(WARNING: This article contains spoilers for The Walking Dead, Seasons 1-6, and all Walking Dead comics to date.)
Now that we've seen the premiere of #TheWalkingDead, fans can finally see if their speculations were right about who will be the unlucky victim of Negan's bat, Lucille. The theories varied quite a bit, and the recent sneak peek shown at New York Comic-Con ramped up the speculation before Sunday night's reveal.
"It's Maggie," cried some viewers, because she is directly to Rick's right in the deadly lineup, and they're convinced they see her engagement ring among the sickening pile of blood and brains seen at the end of the clip. "It's Daryl," say others, because the blanket that had been draped over him is clearly visible in the clip.
One particularly prevalent theory is that the victim is one of the group members held captive in the truck throughout most of the Season 6 finale, due to the POV shots from inside the truck peppered throughout the episode, linking this to the final switch to the POV of Negan's victim.
Running with that idea, most theorists settled on Glenn, Lucille's victim in the comics, on which The Walking Dead is based.
Of course, the "because it happened in the book" argument is not always valid. The Walking Dead TV series is well known for "remixing" events from the comics, switching out one character for another. Some events are modified in other ways, or cut due the added difficulty it would take to translate them for TV. Let's take a look at some of the biggest changes for The Walking Dead's characters between page and screen:
On TV: Thus far, the series hero, Rick Grimes, has followed a similar story path to his comic counterpart, quickly rising to become the rough, tough, rarely questioned leader of The Walking Dead's core group of survivors. Mid-Season 6, Rick officially takes leadership of the Alexandria Safe-Zone following the death of Deanna Monroe.
In The Comics: As mentioned above, Rick Grimes followed a very similar story path to what we've seen on TV, except for one major difference:
In the comics, Rick loses his right hand, having it hacked off by The Governor early on in the prison group's conflict with Woodbury.
Fans are currently going wild at the idea that this may still happen on the show, given the ending of the "Right Hand Man" preview clip, but I wouldn't hold my breath for it. Creator Robert Kirkman has said he regrets taking Rick's hand due to the complications it causes in the story. In the show, this would be amplified by practical concerns, like the cost of prosthetics and CGI.
2. Shane Walsh
On TV: Shane, Rick's former deputy and best friend, undergoes a slow descent into madness over the course of the first two seasons, due to an increasingly dangerous obsession with Rick's Wife, Lori, believing that he was the father of her unborn child after a brief fling.
The situation escalates until, acting in self defense, Rick is forced to kill Shane. This is witnessed by Rick's young son, Carl, who then shoots Shane's zombified corpse to save his Father.
In The Comics: Shane's death comes in Issue 6, much earlier in the story, long before the group reaches Hershel's Farm. Like in the show, he tries to murder Rick, but is shot through the neck by Carl before he can complete the dastardly deed.
At this point in the comic, it was not yet known that everyone carried the Walker virus, so Shane's body is buried. Rick returns in Issue 15 to dig up Walker-Shane and properly put him to rest.
On TV: Dale has a relatively short lifespan in the TV series, with the character killed off a few episodes shy of the second season finale, having his guts ripped open by a walker Carl had earlier failed to kill.
He was the group's first moral compass, the one most desperate to hang on to his humanity in the changing world. He had close friendships with Andrea, having picked her up soon after the outbreak, and Glenn, whom often sought advice from him.
In The Comics: Dale is around for a lot longer, surviving to the point in the comics that corresponds with the end of TV's Terminus arc. It is Dale who suffers through the "Tainted Meat" scenario given to Bob Stookey in the TV series.
On TV: Hershel Greene is introduced early in the show's second season, using what medical skill he possesses to save Carl's life after an accidental shooting, and offering the group temporary refuge on his farm while they search for the missing Sophia. Though his wife and son were lost to the virus, he has two surviving daughters, Maggie and Beth.
Following the abandonment of the Greene Farm at the end of the second season and heading into the third, quite a bit of comic remixing comes into play for Hershel. He inherits many of the fallen Dale's storylines, such as the amputation of his leg to save him after a Walker's bite, and his role as the group's moral compass. Hershel is tragically beheaded by The Governor in Season 4, a fate suffered by Tyreese in the comics.
In The Comics: Hershel's journey is quite different in the comics, as he begins with six surviving children: Maggie, Lacey, Arnold, Billy, and twin girls, Susie and Rachel. He believes his only purpose in the new world is to keep his children alive. Sadly, Arnold and Lacey are killed by Walkers soon after the core group arrives at the Farm. After the group moves on to the prison, Susie and Rachel are butchered by one of the surviving inmates.
