We're pretty sure you're chomping at the bit to tune in Sunday night to see who Negan takes for a home run in the Season 7 premiere of "The Walking Dead;" but remember, the comic is approaching issue #160 next month and last season's finale, as well as this season's premiere, would be touching issue #100. While the book and show have never always stuck the same course (and they never will, especially with how they're planned to end) they still share some common ground. This gap, though, leaves quite a bit of room for the writers to toy and fiddle with.
While fans are busy trying to discern the identity of Negan's victim and Lucille's first play-pal, it's safe to say that the world of Rick Grimes and company have taken a turn for the worse, and will be irrevocably changed forever. With Negan's army, the tension-filled Hilltop colony and perhaps the ravenous Whisperers lingering, who knows where the writers could take this emotionally traumatizing journey? Here's a look at some roads we'd like to see them direct traffic down!
SPOILER WARNING: Major spoilers ahead for "The Walking Dead" comics and potentially, Season 7.
15 Home Sweet Home
Home is where the heart is, which makes it where the zombies will be coming for their buffet. Then there's the scoundrel called Negan (played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan). Once he establishes the new world order, you best believe his army will be coming for their share of the spoils as well. Half, to be exact. It's about time that the mobility of Team Rick ends once and for all so that we can finally set up the established fortresses on the chessboard.
It's time for nomads-no-more, with Rick's unit rebuilding Alexandria, fashioned after the Hilltop, with both forts ready to pay Negan's tribute. This, of course, is to set them up to unite with The Kingdom, under Ezekiel's watch, and help cultivate the tribal mentality the alliances need to battle back. That does leave room for discord and mistrust, but it also builds a sense of warring factions, allowing each to think more tactically as a military unit. Enough of the road warriors business because castles are now all that matter. After all, it's "All Out War!"
14 Time to Disarm Rick
In the aftermath of Negan beating Glenn to death in the comics, the team was truly shattered. However, Robert Kirkman did a great job in developing more characters as leaders. Maggie at the Hilltop really took control of her emotions, especially with her baby there, while Andrea helped Rick at Alexandria to maintain order. However, Andrea didn't make it past the third season and Maggie hasn't really pushed herself into such a leadership position, as the Hilltop is still being fleshed out.
But this season could be one for the likes of Morgan, Carol and Michonne to man a fort. The fact that they're meeting Ezekiel's Kingdom could well inspire that change. However, with so much of the series focusing on Rick's leadership, we think the main thing that could catalyze this would be Negan doing what The Governor did in the comics by cutting off Rick's hand. What better way to put him in the corner and off into that advisory role? The best way to create new leaders is to remove old ones, after all.
13 Hilltop Reloaded
Carol, who is dead in the comics, has usually had great one-two dynamics throughout this series. She showed it with Andrea, Lori, Rick and of course, Daryl. The relationship with Morgan, though, is most riveting, as it shows her guilt and inner-tension really crushing her while Morgan tries to bring her back to the light. Not an easy task, given he's also battling with his moral compass.
However, with an impending trip to The Kingdom, they, along with Jesus, could be thrust instead of Maggie to take over Hilltop from Gregory. Not only are they versed in the act of war, they also seem to rein each other in, which would add a great balance to a place that needs fortifying. This is especially true now, with Negan and his band of not-so-merry men coming for tributes, maybe much more frequently. It'd also be wise given Hilltop would need this trust with Alexandria and who better than two of Rick's most trusted?
12 Let 'Zeke Bloom
Ezekiel has been one of the comic's most unique characters. Despite meeting a dismal fate, he was definitely a main player in Rick's council and we want to see more of that played up in the show. He's got quite a tragic past, which has shaped why he is the way he is -- very similar to Michonne -- so we're hoping that parallel, as well as the relationship they developed in the comic isn't underplayed.
There's a lot that can be fleshed out here as Ezekiel proved to be a kindred spirit to both her and Rick in different ways, shifting from gentle sage and stargazer to the man whose tiger's ready to tear enemies apart. We're hoping the show doesn't dilute his character, as his quaint style and unique personality could be a breath of fresh air to a dour world. If anything, his flair and odd mannerisms would be needed once Negan breaks our hearts.
