SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains massive spoilers for issues of The Walking Dead comic and upcoming episodes of the AMC drama.
The first trailer for AMC’s eighth season of The Walking Dead was light on dialogue and heavy on action, but the single moment that’s got everyone talking came right at the end where Rick was shown to be considerably older and considerably more hirsute as the show seems to be taking cues from the comic and jumping forward several years with a time skip. The jump forward in time opens the show up to a number of new opportunities, both in how it adapts the Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard comic, and in how it deviates from the source material.
Given that the majority of the trailer focuses on the rising tension between the survivors and Negan, it’s likely that the TV show is heading towards a massive conflict between the different communities that have established themselves in the wake of the zombie apocalypse. In the comics, this arc was titled “All Out War” and featured the allied forces of Alexandria, Hilltop and The Kingdom taking on Negan and his saviors Sanctuary.
Negan’s line about defecating one’s pants echoes his exact line from the comic, which more than tells us how closely the show seems to be adhering to "All Out War." The storyline was so big that it encompassed two volumes of the comic series and tested the resolve of Rick and his survivors in ways no other conflict had. The war with Negan forces Rick and the other leaders to think outside of the box and think more like their enemy if they hope to defeat him, and as the trailer shows, it looks set to be the most action-packed season of The Walking Dead yet.
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However, the trailer for the new season seems to hint at something much bigger for season eight, possibly something to look forward to following the mid-season break. As exciting and surprising as that event will undoubtedly be, what’s more interesting is what comes after "All Out War," as for the first time since the end of the world, the survivors get a real chance at building a lives for themselves in peace.
Following victory against The Saviors, The Walking Dead jumped ahead two years into the future as the survivors found themselves living normal lives and somewhat rebuilding civilization following its collapse. Trade routes were established, fishing expeditions were organized and Rick got the chance to be a real leader of his people without having to worry about their survival constantly. His change in demeanor is not only signaled by his short-cropped hair and beefy beard, but with a cane which he needs to use following a broken leg he received during the war with The Saviors; the fact that the trailer’s stinger focused so much on the cane is another sign that the show is heading towards its new beginning.
The jump forward in time would allow the show to reset the characters somewhat and perhaps lure back lapsed viewers who grew tired of the survivors’ struggles; it could act as a relaunch of The Walking Dead, similar to how comic books themselves often have a jumping on point. The Walking Dead shows no signs of slowing down but is heading into its eighth season and needs to be careful it doesn’t fall into the Supernatural trap of running on fumes after exhausting all possible story potential, so a soft-reset with a time jump could do the show wonders.
The show may choose to change certain aspects of “A New Beginning” and certain events have already led to that, in a roundabout way. In the new, peaceful society, Rick and Andrea live as husband and wife with Carl referring to Andrea as “Mom.” However, in season three of the television show, The Governor left Andrea trapped with the soon-to-be-zombified Milton and failed to save herself before he turned and bit her. After being found by the group, she killed herself before she could turn into a walker.
This opens up opportunities for other characters to take the place of Andrea as Carl’s new mom in the peacetime Alexandria; Carl really steps up to be somewhat of a co-protagonist with Rick in the more recent volumes of The Walking Dead, and seeing him with a new family unit and a reasonably settled home life is one of the best things about the time jump and it would be a shame to lose that.
It’ll also be interesting to see how the show handles Negan following the end of the war. So far, the survivors outlived all of their enemies, but Rick’s conscious choice to let Negan live and serve as a prisoner for his many, many crimes was a huge turning point for both characters. Rick’s arc would veer in a wildly different direction without that plot point.
Perhaps the most exciting aspect of The Walking Dead’s new beginning, though, isn’t in the peace that the survivors find themselves with, it’s with the chaos that finally interrupts the piece and with the subsequent arcs following “A New Beginning” Kirkman and Adlard crafted some of their best Walking Dead tales to date. While the survivors of Alexandria have been through a whole lot, there’s nothing that can quite prepare them for The Whisperers or their brutal leader.
The great thing about The Walking Dead is that the comic has been so good, for so long, that there’s always source material to tap and adapt in new and exciting ways and the trailer for the new season of the show seems to only hint at the exciting new developments in the show’s eighth season. As Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard continue to knock it out of the park in the comics, the show will continue to do the same on TV and the next season seems to be living up to its potential in more ways than even the most die-hard fans could hope for
The eighth season of The Walking Dead returns to AMC on October 22. The Walking Dead is a production of Skybound Entertainment starring Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes, Chandler Riggs as Carl Grimes, Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon, Melissa McBride as Carol Peleteir, Lauren Cohan as Maggie Green and Danai Gurira as Michonne.