Autumn is upon us – and for loyal fans of Rick Grimes, Daryl Dixon et al, it’ll soon be time to dive back into the zombie-infested world of The Walking Dead.
But how much can you remember of season seven (the finale of which was broadcast back in April)? Here’s a quick recap and guide to everything you need to know ahead of the new season premiere next month.
What you need to know
When can I watch The Walking Dead?
The first episode of the show’s eighth season begins on AMC on Sunday October 22 for US viewers – and, as per usual, us UK viewers will be able to get in on the action a day later, at 9pm on October 23.
How can I watch The Walking Dead, and what channel is it on?
Season 8 of The Walking Dead will be aired on FOX, the global entertainment channel. You can also catch it on NOW TV with a 14 day free trial of their Entertainment Pass.
What can we expect from season 8 of the Walking Dead?
The cliffhanger isn’t quite so bad this year – but things are still pretty tense.
Okay, so this time round we haven’t spent the entire summer frantically speculating about which cast regular was going to fall foul of Lucille, the “thirsty” baseball bat wielded by unpredictable villain Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). But season seven still ended with the promise of forthcoming bloodshed.
The beginning of the season, which aired all the way back in October 2015, saw Andrew Lincoln’s Rick Grimes reluctantly concede power, broken by Negan’s continuous threats and expertise in psychological (and actual) torture – and cowed by the sheer manpower of his antagonistic group of survivors, the Saviors.
Following the example of other subdued colonies, Rick agreed to pay tribute to the Saviors, living under their tyrannical rule and turning a proportion of the produce of his settlement, Alexandria, over to them.
Negan took Daryl, a key member of the group and friend of Rick’s, captive, and also later imprisoned Rick’s son Carl, who broke into the Savior’s base to try and assassinate Negan. Ever one for surprises, Negan decided not to harm him Carl, instead professing himself a fan of the young boy’s bravery – and subjecting him to a range of sadistic psychological tortures instead.
By the time the mid-season break rolled around (the show’s 16-episode season runs are usually shown in two parts, one in the Autumn and one in the Spring), Daryl had escaped, and Rick had changed his tune. The hardened survivor we’d come to know and love was back, and preparing to take down the Saviors.
Firstly, however, he had to earn the support of various other communities, including the Scavengers – who talked Rick and his friends to procuring guns for them, before revealing their true (Negan-shaded) colours in the finale.
Luckily, other settlements and survivors committed to the fight – thanks in no small part to the efforts of Maggie (Lauren Cohan), who gained the respect of the Hilltop community and became its leader, and Morgan (Lennie James), who helped persuade the Kingdom community and its cautious leader Ezekiel to join with Rick.
Thanks to their collaboration, in the final episode Negan, the Scavengers and the Saviors were temporarily forced to pull back, following a gun battle at Alexandria.
Expert all-out war to ensue in season eight.
The survivor communities: who’s on who’s side again?
Can’t keep your Sanctuary, Scavengers and Saviors straight in your head? Here’s a quick recap of the various groups who came into play in previous seasons, and where they stand at the commencement of the new series.
The Saviors, a mighty, disciplined community led by Negan, are the current prime antagonists of the piece (sorry, Walkers – your day of being the big bad are long gone). They survive by threatening weaker groups and forcing them to pay tribute, turning over whatever section of their produce the Saviors fancy (a hefty 50% is par for the course) and using violence and murder to emphasise their dominance. In essence, they’re a bit like a small-scale Roman Empire. Or a large-scale playground bully.
As demonstrated by Rick’s earlier compliance, a number of the subdued community leaders find it easier to just go along with what Negan wants, rather than run the risk of being wiped out altogether. Their main base is called The Sanctuary – but, thanks to their vast numbers, the Saviors are also able to man various other outposts. Because of this, Rick and others initially believed their true numbers to be much smaller than the reality.
The agricultural Hilltop community, formerly led by Gregory, made a pact to support Rick and the Alexandrians in their attempt to take on the Saviors back in season six – but everyone involved soon realised they had bitten off more than they could chew, and that there were a lot more Saviors than previously suspected. Under Gregory’s leadership, the Hilltop resumed paying tribute to Negan.
Season seven, however, saw resourceful Maggie, pregnant widow of Lucille-victim Glenn, gain the trust and respect of the community, and emerge as its real leader. Following her example, the Hilltop people are now ready to again team up with Rick and the Alexandrians and fight back against the Saviors.
The Kingdom and its theatrical leader Ezekiel (who comes complete with tiger Shiva) were introduced in season seven, during which we saw various members of the group clash over whether or not they should continue paying tribute to the Saviors, or rebel against them.
Series regulars Morgan (Lennie James) and Carol (Melissa McBride) were involved in this storyline, with Ezekiel allowing a traumatised, violence-shunning Carol to live in self-imposed ignorance away from the community. After a tragic turn of events, which saw the Saviors murder teenager Benjamin after a plot to provoke them went awry, Ezekiel, Morgan and Carol all agreed that it was finally time to fight.
The Junkyard-dwelling Scavengers, a raiding, foraging group led by Jadis, agreed in season seven to unite with Rick – but later decided to remain loyal to Negan, betraying the Alexandrians in the season finale.
Finally, there’s also Oceanside, an almost exclusively female community led by Natania. The Oceanside group live in hiding in an old campsite after a previous clash with the Saviors led to the execution of all males over 10. In season seven, they were discovered by Tara, who managed to escape (the group have a policy of killing intruders, to prevent discovery). Later on, they steadfastly refused to join the fight against the Saviors – and promptly had all their weapons nabbed by Rick.
Not everyone made it: the main deaths
Season seven, in standard Walking Dead fashion, dispatched with a number of favourite characters, as well as plenty of characters we didn’t care all that much about, thanks to the fact that we never really got the chance to known them.
The opening episode saw Negan brutally murder not just one but two long-serving members of the group: Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Abraham (Michale Cudlitz).
The latter death inspired Abraham’s girlfriend, Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green), and his ex-girlfriend, Rosita, to team up in a suicidal bid to avenge his murder and take out Negan. In the event, however, Sasha prevented Rosita from sacrificing herself, stopping her from entering the Sanctuary and reminding her that she was needed by the group.
After being captured by Negan, Sasha was placed alive inside a casket and taken to Alexandria in the season finale, where Negan planned to use her as a bargaining tool.
Unknown to him, however, she was in possession of a poison capsule, and used it to commit suicide enroute – meaning that, when she emerged, it was as a fully-fledged, all-biting, all-deadly Walker.
Other shock deaths included that of Spencer, who was killed by an unimpressed Negan in the first half of the season, after Spencer tried to undermine Rick’s leadership. After Rosita fired at Negan in retaliation, the Saviors then murdered bespectacled Alexandria resident Olivia.
We also saw the surprise murder of young Kingdom resident Benjamin, after a plot by fellow Kingdom member Richard to provoke his community into action went awry. Benjamin was shot in the leg, as punishment for a missing watermelon, and later died of his injuries.
Morgan, understanding that Richard had intended to sacrifice himself in order to demonstrate the necessity of war with the Saviors, later killed Richard, publicly strangling him to falsely convince their oppressors of the group’s loyalty.
The Walking Dead season 8 begins on October 23. Watch the new episodes and catch up on seasons 1-7 with a 14-day free trial of the NOW TV Entertainment Pass.