As Walking Dead fans are well aware, characters come and go with frequency within the post-apocalypse, but more often than not, it's certain death that keeps folks from returning. That didn't appear to be the case with Corey Hawkins' Heath, though, since that character basically disappeared with only a key card hinting at his situation. (Or not.) Viewers have been wondering if the comic book fan favorite hero would be back on TV for Season 8, and showrunner Scott Gimple has an answer. Though it's not the most pleasing one.
Not a huge chance. But we definitely have not seen the last of Heath, period. I will say that. I don't mean to disappoint the Heathies. He will be on the show. He will be within The Walking Dead again.
At face value, there's not much of a mystery behind what Scott Gimple told EW, but it's still so hard to know what the hell that even means. Heath's non-death obviously means he could return, and the showrunner seems confident that it'll happen one day, but there's not much of a shot that it'll happen soon. It would be fair to assume that Gimple and Corey Hawkins have discussed the situation, with the actor presumably taking kindly to a reappearance in the future as he has in the past. But for whatever reason, it will apparently happen beyond the duration of the All Out War that's coming in Season 8.
But...how would that work? Comic fans know that the end of the war was immediately followed by a sizable time jump, something that The Walking Dead's first Season 8 trailer teased, by way of Old Rick and his cane. Granted, I would still enjoy watching Heath return to the fold no matter when it happens, but it'll take some stretches of the imagination to accept him returning to one of the communities after such a long gap.
If Heath would show up before the War was finished, though, that would make way more sense, seeing as how the timeline wasn't stretched all that long over the course of Season 7. (Maggie's pregnancy is a sure sign of that.) So he would technically only have been gone for a couple of weeks or something. Still a long time for someone trapped or being held hostage, to be sure, but not as long as the absences between Morgan's early series appearances. (And at least those were structured so that Morgan's return made sense.) There's still some months before The Walking Dead will get to filming Season 8's final episodes, so perhaps a deal can be struck that gets him back for one or some of those.
Heath was barely used on The Walking Dead even when he was around, and that's due in part to Corey Hawkins blowing up after his star turn in Straight Outta Compton, since he took a lead role in 24: Legacy that completely messed with his ability to be consistently present for filming. And even though that spinoff isn't getting a second season, part of that decision was Hawkins' own busy schedule. So if he one day is "within The Walking Dead again," it probably won't be for very long. And they might bring him back just to kill him off, a sigh-worthy scenario made all the more likely by the specific way Gimple worded things.
Without Heath waiting in the wings, The Walking Dead Season 8 will take over AMC on Sunday, October 22, at 9:00 p.m. ET. To see when everything else is hitting the small screen soon, check out our fall premiere schedule.