carl in front of a burning car on the walking dead

AMC's The Walking Dead is currently enveloped in the All Out War, arguably the most exciting arc within the comic book series, but if Andrew Lincoln's thoughts are to be believed, the live-action universe is probably going to make a marked diversion from its source material in the near-ish future. As the actor puts it, Carl's downturned fate was certainly a key time to strive for a bigger distinction between the screen and the page.

As soon as it happened, all bets were off. Because there had been a certain sense, I think, over the last couple of years, that people would go, 'Oh, we are much more associated with the comic book.' I think that the general thrust of the story was always going to be based upon that with a couple of deviations or inversions or twists or replacements in one character taking that story and this one taking that. But this is unchartered waters for the show. I think it made, certainly for me, a much more challenging and more dangerous back eight [episodes]. I think what they're having to do is shake it up, in a profoundly new way.

Clearly, AMC's The Walking Dead has always gone down different narrative alleys and wormholes, with new characters, changed allegiances and revised deaths peppered throughout the show since its earliest episodes. But each arc's basic mission statement has remained the same, from "Rick Finds His Family" to "The Group Discovers Woodbury" to "Alexandria Is Destroyed." Exceptions like Terminus have spiced things up, but a faithfulness to the common direction has always been present. Still, could entirely new overarching plots get introduced into the TV show?

One reason why that might very well be the case is Angela Kang, who will be taking over as showrunner for Season 9 and presumably beyond, with Scott Gimple getting boosted upwards to oversee the Walking Dead brand. (Weigh in on that issue here.) The comics introduced a time jump following the All Out War, hopping back into the survivors' stories at a more peaceful time for most, with the next big threat being the creepy-as-all-the-hells Whisperers. At this point, though, perhaps the creative team has grown weary of matching story beats and taking flak for big decisions, and they want to do something more like what the Fear the Walking Dead writers have been able to do. That show is bringing Lennie James' Morgan into its Season 4 storyline, which is yet another departure for the character.

Here's what else Andrew Lincoln told EW about why now is a good time to possibly head down wholly new directions in future seasons.

I think, well, why not? We're eight years into a big story and I think if there is a future game --- which I know that there is --- they're going to have to take some big swings and change things up. Loosening and untethering us from a lot of the story in the comic is one really interesting way of moving the story forward, and perhaps we can look at a bigger story outside of the one that we've been focusing on for eight years --- which could be incredibly satisfying for Rick's journey, and the characters that are around Rick, but also for the audience.

Just as a non-warning to all Daryl fans, this should mean nothing concerning his possible death, considering he's not a comic character. Plus, Norman Reedus wants to stay on the show forever. But other characters and plotlines don't have it so safe. They're all wearing barb wire-covered albatrosses now.

The Walking Dead will return to AMC for Season 8's potentially game-changing back half on Sunday, February 25, at 9:00 p.m. ET. Wonder what will show up on the small screen before then? Bookmark our midseason premiere schedule for all your planning needs.

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