The Walking Dead made up for its pretty underwhelming seventh season with an excellent, albeit predictable, season finale this past Sunday. While there were many fist pumping moments in the episode – from Rick defiantly threatening Negan, to Shiva leading the cavalry into Alexandria at precisely the right moment – what the finale, and the season overall, did best was set up season eight and the upcoming war between Alexandria, the Hilltop, the Kingdom, the Saviors, and the Scavengers.
Based on the events of the finale, here are five predictions that I have for the upcoming eighth season of the hit television show. Please bear in mind there might be some slight comic book spoilers – though I am trying to make my predictions based solely on the television show’s canon and not my knowledge of the comics.
1. “We are going to war!”
As Negan declared to his army at the end of the season seven finale, ‘The First Day of the Rest of Your Life’, “We are going to war!” We didn’t need this declaration from the humorous antagonist, however, to realize this was the path down which we are heading. After all, with Alexandria, the Hilltop, and the Kingdom now standing up to him – and all three communities harboring legitimate grudges – Negan can’t just let bygones be bygones or live-and-let-live. The question is, how soon into the new season until the war truly begins and how long will it last once it does?
Considering the upcoming season looks to be adapting the ‘All Out War’ story arc from Robert Kirkman’s comic book series of the same name – an event that lasted twelve issues – I think it’s a safe bet to assume that the conflict will last the entire sixteen episodes. I’ve seen speculation from fans that it will probably only last for half of the season, but considering ‘March to War’ – a story arc that consisted of a mere six issues – was drawn out to last the entire seventh season, I can’t see the war itself lasting for half of that time. Especially since they’re up against Negan, the large group of Saviors that live at the Sanctuary, and the traitorous Scavengers. Also, don’t forget, Negan has a lot more people than that at his disposal! According to Dwight, he has multiple outposts full of men around the area, as we witnessed for ourselves in the back half of season six when Rick and his people executed a large group of them at a satellite station as they slept in the episode ‘Not Tomorrow Yet’.
With Alexandria, the Hilltop, and the Kingdom having won their first battle in the season seven finale, and almost succeeding in taking out Negan, I can see them riding that high and staging their next attack fairly soon after the events that we just witnessed. It wouldn’t surprise me if the season eight premiere picked up immediately where we left off on Sunday, with Rick, Maggie, and Ezekiel plotting their next course of action. As for what we can expect to happen over the course of the war itself? Besides what I’ll discuss shortly, it will be like any war – it’ll consist of multiple, action-packed battles, shifting allegiances, and lots of death; it won’t be a one and done fight like we witnessed when the Governor attacked the prison midway through season four in ‘Too Far Gone’. Hopefully it does the comic arc it’s adapting justice, for if it does, fans who complained season seven moved too slowly will be extremely pleased with how season eight plays out.
2. Eugene Will Redeem Himself; Gregory Will Turn To The Dark Side
I don’t believe that Dwight’s the last character who will have a change of heart before all is said and done and switch allegiances. Despite all of the evidence to the contrary presented to us in the final episodes of season seven, I don’t believe Eugene will stay loyal to Negan for very long. I don’t think he’s ever been one-hundred percent comfortable being at the Sanctuary to begin with – despite the fact that he clearly appreciates the respect he’s being treated with – and I believe that witnessing Sasha’s sacrifice in the finale, along with his friends back at Alexandria make a defiant, successful stand against Negan, marks the beginning of a redemption arc for our favorite mullet-headed scientist. The question remains, when he does decide to turn on his new leader, how does he do it? Does he try to make more poison pills to slip in Negan’s food? Does he refuse to make bullets for the Saviors?
In the comics, though he never officially turned to the Dark Side, Eugene was taken prisoner by the Saviors. When ordered to make bullets for their guns, he refused and told Negan, “I believe in Rick Grimes.” Negan threatens to castrate him if he refuses, and gives him some time to think things over, during which Eugene is broken out of the Sanctuary with the help of Dr. Carson from the Hilltop. I anticipate something similar happening next season on the show, though I expect it may be changed slightly so that when asked “Who are you?” by Negan, instead of giving the standard reply expected of all Saviors (“I’m Negan”), Eugene may reply, “I’m Rick Grimes.” Chances are Dwight will witness this and help him escape from the Sanctuary, rather than Dr. Carson (though he may still be involved), and vouch for his loyalties back at Alexandria, thus proving himself to Rick. Though I’m sure once Eugene is returned, Rick and the others will be distant with him for a while given his betrayal in season seven. (Eugene will probably be able to remedy this by utilizing his bullet making skills for their benefit.)
Though Negan will probably lose Eugene, I expect he will gain Gregory’s loyalty fairly early on in the season – perhaps even as early as the premiere. The penultimate episode of season seven, ‘Something They Need’, ended with him seemingly setting off for the Sanctuary with a map and a bottle of tequila, and chances are upon his arrival – and after hearing about the fight at Alexandria – he’ll try to curry favor with Negan by convincing him that he can get the people at Hilltop to fall back in line. This will most likely lead to a more overt power struggle between him and Maggie than the subtle one that was occurring all throughout the seventh season. Given what a coward Gregory is, however, I don’t see him lasting very long under Negan, and I expect him to either be killed by the bat-wielding psychopath or to go crawling back to Rick and Maggie when the tide starts to turn and it’s clear that they’re going to win the war.
