If you haven't watched The Walking Dead Season 7 finale quite yet, there will be SPOILERS below, along with spoilers for the comics. When this season came to a close, it was quite clear that there will be a huge shift in the dynamic of the show. The first half of Season 7 showed Rick (Andrew Lincoln) bowing to Negan's (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) every demand, but the mid-season finale showed that Rick was ready to fight, with the back half of the season centering on Rick finding allies for his war against Negan. This is your last chance to avoid SPOILERS, so read on at your own risk.
This past season largely followed the comic volumes "What Comes After" and "March to War," which are followed by "All Out War Part One" and "All Out War Part Two," which span a combined 12 issues of the comics. Showrunner Scott M. Gimple teased that Season 8 will unfold at a much faster pace, but he wouldn't confirm if the entire season will span both comic volumes, although that does seem likely. After the All Out War comics, though, the next comics volume, A New Beginning, which starts with the 127th issue, takes an unexpected approach, leaping forward two years in time after the war, showing all of these communities at peace. The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Scott M. Gimple, and when asked about how the show will address the time jump, here's what he had to say.
"For the people who read the comics, they're going to be expecting this. We're doing the book, we do all sorts of variations on it, and then we do things that are inspired by it and then we change things up with a remix. But I will say there are things that happen in that time jump that are referred to that are super interesting. And thus we might see some of that stuff; it might not be the same sort of jump, or we'll do that two to five years in real time."
One example of "things that happen in that time jump" in the comics involves Michonne, who had suffered a rough breakup with King Ezekiel, played by Khary Payton on the series, leaving all of these communities behind, taking to the seas to start scavenging for other people. This could be approached a few different ways on the series, since Michonne is currently linked romantically with Rick Grimes. The site speculates that either Michonne and Rick could break up, leading to Michonne leaving these peaceful communities behind, or that it could be Carol (Melissa McBride) who starts seeing King Ezekiel and then leaves to strike out on her own, since she has done that before in the past. When asked about his plans for the time jump, Scott M. Gimple had this to say.
"I've had a general plan for a long time, and invariably when I do that, there are little things that catch and change that plan. But in general, I think there's going to be a little bit more content that Robert Kirkman actually refers to. There's stuff in there that I was reading that I wondered about, and when I wonder about stuff that I like, I like getting into that stuff [on the show]. We're definitely going to honor it and do it, but we're definitely going to have either more of it or possibly do it in a different way."
If the show does have a big time jump between The Walking Dead Season 8 and the inevitable Walking Dead Season 9, it would mark a first for the show, which, like the comics up until this point, have largely been told in real time. When asked about the time jump, Robert Kirkman was predictably cagey on the topic. Here's what he had to say below.
"We've talked about whether or not we'll do everything that's happened in the comics, all the way up to the most recent issue. That's something that Scott and I are talking about all the time, and we sit down with all the producers and discuss what we're going to do and how we're going to do it because there's a tremendous amount of budget involved and strategic planning on how to keep the show going. We need to know these things and being able to know these things years in advance is what helps us make this show possible. So we've discussed everything."
Season 7 was by far the most challenging season for the show, in many respects, but most notably in the ratings department. The Walking Dead Season 7 finale brought in 11.3 million viewers, a great number by most standards, but for this show, it marked the lowest-watched season finale in five years. The Season 7 premiere, which featured the brutal deaths of both Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) by Negan, sparked a number of fans to file FCC complaints, and was paired by a steep ratings decline that continued throughout the season. With an action-packed season ahead, it remains to be seen if this story line will be enough to bring back the viewers The Walking Dead has lost.