The Season 9 premiere of The Walking Dead is slowly but surely approaching, and details are beginning to leak about what we can expect from the new batch of episodes beyond that fact that we'll be saying goodbye to Andrew Lincoln. While we've known for a while that a time jump is in store for the ninth season, it wasn't clear how much of a jump there would be. Now, thanks to actor Tom Payne, we officially know how much time will have passed between the Season 8 finale and the Season 9 premiere: 18 months.
Interestingly, Tom Payne didn't seem to intend to drop a bombshell when he revealed the length of the time jump. In response to a question from Yvette Nicole Brown about life in the zombie apocalypse in the aftermath of all-out war against the Saviors, Payne said this:
Tom Payne, a.k.a. Jesus, dropped the time jump bombshell on The Walking Dead: Season 9 Preview Special, hosted by Yvette Nicole Brown in place of Chris Hardwick. Brown immediately called attention to the fact that Payne had dropped a nugget of hard information about Season 9, and Payne was clearly sheepish until new showrunner Angela Kang assured him that the length of the time jump was something he was allowed to say. Jesus won't have to be killed off because Tom Payne spoiled a twist!
All things considered, 18 months could be a perfect window of time, and it tracks with what we've seen of Season 9 so far. Not a whole lot of footage and images have been released, but we've seen enough to tell that Maggie has a flat belly, indicating that she's no longer pregnant and has finally given birth. The time jump means the show can skip Maggie's pregnancy and allow her to focus on larger concerns. That said, a baby could also help explain why Maggie won't be around as much. A new mom in the zombie apocalypse is bound to be busy! We already know that she won't be the only woman stepping up in Season 9.
The 18-month time jump also means that viewers can be spared some plot developments that might have been kind of boring to watch unfold on screen. Just because the survivors are building a windmill and working through various other advancements courtesy of Georgie doesn't mean we want to watch the construction process. Now we can see how the survivors have settled into their new reality and the barter system that has arisen in a small society without currency.
It makes sense that Hilltop would be outperforming other settlements in the new reality. Alexandria wasn't exactly overflowing with farmers or farmland, and nobody else seemed quite as organized and functional as of the end of Season 8 as Hilltop. Maggie had Daryl on her side in the finale, and he's a valuable ally in the zombie apocalypse. With Rick on his way out and the Whisperers on the way in, Hilltop could become a valuable refuge for survivors. We'll have to wait and see.