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The Walking Dead is nearly halfway through its eighth season on AMC, with only a couple of episodes left before we head into a midseason break. Season 8 has gone in some different directions, not the least of which is how Rick and Co. are actually scoring some wins against the Saviors. That said, many fans have noticed that a lot of elements of the season so far have been very... well, familiar.
Of course, any show that has been on the airwaves for the better part of a decade is bound to retread some of the same ground a few times, especially if it worked the first time around. The reason for the familiarity may simply be that the Walking Dead team wanted to stick with what they feel worked especially well previously. Another potential reason is a whole lot crazier: what if the majority of Season 8 so far has actually been Rick dreaming?
Bear with me. The idea isn't that the entire series to date has been a coma dream from when Rick was shot in the line of duty way back in the series premiere. That theory has been debunked by the showrunner, and the red flags pointing to a potential dream are much more recent than the early seasons. If the majority of Season 8 has been a dream, Rick couldn't have been dreaming it for very long, and there are definitely ways that it could make sense if it's only a Season 8 thing.
Here's how it could work. Rick has been in the thick of a lot of action in Season 8, and it's entirely possible that he could have gotten knocked out cold at some point, and the last several episodes have been his brain's way of reinterpreting the events of his recent life in a somewhat more positive way. Alternately, he was impaled by a dirty spike in a junkyard at the end of last season, which could have very easily led to an infection that knocked him out with a dangerously high fever. Rick has a history of his mind playing tricks on him after trauma; perhaps he's dreaming/hallucinating in Season 8.
Assuming the dream theory is correct, there are big signs that Rick couldn't have started dreaming before the beginning of Season 8. The narrative this season has had the forces of Alexandria, Hilltop, and the Kingdom united, and the Scavengers from the junkyard betrayed them. Glenn is still dead. Rick's brain has processed recent and current events; it may just be putting a spin on them. The incident that theoretically knocked him into such a state of fiction must have happened in one of the early episodes.
A dream would explain some things that haven't made a whole lot of sense lately. For one thing, there have been some elements of Season 8 that feel too specifically familiar to simply be recycled because the writers thought they worked. The return of the "A" on the storage container in which Rick was trapped by Jadis and the Scavengers could be a sign of Rick's brain sparking back to when the folks at Terminus trapped him and his pals in a train car marked A. Admittedly, he wasn't naked at Terminus, but assuming Daryl told him what he endured while being tortured at the Sanctuary, his brain may have just added the nakedness. His current state of undress in the storage contain may be a combination of the Terminus train car and Daryl's torture stories.
Rosita seems to be stuck in the same mood mode that she was in for a large chunk of Season 7, which could be a sign that Rick isn't formulating any new impressions of her. Daryl is probably the angriest and most aggressive he's been in years. In fact, he's so angry and aggressive -- notably, even toward his bro Rick -- that it could be a hint that Rick is associating current Daryl with the Daryl of days gone by. Then, there's the fact that the good guys have been plotting against the Saviors similarly to how they did back when they went on their first ill-fated rampage against Negan's people. They're finding more success this time around. Wishful thinking from Rick's subconscious?
A dream could excuse some of the plot twists that haven't actually made a whole lot of sense in Season 8. The timeline from the very first episode has been confusing, and not at all helped by the bizarre flash forward that itself has some major inconsistencies. How could Rick have seemingly aged twenty years or so when Carl and Michonne still looked fine and Judith was still a little girl? Something has to be off about that purported flash forward.
If Rick is dreaming, we would be able to forget all about the death of poor Shiva, which was both tragic and somewhat nonsensical. After all, how could a bunch of rotting zombies rip apart a tiger? As far as I'm concerned, zombies eating Shiva was one of the most unrealistic things to happen ever on a show about the zombie apocalypse. Even Morales' sudden reappearance would make more sense if the events of Season 8 weren't actually happening. Maybe Rick's mind began confusing his own timeline.
There have also been some suspicious conveniences for Rick and Co. in Season 8. While there was a major bloodbath for the folks of the Kingdom and there were some other heartbreaking losses, none of the major good guys/Rick's closest friends have been killed. They happened to find some convenient guns. Although she admittedly wasn't back at full badass status, Michonne recovered from nearly being beaten to death very quickly. Rick's mind would certainly rather think of the woman he loves as healthy.
If the midseason finale in a couple of weeks does feature the reveal that Rick has been unconscious and out of commission for a while, a big question that will need to be answered is when he went out. Siddiq is probably going to be around for a while, which would mean that Rick was still awake when he encountered Siddiq in the season premiere. We'll have to wait and see. There's every chance that the inconsistencies in Season 8 just happen to be part of the story this time around, but we'll have to wait and see. We can't rule out a dream at this point.
You can catch new episodes of The Walking Dead on Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.