In terms of The Walking Dead, you know the deal: one chapter closes and another opens. Now, the season eight finale is behind us, the war with the Saviors is over, and Negan is alive. With the Saviors more or less taken care of and the immediate threat extinguished, there's an even bigger question at hand: what can we expect from season nine? We were able to assemble quite a bit of information based on a few clues that have emerged this month.
1. A New Chapter
In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, showrunner Scott M. Gimple explained how the season eight finale marks the end of an era on The Walking Dead. "This episode isn't just like these 15 episodes coming to a conclusion," Gimple said, "but [new showrunner Angela Kang] and myself and the writers had always talked about this in many ways being sort of the conclusion of the first eight seasons. This show will be very much a new show next year and with a bigger, new narrative." So basically, if you think the show has jumped the shark, you may very well change your tune once season nine starts.
2. A Focus on "Rebuilding" vs. "Surviving"
In another interview with Vulture, Gimple hinted even more about this shift in storytelling. It turns out we're not really going to focus on killing zombies and facing enemies. Instead, it seems more like our heroes will be focused on a future and a new society to build on the ashes of the apocalypse. "Yes, that kind of ambition is a big part of the show moving forward. It's a much bigger thing that they're all aspiring to," he said. "I suppose that's where they should be; it's where the comic went because they learned how to survive. How do they take that further? What do they do with that superpower, and what are their responsibilities?"
3. A Potential Civil War
As we see in the finale, Maggie isn't too pleased that Negan gets to survive. Gimple shed some light on this moment in his postseason chat with Vulture. "Her reaction to Rick letting Negan live was gigantic," he said. "She didn't get to make the choice about Negan, and I don't think Maggie is the type of person to just shrug, but I think she put her leadership at the Hilltop first. She was talking about the health and welfare of her community first, but she said this is also on my to-do list. This is not settled."
And as for Daryl and Jesus, who have a surreptitious meeting with Maggie in the finale? "Daryl has a pretty intimate relationship with Negan. He has seen all sides of him. As far as Jesus goes, Jesus would not kill surviving Saviors, and he's not really about killing people to start with, but he's not Morgan," Gimple said. "This isn't like an utter code of his; he'll do what he has to do, with a fairness about it. But does that really apply to Negan? Does Negan deserve that sort of mercy? I think even with Jesus it's a different story, and I think he really has Maggie's back."
4. Georgie and The Commonwealth
Speaking of seeds that are "subtly planted" in season eight, this seems like the perfect opportunity to remind you of new arrival Georgie, who briefly pops up in the back half of season eight. We have a feeling we haven't seen the last of her, especially since she's part of a major storyline in the comic books. Having introduced her in season eight, it seems like season nine would be the prime time to dig into her character and the community from which she comes.
5. The Helicopter
Here's another one that's been popping up here and there throughout season eight. Over the course of the season, we've been spotting a helicopter, and its presence has only been getting louder and louder. In recent episodes, it literally flies directly over the heads of our fair heroes. But who owns the helicopter? And where did they get it? And where did they come from? We have a feeling it's Georgie's group, but hopefully season nine gives us some concrete answers. After all, if these people have a helicopter in their arsenal, there's no telling what else they may be hiding.
While speaking to Vulture, Gimple hinted at both of these potential storylines: "There is definitely something going on there, obviously. Something big to the story, and that's something we're gonna have to get into as well."
6. The Whisperers
With the Saviors on their way out, we imagine it's only a matter of time before a new threat emerges. In the comic books, one sinister option is a group called the Whisperers. They're survivors who cover themselves in the skin of walkers to roam around undetected. The show has only hinted at them before (with just a social media post, really), but we're getting to that point in the comic books. I'd venture to say we may see them sooner rather than later.
7. The Premiere
If there's one thing about The Walking Dead that's remained pretty consistent over the years, it's the airing schedule. Be on the lookout for an October release, which is a short six months away!
8. New Cast Members
We'll definitely be seeing lots of new faces in the upcoming season. Entertainment Weekly broke the news that Tony-nominated actress Lauren Ridloff was joining the cast for a multiepisode arc playing the character Connie. There isn't much information on the show's version of Connie, aside from a description of her as "a seasoned survivor deft at using her senses to read people, situations, and trouble." There is a Connie in the comic books who arrives around the same point that the show has reached, including the time jump. She is part of another group of survivors we haven't seen on The Walking Dead yet, which means we may have a whole new group of characters to look forward to!