11 The Irredeemable Negan
In the comics, Negan has made it clear where he stands on sexual assault. He won't have any of it, even killing one of his own men to prove he's not THAT big a monster. To this day, Kirkman never really expounded on it in the comics and it really isn't that much of a redeeming point for someone who's done such vile and unforgivable acts. It would be a smart move for the show NOT to humanize Negan, though, because really... why? It didn't serve a purpose in the comics, as yet, but we really don't need to empathize with him the way we did with The Governor a couple seasons ago. Some villains don't need a reason to be nasty. They just are. Plus, you never know, Negan could well go and off a pregnant woman, so let's just keep it where it's at. He's the scum of the earth and nothing more.
10 Life Incarceration
Now that we've mentioned how much we despise Negan, let's talk how we deal with the devil himself. In the comics, after Rick and his alliance finally overpower Negan's army, he imprisons him in Alexandria for life. It was a weird decision, but it made sense as Rick didn't want more blood to be shed. Also, he figured Negan would suffer more in solitude. We think this would be a great turn of events for the show, as many would be expecting his death.
However, it could prove to be an inspirational stroke of genius if Rick's squad transcends that thirst for revenge and keeps him alive, locked away with no key. It would also be poetic, given how they treated the last despot like this in The Governor. The life sentence may be a tad generous, but crippling Negan and leaving him incarcerated could add a glimmer of humanity back to the world as we know it.
9 Dwight's D-Day
No rest for the wicked? Well, there should be no sympathy for them either. We really want to see the writers make an example out of a certain miscreant by the name of Dwight. He was crucial last season to Denise's death and to the torture of Daryl, proving to be the biggest snake in the grass. In the comics, it was revealed that Negan took Dwight's wife as his own and the burn on Dwight's face was punishment for insubordination.
Those threads may have been laid in Season 6, but rather than go the redemptive route of the comics (where he turned on Negan and helped bring him down), we'd rather see Daryl get his revenge with an arrow to the gut. More importantly, Dwight's aid isn't needed. There's plenty of brains and brawn on Team Rick to do the job. After rag-dolling Glenn like that in the finale, let's just say the time's right to spite Dwight!
8 Carl Unleashed
Provided he survives this premiere, Carl won't be the same. He's seen way too much tragedy than a kid should have to endure and we really want to see this scar him and take him to the dark side, where he ventured in the comics. He tried to retaliate violently against Negan and it almost cost him his dad, so to see some sort of PTSD pop up or a strain of vengeance creeping on the youngster could be a huge plot driver this year.
Carl could well be a self-reflective point for Rick, allowing the father to be reminded what he, as a leader, cannot become. It would also add further intrigue to the relationship with the one person he really tried to steer clear of this murderous mindset in Enid. We've always suspected something dark was bubbling under Carl's surface and Negan could be the tipping point that pushes him over the edge.
7 Man of God, not War
Father Gabriel's arc has been one of the most interesting in the show. He's gone from a man of broken faith to one who's somehow restoring himself when the world continues to crumble. Apart from his self-discovery, he's finally won over the trust of Team Rick, which culminated in Rick asking him to look out for his baby when he's not around. He joined the military of Alexandria in the comic books, which eventually led to his death in the battlefield.
For this television series, such a move just doesn't fit, so we're hoping they do not militarize him. His redemptive arc stands tall, so to tarnish it by having him wield arms would take away from his journey, especially as he's proven to Rick that he's better off as the voice of reason. Dialing Rick back to adviser outside the field with Gabriel by his side could even lead to an amazing duality of light and dark amid flawed men, and really tick along the moral compass of the show.
6 Keep Daryl Alive
It's really shocking that a character made just for the AMC series is still alive, but truth be told, we're hoping they keep it that way. Forget the Internet and just stick to good writing, which would be keeping alive a man who's been heart and soul for the team. Daryl's been such a selfless character, and maybe by taking Rick off the board, he'd get more time in the spotlight (whether he wants it or not). But it'll also allow him to reestablish that connection to Carol, which we found to be one of the relationships the writers sadly let deteriorate. Besides, Rick needs good soldiers, and while we can't say what Abraham's fate will be, Daryl's rapport with everyone else is something the writers cannot afford to lose. He's one of their best-written characters, but we can sense there's still something greater to him that hasn't been tapped yet. Negan could well bring that out.
