After a brutal season for Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and everyone else in Alexandria, the good guys finally came out on top in The Walking Dead Season 7 finale, which aired last night on AMC. While we still have several months until Season 8 debuts sometime in October, executive producer and showrunner Scott M. Gimple revealed new details about the upcoming season, hinting that it will have a much more frenetic pace than Season 7. If you haven't watched last night's season finale, there will be SPOILERS below, so read on at your own risk.
The Hollywood Reporter caught up with showrunner Scott M. Gimple, who has already been working with the writers and producers on the stories that will be told in Walking Dead Season 8, which will begin with the show's 100th episode. The season finale ended with the Hilltop and The Kingdom fighting alongside Rick and the rest of the Alexandrians, pushing back the Saviors, marking the first of likely many battles in this new war. While he wouldn't offer too many specifics, Scott M. Gimple revealed that this season will have a much more intense pace than Season 7, which will be dictated by the war ahead.
"I don't have the public theme. We've been talking to writers, producers and the network about the theme and asked to please not tell anyone because it reveals the story. There is a theme but if I told you, you would know what the story is going to be. The turn of the story is really going to dictate the structure of the story and the speed of the story. The things that they are getting into demand a more kinetic narrative. The pace is accelerated by virtue of the things that they're up to. Though I don't want to say exactly, anybody who watches the show can extrapolate that they're now into public conflict with The Saviors; the battle lines are drawn. There isn't quite as much time to dig into anything but prosecuting the war."
The events of the finale essentially wraps up the story based on the comics volume March to War, which will lead to the series delving into the All-Out War story, a two-volume comic arc that spanned 12 issues, which focused on Rick and his army trying to take down The Saviors once and for all. The showrunner confirmed that Season 8 will include more episodes like the Season 7 finale, where practically all of Rick's group is finally together, instead of being spread out over various locales like Hilltop and The Kingdom. This will bring about a number of "narrative and production challenges" this season. When asked if the All-Out War narrative will unfold throughout the whole season, or just the first half of the season, Scott M. Gimple would only reply with "I would never say!" before adding more about the upcoming season, and how the death of the beloved character Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) will affect everyone moving forward.
"There's a lot of twists and turns in All-Out War, parts one and two, and aspects of March to War that we didn't completely use. On top of that, there's the expansions within the story of characters that aren't in the book and situations that totally come from the book but yet are very different in some circumstances. By virtue of what The Walking Dead is, there is more stuff than was even in the book and stuff from earlier books that we might be dipping into, too. There's a continuum of people doing things for people, sacrificing for people, becoming part of other people for the rest of their lives. This was the first battle of the war. Sasha was the hero of that battle. She is, in some ways, the rallying cry, the inspiration and the strength. The momentum with which she led the proceedings is going to exist for a while."
When asked if there will be a massive time jump, Scott M. Gimple confirmed there won't be any, "mind-blowing temporal shifts" between Season 7 and Season 8, although he did tease there may be a bit of a jump. He added that, despite the loss of Sasha, Rick and his people are coming off a "huge win" and that they're in a great place to start the new season. This is practically the opposite of where the group was in the Season 7 premiere, when Negan killed Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Abraham Ford (Michael Cudlitz), which lead to several fans filing FCC complaints, and even the show's ratings to drop quite drastically, reaching its lowest point in four years during the back half of this season. Now that Rick and his people are taking the fight to Negan, perhaps this will signal a rise in the ratings when The Walking Dead returns for Season 8 this fall.