Rick honored his son’s dying wish by keeping Negan alive at the end of The Walking Dead’s eighth season. But will that cause other problems when things pick back up in season 9? It looks like Rick’s mercy prevailing over his wrath could be a bonding moment between Maggie (whose husband was murdered by the lunatic with the baseball bat) and Daryl (who has tortured at the Sanctuary) when season 9 kicks off Oct. 7 on AMC. That’s according to new showrunner Angela Kang, who discussed with EW what Rick’s decision means moving forward, as well as the shaky integration of the Saviors in season 9.
ENTERTAINMENT WEKELY: So we know we have the time jump coming up and we’ve got a bunch of new people coming in. We know there are some other people going out. Just sort of generally thinking about season 9, is this the biggest shift in story that this show has ever had?
ANGELA KANG: This is a pretty big shift in story because season 9 really is a new chapter of the show. It was always intended that way, for a long time. [TWD chief content officer] Scott Gimple had always imagined that the end of “All Out War” ends a certain chapter of the Walking Dead series, as it sort of ended a chapter of the comic books. And then true to the structure of the comics, we are starting with a time jump. It’s a bigger time jump than what we’ve had on the series. And it allows us to see what has changed. And obviously there are a lot of changes happening in the season as a whole.
In terms of the look and feel of the show, it’s very different from what we’ve been seeing. Just because the world itself has changed. It’s moving to a much more “horses and wagons and hand weapons and scarcity” type of vibe. And then yeah, obviously we have some major cast changes this year. Both in terms of exciting people that are coming in, and then we know that Andrew Lincoln is moving on from the series this season. And so within the show, we’ll really be exploring what happens with the loss of Rick. And so, that’s a giant story that’s part of the season.
Exactly how long is this time jump?
When we open up, we’re calling it about one and a half years.
Let’s talk about the integration of the Saviors into this group of communities, because it looks like there could be some trouble there, which I guess one would expect.
When we started talking about this season, we really wanted to explore what happens when a civilization is trying to build itself up. I think the comic book had this really interesting structure to it, where it’s this story that starts with one man, Rick. He’s looking for his family. He finds them, he finds this kind of larger family of nomads. They wind up at a community. Some of the communities fall, but ultimately they find a series of communities. It’s kind of like the beginning of tribes, and now they’re in a place where it’s like these warring factions have come through the other end of the war, and what do you do next?
And so we were really looking at even historical examples of what nations did after let’s say, World War II, or after certain tribes fight with each other, what happens, and how do you move ahead? And because we have the benefit of jumping time, we don’t have to come in right when the wounds are fresh, and when everybody is first healing. We kind of move to a place where they have found a system that largely works. But even like with allied countries or communities that are close to each other, they don’t agree about everything. And the Sanctuary being rebuilt needs a lot of help, and that puts strain on some of the other communities, and that causes some internal problems for our leaders, who are these characters we’ve been following for a very long time.
We really wanted to explore those kinds of dynamics within the communities, and yeah, there is some conflict around the Saviors. We really see, like, there is some graffiti on the wall of people writing, “Saviors save us. We are still Negan.” You see these things that are the signs of discontent among the people. And how do you deal with that? And how do you move forward from that?
We know how last season ended, and that Maggie and Daryl are clearly not happy with the decision Rick made. After the time jump, how are they now with that decision to keep Negan alive? And how is that going to play out?
Maggie and Daryl entered a pact at the end of the last season. And we know that these are both people who are true to their word. We see that Maggie starts the season in a really good place. Hilltop is thriving, she has her baby. She has found a way to keep going, and to be at peace with herself. Daryl starts off having been helping things at the Sanctuary, but you see that he is struggling with that leadership there.
We see that these characters have figured out how to move on in their day-to-day, but they still carry these wounds from the war. Both of them are people who didn’t agree with the decision to spare Negan. We’ll see that Maggie and Daryl find moments of alliance in the season that I think will be really interesting to see — seeing that relationship between them grow, and we’ll see where that goes. This is definitely a story that we want to play, and be true to the story promise we made at the end of last season.
Make sure to read the tributes Lauren Cohan, Norman Reedus, and 21 other past and present Walking Dead cast members wrote for the departing Andrew Lincoln. And for more Walking Dead intel, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.