5 Baby Hershel
This show needs spots of brightness; not because it's a bad show, but because there's just so much chaos and loss of life in it. Birth is something that washes over and really warms the world, as seen with Judith. So we're begging the writers to allow Maggie to make baby Hershel, because this dystopian world needs such glimmers of hope. We'd ask for both parents to survive, but that may be asking too much. However, as Jesus and Maggie became close in the comics, maybe he could also help look after the baby. If Judith made it this far, we think the odds will be in Hershel's favor but then again, after the gunshot that killed Lori and her baby in the comics failed to make it into the show, could this be the opportunity for Kirkman to exact revenge on us, the fans? Let's hope not, because Judith needs company.
4 Hello... From The Other Side
It's about time to see the microcosm of the series connect with the outside world. Sure, it's fun seeing all these intersecting squadrons butt heads over and over again, but such a self-contained story can't last forever. Not on this medium, at least. It works in the comics, but with "Fear The Walking Dead" clearly crossing borders, it's time we start getting a sense of timelines and how the larger outside has been affected.
Eugene made contact with Ohio in the books, with the person on the other line hoping that Eugene's team weren't filled with bad intentions; so why not play that up here again? Such a move would be expansive, but it would also be quite a psychological trip. Is it real? After all, giving hope and then ripping it away would fit the writers' modus operandi and the lingering mystery of friend or foe could be as heartbreaking as that Season 1 finale at the CDC!
3 The Unbitten Zombie
Remember when the Season 1 drama with Rick and Shane came to a head, and Rick had to put Shane down? We were all shocked when Shane reanimated without getting bitten, only to be killed again by Carl. Then came the revelation that everyone's infected. Wouldn't it be dandy to remind the gang of this with another person who didn't get bitten coming back as one of the undead?
Not only would it reignite the nostalgia of the debut season, it would also certainly ring the bell to Team Rick that there's more to fear than the bullets and knives of men, or the teeth of the undead. This plot point was just put out there and never really addressed again, so after all the human-on-human violence ends this season, or spills over into Season 8, throwing this wrench back into the wheels of "TWD" would be something many viewers wouldn't see coming. We're betting on it!
2 Make Jesus Great
Soldiers are needed for the war to come. Rick needs the best out there and he needs them as soon as possible. It'd be a smart move on the writers' part to facilitate this and allow Jesus to become Daryl 2.0. Not in case Daryl dies, but because in the comics, Jesus is one of Rick's biggest resources in the fight against Negan. We've seen this already on the show, but it feels like they're just scratching the surface. He's also a key connecting point to the three fortresses of salvation in The Kingdom, Hilltop and of course, Alexandria; so we really want to see him transition into one of the leading figures to thwart Negan's reign, as he did in the books. Also, it would be fresh and compelling storytelling to see some new faces placed in more prominent roles. What's the benefit of Jesus? He's as badass as he is compassionate, and it's clear that Team Rick knows how crucial he'll be in the days to come. If the show makes him peripheral, it'd be such a waste.
1 Shhh... We're Real...
In the comics, The Whisperers were cult-like humans who wore the skin of the undead and blended in with them. However, they were very territorial and ran afoul of Rick's posse with a string of heinous murders that led to yet another war. This may have already been teased for "TWD," but what's worth noting is that in "Fear The Walking Dead," we've already seen humans discovering that disguising as the dead helps to survive the hordes. Perhaps some unsavory characters from that show could find their way eventually to Rick's house?
Either way, The Whisperers are totally unhinged and devoid of emotion. If the writers go this route, viewers should prepare themselves for another numbers battle, because underestimating them was a big mistake that the crew made in the books. If the show does chart this course, then that would make Negan's fate even more important, as he ended up playing quite a role in fighting these fiends. In short, there's loads of potential here worth exploring!
What else are you hoping to see this season on "The Walking Dead?" Feel free to pick each others' brains in the comments!
"The Walking Dead" Season 7 premieres on October 23.