WARNING: This article includes MAJOR SPOILERS from The Walking Dead season 8 premiere and the comics.
The season 8 premiere of The Walking Dead was the opening battle for a war that will play out across the entire season. Rick made the first move, bringing the fight to Negan’s front door and laying out for him and the rest of The Saviors an ultimatum – surrender or die. Unsurprisingly, neither Negan or any of The Saviors gave Rick’s threat much consideration, remaining confident that when this war breaks out, they’ll win. This moment of hubris, however, finds them caught unaware by the full scope of Rick’s attack plan – he hasn’t come to fight them, at least not outright; instead he and his army of survivors have lured a huge herd of walkers to The Sanctuary, leaving the dead to do their dirty work after busting down the compound’s perimeter fence.
It’s a clever plan and one that fans of the comics were likely expecting Rick to pull off once the show began laying the groundwork to adapt the story arc, “All Out War”. Ever since The Walking Dead first introduced Negan, the series has begun adhering more closely to those comic book story lines, making it more viable to look at what happens in the comics when speculating about the show’s future. Of course, the television series still makes a point of shaking things up when it can, keeping some element of surprise intact.
So with the understanding that season 8 is likely to continue pulling a good bit of inspiration from The Walking Dead comic (with some obvious liberties taken in its adaptation), then what can it tell us about this upcoming season?
What Does Gregory Do Now?
The season 8 premiere, ‘Mercy’, ended with a few cliffhangers – the most unsettling being what will happen to Father Gabriel? That’s a tough question to answer, even when looking to the comics for clues, but we can make a guess as to what will happen with Gregory, the lousy jerk responsible for stranding Gabriel in that most perilous predicament.
Gregory’s moment of betrayal where he appears on the balcony next to Negan, declaring that The Hilltop sides with The Saviors, is one of those scenes lifted almost verbatim from the comics. On the page it plays as more of a surprise, where as the TV show sets up Gregory to call on Simon and travel to the Sanctuary. Maggie is also not present for the attack on The Sanctuary and so the moment of Jesus standing firm with her doesn’t happen until later. Still, Gregory is disgraced when only a scant few choose to leave with him, turning up at The Hilltop a short time later and pretending as if he’s still in charge. This is the moment in the comics when it’s made abundantly clear Maggie is now the undisputed leader of The Hilltop, with not a single member of the community listening to any of Gregory’s demands. (Maggie also punches him square in the face and it is excellent, fingers crossed the show will do the same.)
For the remainder of “All Out War”, Gregory lurks in the background at The Hilltop. It’s not until after the war with Negan and The Saviors that he again tries to assert his authority, using a dispute between members of The Hilltop as his chance to get back on top. He fails and Maggie remains leader, but his challenge of her is a trying time for Maggie, testing how firmly she holds to her beliefs. It’s very likely The Walking Dead season 8 will give Gregory a similar role to play. He’s already been rejected by The Hilltop, so there’s no need to rehash that scene, but he could still hang around in order to subvert Maggie’s rule. It’s too early to speculate if he’ll endure a similar fate as he does in the comics, but chances are we haven’t seen the last of the worthless coward.
Will Eugene Redeem Himself?
Eugene is also kidnapped by The Saviors and made Negan’s prisoner in the comics just as he is on the show. The timeline for these events doesn’t perfectly line up between the two, but the fact that it’s something which does happen in both the comics and TV show, makes for good odds that Eugene’s story will follow a similar trajectory. The television series has already thrown in a twist with Eugene switching sides and declaring his loyalty to Negan – something that does not happen in the comics – but it hasn’t ruled out the chance for Eugene to still redeem himself.
In the comics, Eugene isn’t kidnapped until after Rick’s pre-emptive strike on The Sanctuary and the reason Negan wants him is that Eugene has begun manufacturing bullets. Eugene has discussed doing something similar on the TV show, but so far, his bullet factory is more a pipe dream than the reality it becomes in the comics. Still, Eugene has proven useful to Negan on the AMC series, being far more cooperative than he ever is in the comics, where he remains fiercely loyal to Rick and refuses to make bullets or anything else for Negan.
It’s striking how just differently Eugene behaves once in Negan’s custody on the show, demonstrating that by this time in the comics, Eugene has grown a backbone and is willing to risk his life for his friends. TV Eugene, however, isn’t quite there yet, and would need some moral coaching if he’s to stand up to Negan. Which makes it awfully convenient that Father Gabriel, Negan’s newest prisoner – assuming, of course, Negan doesn’t just kill the poor priest – is well-suited to offering that sort of guidance. Might Gabriel offer Eugene a path towards redemption? It’s certainly possible, giving Eugene the chance to rejoin the good guys before the war is over.
PAGE 2: Rick's Next Move & Negan's Fate
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