As is tradition, AMC has unveiled a huge trailer for The Walking Dead season 9 at San Diego Comic-Con. But as is not tradition, the show has announced a massive departure in advance.

Watch the five-minute preview now. It’s our first official look at the new season, and there’s a lot to look at:

Who are those people at the end? They’re The Whisperers, a group of survivors who disguise themselves as zombies to get around. They have a lot of conflicts with Rick in the comics.

The trailer also unveils a first look at Dan Fogler (Fantastic Beasts) in the show, as well as the series’ first deaf character.

Notably, Andrew Lincoln used today’s TWD panel at SDCC to confirm rumors that he’s leaving the show. “This will be my last season playing the part of Rick Grimes,” he said. “I love this show. It means everything to me. I love the people who make this show. I’m particularly fond of the people who watch this show.”

He added, “This has been the most extraordinary, amazing, and beautiful experience of my career. Largely because of you guys.”

The comments are notable, as this is the first time the show has ever announced a departure in advance. They may’ve felt like they had no choice but to reveal it — the news leaked last month, and executive producer Robert Kirkman confirmed it earlier this week.

‘TWD’s’ SDCC 2018 panel: What we learned

What else went down during the SDCC panel? Here are the top moments…

1. We’re kicking things off with a time jump

Following in the footsteps of the comics, season 9 will kick things off with a time jump.

At the panel, new showrunner Angela Kang took a moment to explain why jumping forward is an exciting opportunity for the story as a whole.

“It’s really cool to jump forward in the story because we get to see where [the characters] are at now,” said Kang. “It’s been a while since the war ended. Now you get to see the world in a way that we haven’t seen before.”

As Kang went on to explain, this new world is full of carriages, horses, and other nods that point to the idea that the underlying theme of the season revolves around getting back to the idea of civilization in the post-apocalyptic world the characters now find themselves living in.

2. Returning to civilization

Elaborating on Kang’s point, Danai Gurira said she found this coming season so interesting because it centers around a group of people trying to get back to the idea of civilization.

We get a sense of that in the trailer when Gurira’s Michonne has a quick conversation with Rick about how in order to live in harmony there needs to be rules that all of the different groups abide by.

Going about making a new set of rules might sound easy enough, but as Gurira teases, getting everyone to comply won’t be easy.

“Not everybody wants to be civilized…” teased the actress.

3. The future looks different for everyone

Meanwhile, Lauren Cohan, who plays Maggie, offered up even more insight with regards to why building a future won’t be as easy as it seems.

As Cohan explained, looking to the future is a general theme that we’ll be exploring in season 9. But the future looks different for everyone and that might pose a problem.

“Maggie’s version of the future is different from Rick’s which is different from Negan’s,” said Cohan. “At the end of the day it’s about who we want to be and the legacy we want to leave behind.”

4. We’ll be seeing a whole new side of Negan.

For the first time since we met him, Negan’s not the one in charge. In fact, as the teaser shows, he actually starts off season 9 behind bars.

As Jeffrey Dean Morgan teased during the panel, Negan’s current predicament means that we’ll be exploring how Negan reacts to his new situation as the season progresses.

“He’s having to face some stuff internally that he’s never faced before,” said Morgan.

The actor also teased that we’ll be seeing the villainous character share some screen time with a few other characters he hasn’t had a chance to interact with yet.

‘TWD’s’ SDCC 2018 Press Conference: What we learned

1. The decision to confirm Andrew Lincoln’s upcoming departure from the show was made with fans in mind.

For fans that closely follow rumors related to The Walking Dead, news of Andrew Lincoln’s departure (confirmed earlier this week) might not have come as too big of a shock. Even so, it marks a first for the series which is notoriously tight-lipped when it comes to revealing who is going to exit the series and when.

According to Lincoln specifically, the decision to confirm the rumors, which had been swirling for a while now, came down to wanting to honor the special relationship the cast has with its passionate fanbase.

“We’d got wind of the fact that the story was out there and it was important for us to address that to the fans before we formally told [the press],” Lincoln told Hypable.

2. This coming season will find the series going back to its roots.

There’s no denying that the future of The Walking Dead is poised for some major changes. Lincoln and Cohan’s departures aside, season 9 is also in the hands of a brand new showrunner.

Though showrunner Angela Kang has concocted an intricate season for fans that’ll find the story jumping forward in time, actress Danai Gurira said there’s a distinct feeling of connection between season 9 and the series’ pilot.

“The thing that was so exciting about what Angela brought is the fact that we were able to find those connections through characters that you connected in very different ways than we’ve experienced in the past,” said Gurira who also revealed that she feels as though it’s on par with the tone Randy and Lincoln set in the pilot.

3. Season 9 is all about the girl power.

With the series gearing up to bid farewell to Rick Grimes, there’s never been a better time for other characters to come into the forefront. In particular, actor Norman Reedus teased that fans can expect the women of The Walking Dead to take charge even more than they have in the past.

“We’ve had a season or two of some chest bumping— really just two men shooting at each other [but] this is a very female-driven season right now and it’s nice to have that happen,” said Reedus. “The stories are told in a very different way— it’s less brawn and more real depth this year.”

“It feels like we’re shooting a western with feeling,” continued Reedus. “I’m loving this season.”

4. We won’t be getting a Negan backstory.

As comic book readers know, there’s much of Negan’s backstory that the series hasn’t had time to delve into. Unfortunately, fans looking for more of the series’ resident baddie will have to wait a bit longer to see Negan’s backstory come to life on the small screen.

When asked whether he’d like the series to take a deep dive into his character, actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan said he hopes it happens somewhere down the line, but that it’s not a priority right now.

“There’s a lot of material but that’s an Angela, Scott and Greg thing,” said Morgan, diverting to the series’ showrunners. “I think there’s a bunch of source material and I think we’re finding out slivers of him here and there.”

As fun as it would be to find out how Negan came to be the man he is, Morgan made it clear that the show’s top priority is to tell the story of the group.

“There’s so much stuff — we could pull from anything — everybody deserves more, but we’ve got this ensemble cast and that’s what’s important,” said Morgan.

5. There’ll be a new dynamic to the Rick and Michonne relationship this coming season.

Rick and Michonne’s relationship has been nothing short of intense ever since they officially coupled up, but this season promises to show us a different side of their love for one another.

So what’s the difference? According to Lincoln, it all boils down to the time jump.

“We’ve had almost two years of peace since the end of the war and that has changed [Rick and Michonne’s] dynamic. Some of my most satisfying scenes have been in this season because they’re much deeper and more grounded,” explained the actor. “It’s a new phase of that loving relationship. There’s more knowledge of one another.”

It’s nice to hear that the lack of imminent threat hasn’t dwindled Rick and Michonne’s love for each other, and we’re looking forward to seeing them have a happy moment of peace before things start getting crazy in this coming season!

Finally, we’re learning today that Samantha Morton has joined the cast as Alpha, the leader of the aforementioned Whisperers.

The Walking Dead season 9 debuts Sunday, October 7.

This post will be updated with more details from the show’s SDCC panel and press room soon.

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