Warning: possible SPOILERS ahead for The Walking Dead season 8
The season 7 finale of The Walking Dead - 'The First Day of the Rest of Your Life' - saw Rick and Alexandria finally tell Negan where to poke his baseball bat as they rebelled against the totalitarian rule of the Saviors. Despite being betrayed by Jadis and her Junkyard community, the dual forces of the Hilltop led by Maggie and the Kingdom led by Ezekiel managed to help Rick and co. turn the tides and repel the threat of the Saviors. This neatly sets up the All Out War arc from the comic series, which sees that three-way alliance go head-to-head against Negan in a protracted and bloody campaign.
With a seemingly intense, fast-moving and combat focused season 8 on the horizon, there is sure to be a glut of villains opposing Rick, Maggie and Ezekiel when the show returns this fall, some attached to the Saviors and some possibly not. Comic book fans may already know of the future threats lying in wait but the AMC adaptation has been known to stray from its source material significantly at times and so whichever baddies rear their ugly heads next season, fans can expect plenty of twists, turns and betrayals.
Obviously. Jeffrey Dean Morgan's character has been confirmed as a definite returnee for season eight and his character will likely be even more prominent in this next run of episodes (and possibly for long time after that). Not all fans have enjoyed the live-action interpretation of Negan, with some finding Morgan's version of the character strays too far from the comic book original. Others however, have greatly enjoyed the popular actor's take on the villain and believe him to be one of the highlights of season seven.
Either way, Negan will undoubtedly be the lead antagonist in The Walking Dead's eighth outing and his war with Rick will be front and center of the narrative. With Alexandria representing the first real threat to his dictatorship rule, expect the Saviors' maniacal leader to ramp up the violence and aggression next term as he seeks to cling on to his power and territory. Despite this, it's highly unlikely that the severity of his situation will cause Negan to cease his wise-cracking sarcasm and viewers can expect plenty more colorful metaphors and hilarious put-downs.
Simon and Arat
Two of Negan's closest confidants and most trusted fighters, Simon and Arat had relatively quiet supporting roles in season 7, but with war on the horizon - and with Dwight seemingly switching sides - their role in The Walking Dead is likely to become increasingly more prominent in season 8. Arat has been a fantastic 'quiet but deadly' member of Negan's forces, but as All Out War progresses it'll be vital for the show to delve deeper into her personality, as well as some of the other more senior Saviors.
As for Simon, Steven Ogg has been typically brilliant in the role, even if his scenes have been few and far between. The character was a prime contender to die in season 7, as Rick killing Negan's right-hand man would've made for a nice moment of symmetry after the villain did the same to Rick in the season premiere but nevertheless, Simon has survived to fight another day.
Unlike Dwight, both Simon and Arat appear to be fiercely loyal to Negan and genuinely violent psychopaths in their own right, meaning that they will surely become vital secondary villains in the upcoming war.
Fans of the The Walking Dead comic series will know that Dwight's demure and kind-hearted ex-wife actually becomes a villain further down the road, leading a group of disgruntled Saviors to the gates of Alexandria in an attempt to establish her group's dominance in the network of communities. Of course, this occurs quite a way down the line but the TV version of The Walking Dead has been known to introduce elements from the comics early - most recently the Oceanside group - and it's possible Sherry's turn to villainy may occur earlier than anticipated.
Last time viewers saw the character, she had made her escape from Negan and the Saviors and struck out on her own. Dwight seems to have assumed her dead but, as all The Walking Dead fans know, no one can truly be considered deceased unless you see their lifeless body on screen. Although the trigger on the Sherry arc is unlikely to pulled fully in season 8, it's entirely plausible that she'll at least make her return to the show, and viewers may see her experience some things out in the wild that account for her turn to the dark side.
