When The Walking Dead took over Comic-Con this year, it was a slightly more gloomy affair, given the recent accidental death of a stuntman. But the very first trailer for Season 8 thankfully brought all kinds of excitement and blew fans away both in Hall H and around the world, especially when those final seconds mysteriously revealed a grey-bearded and bed-ridden Rick Grimes. We'd wondered what the heck was happening there, and if Robert Kirkman is being truthful, we won't have to wait that long to find out.
Wow! I'm equal parts pumped and skeptical after reading that, and one has to wonder if Robert Kirkman was just leading fans on when he made that declaration during a TCA panel (via THR) for AMC's upcoming docu-series Visionaries. (The Walking Dead's official panel was cancelled so that the cast and crew could attend the funeral of stuntman Jon Bernecker.) Just as the Season 7 premiere answered a question that audiences had kept vocal since the previous year's finale, Season 8 will apparently use its first outing to reference this latest, and much less bloody, mystery. I mean, even Kirkman uses the word "mystery" there.
Without getting too much into comic book spoilers, the scene at the end of the trailer seems to point to a moment far beyond the resolution of the impending All Out War between Team Family and Negan's Saviors, although not necessarily within a distant-future comic book. There was a sizable time jump following the big War, and though that element hasn't been confirmed or denied by all involved, the only other way to explain Greying Rick would be that it was part of a dream sequence or hallucination -- one that happened to include the cane he has in the comics -- and that would not be the best way to hook fans back in for the beginning of Season 8.
So, assuming that it is indeed a flash-forward, how will The Walking Dead manage to justify its use? On the one (missing) hand, the season could start off this way, offering a sneak peek at the future that offers different details whose outcomes will get explained as the season drives on. On the other hand, maybe showrunner Scott Gimple will revert back to the timeline-jumping narrative aesthetic that took over the first half of Season 6, when Alexandria became a central location. Admittedly, I'd like to see if that second angle could work with this storyline, since that kind of shuffling would make it all feel quite new for comic readers expecting to know every story beat, which could very well be the "mystery" element Kirkman referred to.
Of course, maybe Rick & Co. will discover a new population of walkers that have the mutant ability to transpose victims' consciousnesses into a false future setting while their bodies get ravaged in the present. Anything can happen, right? Not that, you say? Oh, well.
The Walking Dead will return to AMC and its millions-strong viewership on Sunday, October 22, at 9:00 p.m. ET. In the meantime, check out how Robert Kirkman felt about watching the Season 7 premiere, and then head to our summer TV schedule and our fall premiere rundown to see what's hitting the small screen soon.