie James), Carol (Melissa McBride), and Daryl (Norman Reedus) preparing for the battle ahead, with the latter two characters agreeing that whatever happens, it might not be “fine,” but it will be better than the way things are now for them and their fellow survivors.
New York Comic Con brings new footage
A few weeks before the season 8 premiere, AMC made sure to give The Walking Dead a big presence at 2017’s New York Comic Con. Along with a panel for the series stacked with popular cast members, the network also brought along some sneak peeks at the upcoming season. Fortunately for everyone who couldn’t make it to Manhattan, AMC also released the new teaser trailer and clip from season 8 online.
Titled We’ve Already Won, the teaser released ahead of the show’s NYCC panel features Rick giving a speech to inspire the group he’s leading into battle.
The clip from the upcoming season that was released during the panel features Carl investigating a mysterious voice he hears while scavenging for supplies at a gas station.
Those familiar faces
Among the other cast members returning for season 8 of The Walking Dead are Seth Gilliam as the priest Gabriel Stokes, Ross Marquand as Aaron, Austin Amelio as Dwight, Tom Payne as fan-favorite scout Paul “Jesus” Rovia (pictured below), Xander Berkeley as former Hilltop Colony leader Gregory, Katelyn Nacon as Enid, Steven Ogg as the smiling psychopath Simon, Khary Payton as Kingdom leader Ezekiel, and Pollyanna McIntosh as Scavengers leader Jadis.
After appearing intermittently throughout season 7 of the series, the trio of Nacon, Ogg, and McIntosh were all promoted to regular roles for the eighth season.
Calm before the storm
In a clip from season 8 released by AMC in September 2017, Rick and the leaders of the groups about to take the war to Negan’s doorstep confer about the impending battle.
Along with offering a glimpse of what’s to come, the clip also hints at Rick’s willingness to let longtime traveling companion Maggie — who’s in the early stages of pregnancy — take the lead once the war is over. Could a change in the status quo be in the works in season 8? Only time will tell.
Introducing … Old Man Rick?
AMC generated quite a stir during its annual panel for The Walking Dead at Comic-Con International in San Diego by releasing the first trailer for season 8, but it was more than just the usual preview of things to come that got fans talking.
The trailer begins with some choice words from Negan that offer some helpful advice for both the unfortunate characters he encounters in the show and audiences headed into the show’s new season. The sneak peek ends with an ominous scene featuring the face of a bearded, gray-haired Rick as he seemingly wakes up from a deep sleep.
This “Old Man Rick” scene prompted all sorts of speculation, with some suggesting that it could be Rick waking up from the coma he’s been in since the show began — meaning that everything that’s happened has been a dream. That seems unlikely, though, and other fans insist that the scene is a reference to the story arc “A New Beginning” from Kirkman’s comic that unfolds several years after the war with Negan ended and the various settlements established a peaceful co-existence.
One thing seems certain: The mystery of the cryptic scene probably won’t be solved until season 8 kicks off.
Story and tempo
It’s clear from all of the branding on the upcoming season that the series will draw heavily from Kirkman’s “All Out War” story line, which chronicled the battle between Negan’s forces and the groups led by Rick and the other communities’ leaders allied against Negan’s army.
The official synopsis for the season reads as follows:
Last year, Rick Grimes and his group of survivors were confronted with their deadliest challenge yet. With the comfort of Alexandria, they let their guard down, only to be reminded how brutal the world they live in can be. The introduction of Negan and the Saviors broke our group.
Feeling powerless under Negan’s rules and demands, Rick advocated the group play along. But seeing that Negan couldn’t be reasoned with, Rick began rallying together other communities affected by the Saviors. And with the support of the Hilltop and Kingdom, they finally have enough firepower to contest the Saviors.
This year, Rick brings “All Out War” to Negan and his forces. The Saviors are larger, better-equipped, and ruthless — but Rick and the unified communities are fighting for the promise of a brighter future. The battle lines are drawn as they launch into a kinetic, action-packed offensive.
Up until now, survival has been the focus of Rick and our group, but it’s not enough. They have to fight to take back their freedom so that they can live. So that they can rebuild. As with any battle, there will be losses. Casualties. But with Rick leading the Alexandrian forces, Maggie leading the Hilltop, and King Ezekiel leading the Kingdom — Negan and the Saviors’ grip on this world may finally be coming to an end.
Showrunner Scott M. Gimple also indicated (to Entertainment Weekly) that the eighth season will be a faster-moving, more action-oriented narrative as the main characters align themselves on one side or the other and their conflict shifts into high gear.
“It’s going to affect the structure in ways that make it a bit more kinetic, a bit more breakneck — shifting away from entire stories in one episode, and sort of fractured over several episodes, with little pieces of each story coming together,” he explained. “Things are going to move, and possibly not have the kind of deep dives into characters in single episodes, but rather laying out the pieces as we go on.”
Strangers that become friends (or enemies)
According to TV Line, two new characters will join the series in the eighth season.
Although casting has yet to be announced for either of the roles, the character descriptions offer a clue as to what sort of actors might fill the roles. The first character is named “Abbud,” and is a Muslim-American who has “spent a lot of time alone since the outbreak,” and his “nerves are jangled.”
The other character is named “Dillon,” and is described as “a sexy, blue-collar 20-something whose survival skills include sarcasm.”
A milestone premiere
The premiere episode of season 8 will also be the show’s 100th episode, and The Walking Dead has a history of shaking things up in its season premiere and finale episodes, so it stands to reason that the first episode of the new 16-episode season is going to be a big one.
Fan-favorite director Greg Nicotero (pictured above) — who began as the show’s makeup effects supervisor and eventually became an executive producer on the series — will direct the season 8 premiere. He has directed 20 episodes of the show so far, including some of the most recent season premieres and finales. The premiere episode is titled “Mercy” and its synopsis reads as follows: “Rick and his group, along with the Kingdom and Hilltop, have banded together to bring the fight to Negan and the Saviors.”
Update: We added a trailer for s8e8, the midseason finale.
Update (December 13, 2017): added details about the midseason finale, including Carl’s bite and the following fan backlash.
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