During The Governor's assault on the prison, Hershel's last living son, Billy, is killed while trying to escape. A broken man after failing to protect his children, Hershel allows The Governor to kill him with a gunshot to the head.
Lori & Judith Grimes
On TV: Lori is a widely disliked character among fans of the show, with many viewing her sole purpose in the story as to carry and deliver one of the series few rays of sunshine, Judith Grimes.
Though her birth resulted in Lori's death, Judith, or "Lil' Ass Kicker," as she is affectionately known, represents hope for the characters. She is a reason to go on, a reason to find safety, a reason why the world just has to change.
In The Comics: Lori survives Judith's birth, and is often seen caring for her. Towards the end of The Governor's attack on the prison, the whole Grimes family desperately try to escape, and they almost make it...
...but Lori is shot, and poor baby Judith is crushed to death beneath her Mother's body. This was a death that raised the stakes once more, proving that The Walking Dead truly had no limits to how dark it was willing to go.
On TV: Like Dale, Andrea has a rather short time on the series when compared to her comic counterpart. Separated from the rest of the group during the escape from Hershel's farm, she is thankfully rescued by fan-favorite character Michonne. The pair eventually end up in the seemingly idyllic town of Woodbury, where Andrea falls under the spell of its leader, The Governor, soon forming a romantic relationship with him.
After discovering that the "enemy" group at a nearby prison are in fact her old friends, she tries to broker a peace between them to no avail. Realizing too late how evil The Governor is, she is trapped in a room with her dying friend, Milton. She is later bitten by his Zombified corpse, and shoots herself in the head to ensure she won't turn.
In The Comics: Andrea is currently still alive, Rick's main love interest, and the group's best sniper. This has obviously lead to quite a few remixed storylines in the TV show. Michonne, most likely due to the chemistry between actors Danai Gurira and Andrew Lincoln, has now taken on the role of Rick's love interest, #Richonne, and become a surrogate mother to Carl.
Sasha, a character exclusive to the show, has become the group's sniper.
On The Show: Of all The Walking Dead's characters, the story of Carol Peletier, now dubbed "Queen Carol" by fans, is easily the biggest departure from the comics thus far.
Beginning as a timid woman trapped in an abusive marriage, things soon begin to change for Carol after the death of her husband and her daughter Sophia soon after. By the time a dangerous flu outbreak strikes the prison the group called home, Carol has become a hardened survivor of the new world, killing the first two flu patients in an effort to stop it from spreading.
While she is banished from the prison for the murders, the group eagerly welcomes her back after she performs an epic, one-woman assault to rescue them from becoming food for the cannibalistic residents of Terminus.
#QueenCarol for life!
In The Comics: Hoo-boy. Comic Carol is a broken, troubled woman. Where TV's Carol grew stronger as the series went on, the Carol of the comics grew weaker, descending further into depression and madness.
During the prison arc, after a failed romantic relationship with Tyreese, and Rick and Lori rejecting her proposal of a three-way marriage, Carol suffers a complete mental breakdown. While her first suicide attempt fails, she later succeeds by feeding herself to a walker that the prison was keeping for research purposes.
On TV: Though Sophia's time on the show is short, she has a significant impact on the story. Surviving through the events of the first season, she goes missing early in the second, with the group spending a significant amount of time searching for her. They are heartbroken upon discovering the little girl's reanimated corpse among the walkers in Hershel's barn.
In The Comics: In the comics, Sophia survives, and is unofficially adopted by Maggie and Glenn after Carol's death. She currently resides at The Hilltop with Maggie.
Many fans view the TV-exclusive character Enid as a surrogate for Sophia, citing her growing bond with Maggie in the second half of Season 6.
On The Show: Ah, Daryl. A total badass with a crossbow, a motorbike, and a heart of gold, who has gotten the group out of a tight spot on an almost infinite number of occasions. He also has a habit of forming adorable friendships with the more vulnerable members of the group.
In The Comics: Daryl doesn't exist. Say it isn't so!
So, What Do These Changes Mean?
The changes mentioned above are only a few in a large number of changes made to successfully adapt The Walking Dead comics to television.
Were yeaning that, unlike the early seasons of #GameOfThrones, reading the comics does not automatically mean you know what is going to happen. While Glenn was the unlucky victim in the comics, there's never any guarantee when it comes to the TV version of The Walking Dead.
Were you right about who Negan killed?