3. A Lot Of People – And One Animal – Will Die
This is an obvious prediction since characters die every year on The Walking Dead. But since a full on war has been started, I expect the casualties to be heavy for all of the groups involved. I think there was a very specific reason that season seven was as slow as it was. The show runners not only wanted to build up all of the disparate communities so that it would be more satisfying when they eventually began to work together – which turned out to work well given how epic the battle in the finale was and how cheer worthy it was when the Kingdom and the Hilltop arrived just in time to save Alexandria from falling – but they also wanted to make minor characters recognizable enough so that when people besides our main heroes die during the upcoming battles, they’re not just faceless red shirts. Jerry, Dr. Carson, Tobin, Scott, Eric, Fran, Gavin, Arat, Jared – I believe there is a high likelihood that some, if not all of these peripheral characters, may die over the course of the war. The show clearly can’t kill a main character each time a fight is fought, and all of them are all recognizable enough for us to feel that people of note are dying and that there is a cost to war.
Obviously main characters will die as well. As for who? I think there’s a good chance Morgan will meet his end before season eight ends (for reasons I’ll delve into further below). I also think that Eugene, Rosita, and Tara are all at high risk given where all of them are emotionally at the moment. Personally, I’d love to see Daryl or Carol die. Though they’re my two favorite characters on the show by far, I think nothing would truly demonstrate the stakes of this war like seeing one of these two fan-favorites get killed by Negan or his men.
One character who will definitely die though? Shiva, Ezekiel’s heroic tiger that saved the day in ‘The First Day of the Rest of Your Life’. Not only do animals have a bad track record of living long on this show, but I’d wager the amount of money in the show’s budget that must dedicated to bringing the ferocious feline to life is quite a lot; it would probably be better spent on more elaborate action set pieces featuring the show’s human characters. Plus, how many times can the show really utilize her without it becoming corny or turning her into a Deus ex machina device?
As for how Shiva will meet her end, I’m not sure. It could be at the hands of walkers, though I’d imagine now that the Saviors know about her, they’ll want her gone. (I’m surprised she managed to escape the season seven finale without at least getting hurt in the battle, given how large of a target she is!) However she ends up dying, I just hope it’s quick. I hate animal violence, even if it’s a CGI beast.
4. Oceanside will make a triumphant return
With the Scavengers now aligning themselves with Negan, the villain’s army is even larger and more well-equipped than expected. Rick and his army, as large as it is, will need all of the help they can get in their upcoming fight, and I expect that at some point before season’s end Oceanside will join the fray and aid our heroes.
When we last saw Oceanside in ‘Something They Need’, Rick and the Alexandrians had just ambushed them and took all of their guns. While it seemed that a majority of the seaside women – including Tara’s friend, Cyndie – wanted to aid Alexandria in their fight against Negan, the leader of the group – Natania – put her foot down and refused to allow any of them to leave the community with Rick and the gang. What will change the tough grandmother’s mind? I’m not entirely sure. I don’t expect Rick, Tara, or anyone else in the group to go back to them begging for help, so I’m of the opinion that something will draw them out on their own. Perhaps Negan and the Saviors will get wind of the fact that they’re still alive, or maybe Heath – who’s been missing for over half a season now – will reemerge in the area and he’ll lead them back to Alexandria. However it happens, you can bet that by the end of season eight, Alexandria, the Hilltop, the Kingdom, and Oceanside will all be fighting alongside one another and pose a credible threat to the Saviors and the Scavengers.
5. Negan Will Be Defeated – But Not Killed
Though it’ll be a tough road for our heroes, Negan will obviously be defeated in the end – probably thanks in large part to Dwight’s help. However, I don’t believe that Rick will kill him.
Firstly, I think Jeffrey Dean Morgan is incredible as the leather-clad maniac. I think The Walking Dead would be stupid to get rid of such a talent and that the show runners and the network will want to keep him around as long as they possibly can.
Secondly, Morgan built that cell in Alexandria that the show is making a point of showing us repeatedly every few episodes. I think they want to keep it fresh in our minds because it will eventually become Negan’s new home.
Thirdly, Michonne and Rick had a conversation in ‘Say Yes’ in which they discuss the future that lays ahead post-Negan. It’s suggested that both want to use the situation as an opportunity to begin rebuilding the world as they want to, so nobody like Negan can come along and fill the void by imposing barbaric rules on people. Imprisoning Negan instead of killing him will probably be the first step Rick takes toward implementing rules of a civil society, and use it as an example to the other communities aiding them in the war.
Fourthly, ‘All Out War’ in the comics ends with Rick imprisoning Negan and then allowing the Saviors to join the alliance that’s been formed between Alexandria, the Hilltop, the Kingdom, and (eventually) Oceanside. I know that the television show deviates from the comics a lot in terms of story beats and character deaths, but they normally stay true to the main plot, and I don’t think this will end with them killing Negan. Keeping him alive will offer an unexpected resolution to the conflict for fans of the show, and offers interesting story possibilities beyond season eight.
Negan living is also why I believe Morgan is likely to die in season eight. Though Morgan has now seemingly found a delicate balance in which he can kill bad people without going insane, he’s spent too long trying to impress upon Rick that “all life is precious” for it not to have had some kind of impact on him. I think Morgan’s death in the war would be a huge motivating factor for Rick to keep Negan alive instead of killing him – in order to honor his old friend’s philosophy.
Those are my five major predictions for season eight of The Walking Dead, what are yours? Were you satisfied by the season seven finale and the season overall? Leave me a comment below and let me know!