Caution: Spoilers ahead for The Walking Dead
It appears that the second half of The Walking Dead season 9 will utilize flashbacks to explain what occurred during the show's recent time skip. Currently on a mid-season break, The Walking Dead's latest season has been nothing if not eventful. Lead protagonist Rick Grimes was written out, whisked away to a mystery location via helicopter and assumed dead by his friends, and a six-year time jump immediately followed, thrusting the series well into the future. Refusing to let up, The Walking Dead delivered a mid-season finale that introduced new villains the Whisperers and killed off another main character in Tom Payne's Jesus.
While The Walking Dead's previous time jumps have been largely uneventful however, it feels like an awful lot happened in the period between Rick's supposed death and the current point in the timeline as several ongoing mysteries have been established. Both Michonne and Daryl have the same X-shaped scar on their lower back, Maggie has left her position as leader of Hilltop and none of the communities are on speaking terms. Clearly, the intervening years were significant to the story and many fans have suggested that some flashbacks might be required to fill in the gaps.
That theory is now beginning to look extremely likely, and flashback scenes may also mean that Payne isn't quite finished with The Walking Dead yet. Speaking at the recent New Jersey Walker Stalker convention (via Comicbook), Payne claimed:
“There’s a six-year time jump, in which a lot of stuff happened and there’s those mysterious marks on Michonne and Daryl. All of these things which could be explained, and Jesus may have a hand in some of that... [Jesus is dead] as far as this spot from the timeline in the show.”
If Jesus has a hand in revealing what happened in the time skip but is dead in the present, this would surely point to the use of flashbacks when The Walking Dead returns next year. This follows comments from showrunner Angela Kang that confirmed the events of the time skip would be "explored" in the second half of season 9. While no one has exactly used the word "flashbacks" yet, this route seems highly likely, as there are so many lingering questions to answer, explaining them all without visually revisiting the past would involve a huge amount of very blatant in-dialogue exposition. Payne has also suggested in previous interviews that Jesus' role in the show is not yet complete.
While The Walking Dead's viewers are certainly keen to find out what happened during the time skip, the show will perhaps need to find the right balance between exploring the past and continuing with the current story. After the dramatic reveal of the Whisperers, it'll surely frustrate the audience if season 9 returns with entire episodes full of flashback material but keeps the outcome of the mid-season finale's graveyard battle unknown for several weeks.
In either case, it's good news for Jesus followers, as it seems the character will almost certainly re-appear. Since his character's demise, Payne has expressed some disappointment at how Jesus' story developed, or indeed didn't develop, and while it'll certainly be fun to see Jesus kick the heads of some more zombies when season 9 returns, the fact that fans know his ultimate fate means the character is unlikely to undergo any major evolution.
The Walking Dead season 9 continues February 10th 2019 on AMC.