There are three months to go before The Walking Dead returns to AMC for its ninth season, but that's not too early for the show's cast and crew to converge at Comic-Con International in San Diego's Hall H for a panel highlighting what to expect when the show returns in October of this year. Alongside executive producers Angela Kang, Scott M. Gimple, Robert Kirkman, Gale Anne Hurd, David Alpert and Greg Nicotero, stars Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus, Lauren Cohan, Danai Gurira and Jeffrey Dean Morgan were on hand to offer fans a few teases about Season 9. CBR is there live, so keep hitting refresh for the latest details.
The Season 9 premiere will be Sunday October 7th. The panel opened with the first look at Season 9's trailer:
It opens with Rick visiting Negan in a makeshift dungeon -- spoiler alert, they still hate each other. The time jump is confirmed by the look we get of Maggie and Glenn's baby who's probably about a year old. The communities are all looking far more sophisticated, developed and idyllic. We get shots of Rick and Michonne riding horses and fighting walkers and in general being #couplegoals. Rick has fully welcomed the Sanctuary into the fold and actively helps them rebuild. A team winds up exploring D.C. to forage tools and supplies like covered wagons now that they're back to 19th century living, and one of the new communities (Toledo) appears to cause serious problems and be the new nemesis. Jadis has fully integrated into some society and looks pretty happy. There is underlying strife between Rick, Maggie and Darryl that looks very serious -- not surprising considering Maggie's promise to kill Negan when she gets the first chance. Eugene and a partially blind Gabriel appear, as well as Carol who's questioning her position in peacetime.
And finally, after the final title card rolled, we got a shot of two people sliding down a riverbank and covering themselves with mud to hide from a train of walkers. As the walkers pass, one of them whispers "Where... are... they?" So, you know, take that as you will.
The first order of business for Andrew Lincoln was to confirm his departure:
I did a zombie poll two week sago, do I confirm or do I deny. This will be my last season playing the part of Rick Grimes. I love this show, it means everything to me. I love the people who make this show. I'm particularly fond of the people who watch the show. You people. This has been the most extraordinary, amazing and beautiful experience of my career made largely by you guys (the audience). Because of the relationship that we have with you guys, in this room and in rooms across the world... I think Angela is astonishing and leading with such class and light deftness of touch and enable us as actors to really breathe and deepen the relationships on screen. My relationship with Mr. Grimes is far from over... I'm really, really really excited about this season. I think there are two episodes hat for me are my favorite episodes since the pilot.
After the audience collectively wept, Yvette Nicole Brown asked Scott Gimple how Season 9 would differ from Season 8:
The first 8 seasons of the show were one chapter, which in some ways -- the book was that way too, there was this new beginning. That's what Season 9 is, it's a whole new beginning for the show, it's a new show basically... This couldn't be more different than (All Out War).
That should go a long way toward appeasing fans who disliked the drawn out bloody conflict.
When asked about Maggie's journey this year, Lauren Cohan pointed out that her character's still pretty conflicted:
We obviously left on a pretty sharp note (last season). it was obviously really fun knowing I was gonna have the baby.... I feel like there' s a lot of conflict between people who love each other who are all working together towards building something better. But it looks different for Maggie, it looks different for Darryl, it looks different for Rick... (As for Maggie) I want it to be a positive time of growth and rebirth, but people are people and... the person next to me (Jeffrey Dean Morgan)is my friend, but he's not Maggie's friend.
As to whether or not she'll ever forgive Negan: "I think it's gonna be interesting. I think we all have a feeling about who we wanna be and the legacy we wanna leave."
The next biggest piece of news to come out had to do with casting and comics characters joining the show. New characters included Earl the Blacksmith, Tammy Rose played by Brett Butler, Saviors Jed and Justin played by Rhys Coiro and Zack McGowan, Dan Fogler of Fantastic Beasts fame and, drumroll please, Samantha Morton will join the show as Alpha, the leader of the Whisperers.
As for Negan, he'll get the chance to do a lot of thinking and talking in his cell. Interestingly, Jeffrey Dean Morgan mentioned that Negan would get the chance to interact with people he didn't normally --people on the panel stage. The only person at the table who's character hasn't really interacted with Negan directly would be Maggie.
And Angela Kang continued tempting audiences with the idea that we'd see Negan do some significant character development this season:
Were getting to see some sides of Negan that we've never seen before, I think it'll be cool... I love the stuff I'm seeing, I mean Jeffrey's f*cking amazing (loud audience cheers at swearing)... (At the end of the day) Negan is Negan and he likes to stir up trouble, so we'll see some of those stories.
When asked about the general tone and action of Season 9, Greg Nicotero and Scott Gimple both confirmed that a primary arc would be social and civil development now that Oceanside, the Hilltop, the Sanctuary, Alexandria and the new Toledo have been safe long enough to address issues of things like laws and constitutions and whatnot. Conflict will presumably arise when people have different ideas about how the new society should be built.
The Q&A was pretty short as time was running thin, but it did result in one particular gem: when asked what Rick would miss most after his presumed exit from the story, and Andrew Lincoln simply answered, "Michonne."
Season 9 of The Walking Dead premieres Sunday, October 9th on AMC.