What is happening in the world of The Walking Dead?

Season 8 of The Walking Dead wrapped up the end of All-Out War and showed Rick Grimes sparing Negan’s life to honor Carl after his shocking death. The decision to follow the comics and keep Negan alive has garnered mixed fandom reactions.

Some fans are curious to see if Negan and Rick’s contentious relationship changes in the future when new enemies arise and others were more than ready to see Negan die after losing so many members of Rick’s core group.

Deaths and deviations from the comics have become commonplace in the show and fans are used to the constant changes. In a post-apocalyptic series, no character is completely safe, even if they have extensive plot armor like Daryl Dixon or Negan.

According to Inquisitr, creator Robert Kirkman confirmed that Rick would eventually die during the 2018 Walker Stalker cruise, but no one thought it would happen so swiftly.

The Walking Dead fandom was taken aback when news leaked about leading man Andrew Lincoln leaving the show sometime in season 9. The news followed closely behind actress Lauren Cohan’s (Maggie) announcement of her starring role in an ABC pilot, which means she might leave the series, too.

For many fans, it is a clear signal that the show should come to an end. The entire comic and TV series has been about Rick’s journey as a leader since the beginning of the apocalypse. There are other compelling characters on the show, but Rick is the glue that holds all of the characters and communities together.

After fighting for Alexandria and the surrounding communities, it seems unlikely that Rick would abruptly leave Virginia for no reason. The only way that Rick goes is by death, and it’s going to be the most heart-wrenching scene on the show.

Rick himself hinted at what he wants to happen in the event of his death. In season 7, episode 12, Michonne was shaken up after Rick’s near-death experience during their supply run. She told Rick that she couldn’t lose him and he said they have to prepare for inevitable losses.

Rick also told Michonne that she should take his place as a leader if he dies first and guide the community toward a better future. In theory, Michonne should be the rightful leader since she has co-led with Rick throughout their time in Alexandria.

But a fictional character doesn’t have much say about what happens after his arc is finished. AMC is likely going to make Rick’s bestie Daryl the new leader due to his popularity among many fans.

It will be a somewhat contentious choice, especially since Daryl’s character hasn’t had much development in the past couple of seasons. He has also made a series of costly mistakes stemming from rash reactions due to his behavior.

Only time will tell what choices the upcoming showrunner Angela Kang will make with the core characters.

Fans know that Rick’s death will impact his closest friends the most, but what could his exit mean for smaller characters? Rick and Maggie’s exit will shuffle the character cards significantly and might open doors for these characters to be more prominent with additional character development.

The Hilltop

For example, there will be a leadership void left at the Hilltop with Maggie’s eventual death. Like Rick, she really has no solid reason for leaving the Hilltop unless she dies this season. Enid has been around since season 6, but her character has had sporadic spotlight and little to no development.

But Enid has been Maggie’s sidekick since Glenn’s death and established a good rapport with the community, so she will likely take her place since Jesus has never been interested in being the main leader.

The Hilltop also has minor characters like Eduardo and Bertie, who have been effective at running for supplies, guarding the gates, and general combat. They could help complete a solid core group for the Hilltop similar to Rick’s at Alexandria.

Maggie also established a contentious alliance with Alden, one of the captured Saviors from the war. He proved to be somewhat trustworthy when he fought alongside Maggie and will definitely play a larger role in season 9.

Actor Callan McAuliffe was bumped up to a series regular, so he has probably stayed at the Hilltop and developed a closer relationship with Maggie. Some fans have speculated about a romantic pairing with Maggie, and this could have happened (to some people’s chagrin) during the time skip between seasons.

Maggie’s exit may pair Alden and Enid together alongside Jesus (if he is alive) to be the Hilltop leaders. They can also lean on the expertise of King Ezekiel to guide them through the process…if he is still alive.

Oceanside and The Kingdom

The Kingdom may also lose their leader this season. In the comics, Ezekiel met his demise during the Whisperer arc following All-Out War. There is no indication of this arc happening in the TV series, but it can’t be ruled out.

Two of the few prominent Kingdom survivors are the King’s right-hand man Jerry and resident Nabila, a Muslim woman who flexed her physical prowess and cunning skills this past season. They are underutilized and loveable characters who bring an interesting dynamic to their scenes.

Upcoming seasons may give Jerry more screen time as a prominent Kingdom resident, especially if Ezekiel dies. Carol will likely take Ezekiel’s place as a leader and Jerry could be more prominent in the series as they work together to build the new world with existing alliances and newcomers like Oceanside.

The ladies stepped in at the eleventh hour to help out in the war and hopefully the community won’t fade back into the shadows.

Alexandria

Last but certainly not least is Alexandria. The community has lost so many background and important characters, but there are some people who could make a difference. The biggest change is the introduction of Siddiq, who plays a key role in the comics.

He’s the latest medical guru and the indirect cause of Carl’s death, so the show has to make his character arc count. He could play the role of the moral compass in future situations or form a friendship with Michonne to help her through losing Rick. We have learned bits about his background, but there is a lot to be uncovered with this character.

Siddiq is joining the group along with Anne (aka Jadis) who has flip flopped from enemy to friend. Jadis is one of the most mysterious additions to The Walking Dead because so little is known about her past life, how she acquired such a big group, and what her future motivations now that her entire group is dead.

Why did she change her name? What was the deal with the helicopter? What will her role be in Alexandria? Jadis obviously knows about a bigger world than the one Rick can imagine and she could be the key to unlock the door to even more survivors.

Scott has been a dutiful soldier since season 6, but there is little known about him. He received more screen time and dialogue in All-Out War, but subsequent seasons will be a great chance to expand on his character and make him a more prominent member of the group as one of the few surviving Alexandrians.

He could perhaps fill some of the hole left by Morgan’s sudden departure. This is also an opportunity to bring back Heath, who definitely abandoned Tara (and his glasses) on a supply run in season 7.

He left behind a card with PPP on it, which still hasn’t been explained to this day despite former showrunner Scott Gimple saying Heath will return one day. But, with a new showrunner, this may never happen. Where is Heath and will he come back to Alexandria?

Another Alexandrian, Barbara, has also been around for several seasons and recently took over babysitting Judith. She has said little to nothing throughout three seasons, so this could be a chance to give this character something to do, especially if Judith is now older and starting to interact more with the group.

Of course, the show will never be quite the same with Rick Grimes, Maggie, and many of the characters we have loved and lost over the past couple of seasons like Carl, Sasha, Abraham, and Glenn.

But the cycle of the show is mirroring the reality of life, and if it continues to go forward, there will be new characters coming in to replace those who were gone too soon. These minor and background characters may step up to fill in some of the storyline gaps and shake things up on the long-running series.

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