The premiere episode of The Walking Dead's eighth season will explain the "old man Rick" shot from the trailer. Despite how divisive the show's season 7 proved to be - complete with the ratings drops to prove it - it is still easily one of the most popular scripted dramas on TV, with Game of Thrones being its only real competition in that department. Thus, even many who had issues with season 7 are now fully looking forward to The Walking Dead season 8, coming this October. A lot of the growing anticipation has to do with season 8 adapting the comic book's famous All-Out War arc, in which Rick's forces go to battle with Negan's sadistic Saviors.
To illustrate just how popular The Walking Dead is at this point, the first trailer for season 8 debuted at SDCC, and quickly became the most viewed trailer for a TV series of all-time. This process didn't take long either, with the record-breaking 31 million views being racked up in only 4 days. Even sweeter, the previous record holder for most viewed TV trailer was held by The Walking Dead season 7's SDCC promo, making it clear that the only show on TV capable of eclipsing a season of The Walking Dead is another season of The Walking Dead.
As popular as it was though, the season 8 trailer left fans with a big question: What was the deal with the appearance of a much-older Rick waking up in a bed that popped up near the end of the footage? The three prevailing theories so far have been that it's only a one-off dream sequence, that's it Rick waking up from his coma and revealing the entire series so far to be a dream, or that it's from after a significant jump in time occurs. Never one to miss an opportunity to stir the pot, Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman said the following during a TCA event yesterday (hat tip CBM), after being asked about what the interviewer assumed was a time jump.
"Or was it the time jump. I don’t know, maybe it was Rick waking up from his coma. Wouldn’t that be weird? That is an intriguing tidbit that we did throw out there on purpose, and we’re hoping that people continue to question how it is that fits into the story line and what it is. Comic book fans know where a scene that kind of looked like that would fall, but it also doesn’t seem like we would be getting to that just yet if you were a comic book fan, so there’s a mystery to that. I’m pretty sure you’ll learn in the first episode what that means."
Readers of The Walking Dead comic book of course lean toward the time jump theory of explaining old man Rick, as a large time jump occurs in the comics after the All-Out War arc wraps up, alluded to by Kirkman above. Still, The Walking Dead's TV adaptation has differed from the source material in quite a few big ways before, and Kirkman always seems to enjoy catching his loyal readers off guard with what happens on TV. With that in mind, there's no reason to assume that a time jump will for sure be the cause of old man Rick in the small-screen continuity.
What's really surprising is that Kirkman would come out and say that the first episode will explain things, as many likely assumed that the answer would be put off awhile in order to tease fans, as has been done with big story reveals in the past. Whatever the cause of Rick's aged appearance in the season 8 trailer ends up being, fans now have less than 90 days of waiting left before they find out.
The Walking Dead season 8 premieres October 22 on AMC.