With how uncompromisingly brutal the seventh season of The Walking Dead has been so far after its initial first half (consisting of eight episodes), there was a call from some critics and fans for the second half to make some changes. While the show did course correct somewhat in midseason finale “Hearts Still Beating” – which included Andrew Lincoln’s Rick finally getting the nerve to stand up to the vicious Negan – Lincoln himself has promised that the back half of the season will contain more “levity.”
Should Lincoln’s words prove true, it could certainly go a long way toward bringing back fans, as The Walking Dead has bled some viewers this season when compared to previous years. As if to complement Lincoln’s words, AMC has released a new photo of Rick and the gang seemingly plotting against Negan and his Saviors.
Released by TVLine, the photo taken from the midseason premiere shows Rick – along with Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and others from the Alexandria community – talking with the leader of Hilltop, Gregory. Seemingly, the group is trying to convince Hilltop to join their fight against Negan. Judging from the look on Gregory’s face, the negotiations will more than likely hit some roadblocks.
Based on the photo and Rick’s newfound willingness to start a war against the Saviors displayed in “Hearts Still Beating”, The Walking Dead will continue to at least follow the foundation laid out in the comic. It leads to all-out war between Rick and his various allies – including Hilltop and Ezekiel’s The Kingdom – and one of the most well received arcs in the comic. What’s also interesting to note is the fact that Maggie is standing closest to Gregory, perhaps foreshadowing her eventual takeover as the leader of Hilltop.
While it’s not certain when the actual war between Negan and Rick will begin in earnest, the build up to it during the back eight episodes should prove to be an interesting arc for the show. A lot of fans are awaiting Ezekiel’s Kingdom and Alexandria finally having some communication and tying their stories together, an inevitable step that The Walking Dead will no doubt take. Knowing the show’s history of picking up the action in the second half of seasons, it’ll be surprising if the war doesn’t conclude by the end of the season.
Still, the show has made a name for itself in milking everything it can out of potential storylines, and some fans aren’t expecting the all-out war narrative to finish up this season at all. With eight episodes of content to fill, however, mixed in with the show's newfound affinity for extended episodes, it’s hard to imagine this being the case. Either way, The Walking Dead has become problematic narratively for some of the fan base. There’s probably little chance these particular viewers will be coming back unless a significant change in structure occurs.
The Walking Dead season 7 returns Sunday, February 12 at 9pm on AMC.