The Walking Dead has returned for 2018, at last confirming that huge death hanging over the series. The moment also had the unexpected side-effect of dismissing a huge time-jump from the comics, but producers say “Old Man Rick” and a major status quo update may still take place.

You’re warned of full Walking Dead spoilers from here on out, but it finally happened – Chander Riggs’ Carl “opted out” before sickness from a walker bite fully overcame him, robbing the series of its (arguably) most important character. We knew it was coming, but less-anticipated was the revelation that those squeaky-clean future Alexandria visions were actually Carl’s idealistic hopes for the future, rather than actual flash-forwards. That would seem to cancel out an identical three-year comic time jump that follows “All Out War,” but departing showrunner Scott Gimple tells Entertainment Weekly the show may yet shake things up:

We wanted to tell this story where Carl, by affecting the people around him, especially Rick, wants to change the world and change what the world is to them, and then keeping that piece of the book. And, by the way, when I say we’re taking it, that isn’t to say that we might not get there in another way, obviously, but [it led to using] a version of what happened in the book, one of maybe many versions you could see on the show. But it very much was about Carl’s story first. It sprung from Carl’s story.

Does this mean that there will be no time jump on the show coming up?

Oh no, it definitely does not necessarily mean that.

It’s worth noting that Carl’s vision of future Alexandria contained at least one significant departure from the comics, as Negan was depicted as an affable member of the community, rather than its prisoner. Producers previously explained that Carl’s departing words of “my mercy prevails over my wrath” were intended to justify Rick sparing Negan at some upcoming point, though it remains to be seen exactly what role Jeffrey Dean Morgan will have in future seasons of the series. Additionally, Carl’s isn’t the only significant departure this season, as the likelihood of Lauren Cohan leaving the series also diverges from the books.

We’ll get a stronger sense of the show’s future as Season 8 plays out, but might The Walking Dead look very different next year?

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