Spoiler alert for anyone who isn't caught up on The Walking Dead, with some general comic info also coming up.
To many, this season of The Walking Dead may feel like a revision of the front half of Season 6, with its honed-in focus on specific characters and settings. But the central narrative's expansion in Season 7 is for a greater purpose, as Alexandria, The Kingdom and the Hilltop Colony are all meant to come together as one in the fight against Negan familiarly known as the "All-Out War." At least that's how it went in Robert Kirkman's comic book. But according to showrunner Scott Gimple, TV audiences might not get to see that particular storyline play out in the same way.
The TV show is currently deep in the "March to War" comic book arc, which was all about bringing in new and memorable characters, as well as deepening Negan's character development through his vicious tyranny. Both of those things have been happening in live-action, so it should only make sense that delegates from all three protagonist locations - namely Rick, Ezekiel and Jesus - would come together in a grand effort to topple Negan's throne. But if Scott Gimple is serious about switching things around with the eventual "war," that could be one of the biggest page-to-screen changes we've seen so far.
There are good reasons why a decision like that would be made. One, after years of slowly moving through the first chunk of the comics, The Walking Dead hastily plowed through Negan's build-up on the way to the cliffhanger in last season's finale, so expanding and stretching the "March to War" effort could be a way to re-balance the pacing. (It wouldn't be good for anyone if the TV show caught up to the comic storyline by Season 8.) As well, we only just met Negan, so it would be kind of shitty to bring in the "War" efforts so early in his run, unless an entire season is devoted to it. He's easily the best villain in The Walking Dead, so Negan's presence needs to be as powerful as possible, for as long as possible.
As far as how the show will slow down its pre-War shambling, Scott Gimple further explained to ComicBook.com that while the AMC drama will definitely still be using what's in the comics as its foundation, they will continue to freshen things up as such.
We have definitely seen Walking Dead fans go berserk over changes made to the source material in the past, and last Sunday's episode featured its own remixing by putting Jesus with Carl on the Sanctuary recon mission. But for some fans, merely teasing any major alterations to the comic series' All-Out War storyline is tantamount to fictional treason. After all, the "Rick vs. Negan" element is what has made The Walking Dead's issues post-#100 so thrilling and addictive, and delaying that or watering it down in any way will surely earn the creative team some harsh words. Not that Gimple & Co. haven't gotten used to outspoken viewers.