With All Out War finally underway between Negan's Saviors and the alliance of Alexandria, The Hilltop and The Kingdom in The Walking Dead, the chances of every main character making it to the end of season 8 alive are almost non-existent. The Walking Dead has a long and rich history of killing off beloved main characters, and with season 8 firmly focused on the single biggest conflict in Walking Dead history, that morbid trend is only going to escalate.
The Walking Dead's cast have more or less confirmed a high death toll for the season in this year's round of promotional interviews. Steven Ogg - Negan's right hand man, Simon - has promised that the new batch of episodes will "thin the herd" and Carl Grimes himself (Chandler Riggs) has warned fans to prepare for "lots of killing".
The only question remaining is exactly whose heads are going to roll. It's worth considering that the "Old Man Rick" scene showcased in the season 8 trailer essentially confirms Grimes Sr.'s survival and characters such as Daryl Dixon are most likely protected by their popularity. However, there are a number of figures that have either come to the natural end of their character arc, outlived their usefulness, or are surplus to requirements, and it's these characters that look most likely to feel the business end of Lucille in season 8.
Watching Carol Peletier transform from a meek domestic violence victim to The Walking Dead's foremost kicker of ass has been one of the show's true highlights. Her development has been compelling, her relationship with Daryl touching, and her action scenes intense. However, Carol's character has arguably come off the boil in the past two seasons.
While her initial transformation was fascinating, Carol's decision to retreat into a self-imposed exile, only to then return to help fight the Saviors, has made for frustrating viewing at times. The fan-favorite character even spent a number of episodes living in a shack and refusing to eat Ezekiel's fruit. Now that Carol is back on the frontlines, it's difficult to see a place for her in a post-Negan landscape. The character herself even stated last season that if she allowed her violent side to emerge again, there would be nothing left afterwards. If that isn't a death flag, nothing is.
Furthermore, the comic book version of Carol died way back in the prison days, meaning that killing off the character would have no impact on any potentially pivotal future story lines.
Much like Carol, Morgan's wishy-washy attitude to violence isn't something that'll ever find itself in any "The Walking Dead's greatest moments" montages. The character also isn't embroiled in any central story arcs and his comic counterpart had died by this point in the narrative, meaning that Morgan could be a cut and dry victim of All Out War, while still packing a significant emotional impact due to his status as an original cast member.
With that said, the Akido practitioner is a popular figure in The Walking Dead and Morgan's staff-wielding style gives a unique edge to his combat scenes that would be welcome beyond season 8. Morgan also seems to have found a better balance between violence and pacifism than Carol and as a result, it's easy to see him existing happily in a post-timeskip world, always keeping his trusty wooden stick ready to fend off potential invaders.
Whether or not Eugene dies in season 8 depends largely on whether you believe his allegiance to Negan is genuine. The character has already turned down the chance to assassinate Rick's nemesis, as well as an opportunity to escape from the Saviors with Sasha and Rosita, implying that Eugene is completely loyal to his new boss. However, this could simply be a ruse by the mulleted one, designed to allow him to take down the Saviors from the inside.
If Eugene is indeed secretly still loyal to Rick, his survival seems likely. After all, he's The Walking Dead's resident scientific plot device. But if the character really has been tempted over to the dark side, it's difficult to imagine Rick being merciful in the face of Eugene's betrayal. If Rick's alliance beats the Saviors then Eugene isn't a person that could ever be trusted in the new world and while an "exile and redemption" story line in season 9 is entirely possible, simply being the recipient of bloody vengeance is just as likely.
After joining the main cast in the wake of the prison saga, Tara Chambler's awkward demeanor and youthful one-liners have injected a spot of humor into an otherwise intense series and her crystal clear views on right and wrong have acted as one of The Walking Dead's several moral compasses.
The character also clearly has a role to play in the future of the Oceanside community. It's only a matter of time until the all-female settlement join in the fight against Negan and given her history with the group, Tara is likely to play a big part in facilitating this.
After that however, does the character have a long term future on the show? Tara has never managed to establish herself as a member of the "A" cast and The Walking Dead does have a tendency to use its supporting protagonists as fodder. This will be truer in All Out War than ever before.
The TV version of Eric hasn't been a prominent character in The Walking Dead, perhaps primarily known as Aaron's violence-shy boyfriend. Undoubtedly then, he is a prime target in All Out War - especially if the AMC adaptation follows the events of the comic books.
Eric's lack of screen time means that viewers won't be particularly cut up if he bites the dust, but the real story here would be the emotional impact such an event would have on Aaron. Despite being a relative newcomer, it's clear that Aaron has long term potential in The Walking Dead, and the demise of his boyfriend could be the spark needed to kick the character into top gear.
Additionally, as someone who has been wary of Rick's tactics against the Saviors, it would make poetic sense for Eric to be included in the first wave of victims, thus placing increased scrutiny on Rick as the leader of Alexandria.
Of course, it won't just be Rick's people meeting their maker in The Walking Dead season 8; the Savior death toll will be considerable too, and Negan's right-hand man Simon is perhaps the ripest for the chop. As underdogs in All Out War, the Alexandria alliance will need to deal a sizeable dent to Negan's forces in order to prove their credentials as a genuine threat, and doing away with Simon would be a huge statement of intent.
It would also provide a nice moment of symmetry. The Walking Dead season 7 kicked off with Negan taking away Rick's "right hand man." It would only be fitting if Rick returned the favor at the outset of season 8.
Having said that, the Savior army is lacking in established characters, with Steven Ogg's character one of the few that has been given any proper screen time. Killing him off and leaving Negan as the only fleshed-out antagonist may do more harm than good in the long run.
As anyone up to date with the The Walking Dead comic series will know, Negan's story doesn't necessarily end with the conclusion of All Out War and the villain potentially has a significant role to play in the future of the AMC adaptation. However, the TV series and comics don't always correlate and the fate of Negan may be one area where the two formats differ wildly.
Comic Negan is incredibly popular but Jeffrey Dean Morgan's incarnation of the character hasn't attracted quite as much acclaim, through no fault of the actor himself it should be said. In truth, part of Negan's charm in the comics is his foul-mouthed wit and attempting to make a diluted version of the character that's fit for television hasn't proved an easy task.
It's also worth noting that Jeffrey Dean Morgan isn't known for staying on one TV show for very long and there's a sizeable question mark over whether or not the actor would commit his long term future to The Walking Dead. With all this in mind, will season 8 conclude with Negan's death?
The Walking Dead season 8 premieres October 22nd on AMC.