The Season 8 trailer of The Walking Dead has sparked a lot of questions among fans. Will Rick and his posse finally get their revenge on Negan? Is the series going to become more over the top and less grounded in reality? Will Trevor from GTA V become more involved in the story?
However, the most intriguing question that the trailer sparked was: what’s up with old man Rick waking up in what could be a hospital bed? While there are a lot of theories about Rick being dead or the entire show being some kind of coma dream (that Robert Kirkman confirmed was not going to happen), it looks likely that this part of the trailer implies that The Walking Dead is headed toward a time-skip, and potentially its conclusion.
The Time-Jump in the Comic
A time skip is likely to occur for a couple of reasons. In the original Walking Dead comic -- which the show loosely follows -- the story jumps ahead roughly two years after they resolve the conflict with Negan. In this near future, Alexandria has been rebuilt into a thriving community again, the factions that sided with Rick against Negan have formed friendly relationships, and regular patrols on trade routes have drastically lowered the number of zombie-related deaths.
There's a dark side to this new status quo, though. Negan, who is being held prisoner in Alexandria, is talking with Carl regularly and the pair hold a kind of father-son relationship. Threats also loom in the shadows, with a group known as The Whisperers disguising themselves as walkers are leading hoards of the undead to settlements.
For as interesting as these stories are, there isn't a ton of source material for the show to adapt once the time-skip happens. This means that for the show to go on, it would need to overtake the story in the comics. While shows like Game of Thrones have done this -- with mixed results -- it could lead to the quality of The Walking Dead suffering greatly. Unless the pace of the show reduces to a crawl, there's maybe one and a half more seasons worth of material that the writers of the show could adapt from the comic.
Change Is Good
As well as following along with the comic, a time skip would allow characters like Carl to age up to better fit the now adult actor that plays him. It would also greatly change the status quo on the show and allow for more unique and interesting stories to occur. It would be incredibly interesting to see Rick's daughter, Judith, come into her own without ever knowing a world without zombies. A story arc about Carl or Daryl taking the reigns from Rick and becoming the new focus of the show might also be exactly the change The Walking Dead needs to feel fresh again.
Really, there are only benefits to the show skipping ahead a few years at the end of this season or at the midseason finale. Considering that the show has covered practically all of the other major story beats from the comic, it’s highly likely that this portion will follow suit. However, this may also mean that The Walking Dead could be ending soon.
A Happy Ending?
The time-skip is where a lot of longtime fans of the show thought the series would end. Many imagined that the show would wrap up by jumping ahead two to five years after Negan’s defeat and reveal that Rick and the gang had rebuilt society somewhat, committed to their romantic relationships, and found some kind of happiness despite everything that had happened to them.
Sure, it would be a little cliché, but after eight seasons of hardship, it’s what the characters deserve and what the audience wants for them. Whether this happens or not, the Season 8 trailer has a lot of people excited and prepared for change. The changes will make The Walking Dead more over the top, more engaging, and probably better than the last few seasons.