Hey Dead-Heads, I don't know about you but I am a bit over the whole Rick Grimes as leader gambit. We already know that creator Robert Kirkman has no loyalty to the character, and has teased that he would kill Rick off at a moment's notice. To be honest, I'm with you Robert. Arguing that no one is irreplaceable, let's look at those who threaten to steal the limelight of Officer Grimes when The Walking Dead returns for its spectacular seventh season.
Taking this article with a pinch of salt, it is assumed that the following characters actually make it into the season alive. I am excluding Negan (for obviously ruling S7) and Maggie/Glenn from this. It is too close to call which one of them could meet the end of a wire-wrapped baseball bat, but it's safe to say the survivor of that pair is actually in for the BIGGEST season yet!
WARNING: spoilers for the comic books ahead!
We haven't even met this guy yet, but if someone is in for a stellar season of TWD it is Khary Payton's King of The Kingdom. As the dreadlocked Ezekiel, with his tiger Shiva in tow, Payton couldn't be joining the show at a more tense time. When we left The Walking Dead our intrepid survivors were split into two groups: the Negan group (heading for a bat to the head), and the Carol/Morgan pairing (heading for Ezekiel).
The comic book Ezekiel acts as an advisor, banding together the various rag-tag colonies against Negan and his Saviors. As well as instantly bonding with Rick, Ezekiel starts up a steamy romance with Michonne. He'd better steer clear of Richonne on the AMC show, but having a third wheel could cause problems for the couple's dynamic. In the end, Ezekiel survives all of Negan's attacks, only to be decapitated by a new foe and have his head put on a pike, Ned Stark-style.
With the potential to be a real fan-favorite (he has a freaking tiger), let's hope that AMC drags out the Ezekiel storyline longer than his comic counterpart's. We have seen this before with the likes of Tyreese, who had his role extended far beyond his comic book prison demise. First things first though, we have to meet Ezekiel.
You don't survive having half your head blown off just to get the other half smashed in with a baseball bat. Complete with Daddy's cowboy hat, Carl Grimes has done a lot of growing up recently, and is set to do a lot more.
Following his presumed survival of Lucille, Carl finds himself launching a one-man attack on the Saviors, which results in him being held hostage. Carl is the first of the group to see the Saviors's Sanctuary, and does some creepy bonding with Negan... in a brothel!
With the show, I am guessing it plays out a little differently:
"Negan kills [insert name here] and takes Carl hostage straight away - the group are obviously shocked by the death, whilst Rick is suitably warned not to seek vengeance if he doesn't want Carl to be harmed."
As for Daddy Dearest? Carl and Rick are set to clash on their leadership ideals and the Negan issue, leading Carl to eventually leave his father behind to move to the Hilltop Colony.
This one may contain some spoilers, but Gabriel doesn't just stick to sheltering in his church forever.
Gabriel is largely absent from the war on Negan, but will probably survive the Lucille attack of Season 6. I don't feel that we are invested enough in Gabriel as a character to really be bothered if he has his brains sprayed in Season 7. Presuming his survival, Gabriel will likely follow the comics and return to his usual duties as town priest; hey, why change the habit of two seasons' worth of work? In theory he will eventually grow a pair and join the ranks of Rick's militia.
It is Issue #158 of the comic that takes Gabriel on a redemption arc that is typical of TWD characters just before they hit the dirt. Clumsy old priest, when trying to warn the Alexandria residents of an impending walker attack, Gabriel falls from a water tower ladder, catching his ankle and breaking it. He is left hanging upside down, only to have his insides cut out by an attacker and left as walker chow.
For a couple of seasons now showrunners have been queuing Gabe up for a big moment — admittedly he could just do a Bob and shuffle off having never accomplished anything, but I think there is something more coming from the petrified preacher.
So far, all the Freddy Kruger lookalike has done is prove an annoyance to Norman Reedus's Daryl and stolen a motorbike — that's about it. Prepare to learn the name Dwight, you will be hearing it a lot when TWD returns.
Dwight is one of those morally grey characters on the show who treads the line between good and bad. In a rare occasion, Dwight will be the one who actually defects onto the right side for once. As Negan's right-hand man, no one has a better understanding on the psychopathic dictator than Dwight. He also has that handsome melted cheese face to thank Negan for; a story we are sure to explore next season.
While the group is never really sure that they can truly trust Dwight, he turns out to be influential in the bringing down of Negan and beyond. A literal cat with nine lives, it is amazing that Dwight has survived, but even up until Issue #159 he is going strong. How the Dwight/Daryl partnership will play out remains to be seen, but I wouldn't bank on the pair being best buddies... if Daryl survives *starts riot*.
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From beaten housewife to the show's resident kill-counter. Carol has already had one of the show's biggest arcs, so is her story about to get even bigger? Melissa McBride shines as the stone-cold assassin (who makes a mean applesauce cookie).
I adore Carol, everything about the "little bird" is downright badass, but ultimately she is heading for an early grave. There are two options:
- The indestructible Carol goes after Negan on her own
- Carol becomes too dangerous and is neutralized from within
Carol's recent case of an unhinged nature seems to hint that her death will be caused by someone within, and we have already seen Rick cast her out once. Carol and Morgan may have escaped Negan's bat, but have they escaped their own demons?
The comic books are of no use here, because Carol is one of those rare characters who actually makes it beyond their expected "best before date"; the comic Carol dies all the way back in the prison. Fashioning crucifixes into weapons and playing happy homemaker are two parallels that can't run side by side. Carol is likely to do a Morgan and face some sort of full breakdown.
Speaking of which, everyone's favorite stick-wielder seems back on the mend after his Season 3 descent into madness. That Eastman is a miracle worker for the mentally deranged. So what now for the passive survivor? We always knew that Morgan would return at some point, but his Season 5 re-arrival was TWD at its best.
As Carol and Morgan head toward The Kingdom, they are sure to feature in most of the Negan-less action from the start of the season. The pair seemed to have placed their feud on hold, but for how long?
In a show with two characters that are so similar and so strong, I can't see them both surviving forever. Obviously no one in this show survives forever, but you know what I mean.
Season 6's "Here's Not Here" was one of the season's highlights, and gave us a well-deserved Morgan episode. The downside of this means that Morgan is now dangerously getting himself into fan-favorite territory, which is no place for anyone to be! It isn't hard to imagine the show without Lenny James, but it would be a blow to the series. Not bad for someone who became a walker all the way back in Issue #82.
After a nail-biting wait until we find out who becomes a human piñata, and six long months, we are nearly there. Season 7 of The Walking Dead promises to be the biggest yet — sanctuaries, Saviors, and Shiva are a far cry from slow walks on the farm in Season 2. No wonder that the show is the jewel in AMC's crown, with 14.19 million people tuning in to see the season finale. During the show's hiatus the cast has been bumped up to 20 major characters, so move over Grimesy and give someone else a shot at being head honcho, it looks like Negan is ready to take your place.