Warning: This article contains SPOILERS from The Walking Dead comics.
As AMC's The Walking Dead shuffles to the end of All Out War in season 8, showrunner Scott Gimple promises that his version of the story will be drastically different from the comics in a finale that is almost "too big" for viewers to handle.
The TV world of The Walking Dead has always prided itself on shocking fans by playing fast and loose with the source material, using Robert Kirkman's comics as only a guideline of how the zombie apocalypse should pan out on-screen. From the early graves of major characters - namely Laurie Holden's Andrea and, more recently, Chandler Riggs' Carl - the show has also given Melissa McBride's Carol and extended shelf-life and created a whole new character in Norman Reedus' Daryl. Now, as the ongoing war with Negan and his Saviors unfolds and reaches a precipice, Gimple is encouraging fans to throw out the rule book and prepare for an action-packed send-off.
In an interview with EW, Gimple told fans what they can (and, perhaps, can't) expect when season 8 wraps up its remaining run of episodes:
"It’s very big. Probably currently a little too big. It was pretty amazing the scope of some of the things that we got to do. And yet the emotional intensity was insane. And it very much sets up the start of the next story.”
The comic book version of All Out War eventually comes to some sort of resolution as Rick spares Negan to make him his prisoner. As the issues go on and move into the next story arc, Negan becomes something of an awkward ally and even helps the Safe Zone defeat the threat of the Whisperers. However, there is a big question hanging over whether Andrew Lincoln's screen version of Rick will be willing to spare Negan's life? According to the showrunner, no one is safe as he offers some even bigger changes for his "big" finale:
“I think emotionally we’re aspiring to evoke the same feeling that [creator Robert Kirkman] achieved in the book. But from the butterfly effect and different characters around that weren’t and vice versa, and even just the thrust of the story, how things play out are quite different in a lot of ways. There are some big changes that change the very outcome of certain aspects of the story — still trying to be true to the emotions of the story, but changing some big parts of it. It plays out very differently.”
With Negan particularly eyeing the likes of Rick, Ezekiel, and Maggie, who knows who's next on Lucille's hit list? While a contract extension of Jeffrey Dean Morgan into season 9 would offer some tantalizing details, and maybe offer Rick and Negan a chance to bury the hatchet, the shocking extent of the Saviors' violence has played out much more vividly on screens than in the comics. Ultimately, it will be up to new Walking Dead showrunner Angela Kang to decide what to do with Gimple's leftover plot threads when she takes over for season 9.
Either way, audiences won't find out until April 15, when The Walking Dead's season 8 finale airs, but Gimple's comments are sure to rattle a few cages. Alongside Carl's surprising walker bite in the midseason finale, who knows what else Gimple has up his sleeve to keep viewers talking all the way to season 9. Even if Negan is left breathing after this season finale, it will likely be a decision that will split The Walking Dead fans down the middle, but hey, that's why the show is different.
The Walking Dead returns Sunday, February 25 at 9pm ET on AMC.