The debate continues as to whether Eugene has truly betrayed Rick or whether he is still secretly loyal to Alexandria, but as things stand he certainly appears to be a key member of Negan's Saviors. Intriguingly, Eugene is apparently enjoying his new found power and respect in his role as Chief Engineer at the Sanctuary, and with video games, pickles and safety, it's difficult to deny that the character has a more comfortable life than he ever did at Alexandria.
Eugene's decision to lie to Negan about his involvement in aiding Sasha's suicide indicates that he may still be somewhat loyal to his old friends but there is a distinct possibility that the character will turn full bad guy in season 8. Actor Josh McDermitt did a fantastic job of teasing Eugene's more villainous tendencies, and he looks particularly at home by Negan's side. He would certainly offer a more intellectual threat than fellow senior Saviors Simon and Arat.
Despite this, comic fans will know that Eugene has a key future role in the Alexandria community, and this may put his career as a proper villain off the table for now.
The Hilltop's ultimate coward was last seen quietly making his escape from the community, leaving Maggie to step into the leadership breach. Taking Gregory's previous conversation with Simon into account, it's highly likely that the character has secretly made for the Sanctuary in order to elicit Negan's help in re-asserting his dominance over his people and regain control of the Hilltop. Thus far, Gregory has been far too weak and scared for viewers to consider him a serious threat to the protagonists, but his recent self-aborted attempt to murder Maggie may have just planted the seeds for a more evil Gregory in season 8.
This largely depends on how the Saviors treat the former leader of the Hilltop upon his arrival. As demonstrated with Eugene, Negan appears to be an expert in taking shivering wrecks and turning them into more intimidating baddies, and he may just pull a similar trick with Gregory. With that said, while Eugene's intellect made him a useful asset, it's difficult to see what Greg brings to the table, and Negan is just as likely to toss him into the furnace and kick back by the fire as he is to help him.
In a twist that comic book fans had been long expecting, the penultimate episode of The Walking Dead's seventh season saw Dwight betray Negan and offer his services to Alexandria. Certainly, after being tortured both physically and through having to watch Negan get off with his wife, Dwight's betrayal is hardly surprising and will likely be a key part of Rick's forthcoming campaign.
However, the show's producers could throw a massive curveball into the mix with a double swerve of epic proportions by revealing that Dwight's attempt to help the good guys is actually a ruse masterminded by Negan himself and rather than Rick gaining an inside man in the Sanctuary, Negan actually manages to have one of his men gain the trust of Alexandria. Given how integral Dwight is to the plot, such a turn is perhaps unlikely but it would certainly take both comic-readers and TV-only fans by utter surprise.
Despite the botched attempt to quell Alexandria's resistance, it appeared as if Jadis and her right hand man managed to escape the melee, and it's unclear where the leader of the Junkyard community will go from here. Her deal with Negan appears to be over after their brief negotiation scene in the season finale, but there's nothing to stop the duo working together again. After betraying Rick, Jadis and her group's safety is compromised and the safest bet may be to align herself permanently with Negan.
Whether this sees her become another of the Saviors' Generals or remain the leader of her own separate group of survivors, only time will tell, but as a unique addition to the season 7 cast there's every chance of Jadis returning to cause further havoc when The Walking Dead season 8 premieres. Her more primal way of living would provide Rick with a distinctly unpredictable enemy to fight against.
The next primary antagonists after the conclusion of the Negan material are The Whisperers, a group of animalistic survivors who wear zombie skins in order to move through hordes of Walkers without being noticed, and manipulate them into attacking their enemies. The show has already dropped a few subtle nods towards the Whisperers' impending arrival, and while full exploration of this group will likely be saved for season 9, an appearance next season cannot be ruled out.
Season 8 will largely concern itself with covering All Out War but just as the Negan arc was hinted at long before the man himself actually appeared, expect a few hints of the series' next enemies in order to set up the forthcoming big feud. The most likely option could be a post-credits scene in the season 8 finale that sees the Whisperers finally make their debut appearance.
Just something about her eyes... Maybe she'll get revenge for her biological father.
The Walking Dead season 8 premieres this Fall on AMC.