Spoilers for The Walking Dead through season 7.
The only show to outpace The Walking Dead in the killing-its-characters department is Game of Thrones, but AMC's hit zombie drama indiscriminately kills off red shirts and major characters alike, most recently proving (almost) no one is safe when newcomer bad guy Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) executed Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) and Glenn (Steven Yeun) in a one-two punch that devastated Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and his tight-knit group of survivors. With the world around of The Walking Dead continuing to expand through the introduction of the ally Hilltop and Kingdom communities, the adversarial Savior and Scavenger communities, the isolationist Oceanside community, as well as the upcoming introduction of even more new characters, we can expect the show to thin the herd in the upcoming new season (as it tends to do) — here's our picks for characters most likely not to make it out of season 8 alive.
Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) went from a fan-hated character to a fan-favorite over the course of seasons 6 and 7, ever since he began stepping up as a true Alexandrian, becoming a badass, gun-toting preacher whose kills are accompanied by suitable bible verses. As seen in the season 8 San Diego Comic Con trailer, Gabriel seemingly has a run-in with Negan. Worse, the two seem to have somehow ended up in a room together, alone, in the dark, surrounded by Walkers.
"I hope you got your sh*ttin' pants on," Negan says to an understandably bewildered Gabriel. "I hope you're wearing them right now, 'cause you are about to sh*t your pants." Trailers can be misleading — and The Walking Dead trailers are especially notorious for misleading editing — but if Gabriel and Negan really are left unattended and trapped, it will be interesting to see if Gabriel makes it out of the situation alive. Even if Negan is separated from Lucille, his beloved barbwire-wrapped baseball bat, he'd probably make short work of Gabriel, who is all but defenseless without a weapon.
We don't see Gabriel below the neck, but the close up on his terrified face screams this is a bad situation. Negan is directly responsible for the murders of fellow Alexandrians Glenn, Abraham, and Spencer (Austin Nichols), is indirectly responsible for the murder of Olivia (Ann Mahoney) by the Savior Arat (Elizabeth Ludlow), and Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) just died (by her own hand) after being held hostage by Negan. Gabriel should be scared, especially with Rick, Hilltop and the Kingdom deciding to no longer serve Negan and the Saviors. Gabriel is no longer an "employee" of Negan's, so we have to wonder how much use the bat-wielding villain has for one of Rick's people outside of using him as a meat shield, tossing Gabriel to the hungry Walkers like a squeaky ball to a dog as a means of escape.
Tara (Alanna Masterson), a former police academy student and now supply runner for the Alexandria safe zone, has been with the show as far back as season 4. She may not be part of the lead crop of characters alongside Rick, Daryl (Norman Reedus), and Michonne (Danai Gurira), but Tara has proved herself a loyal member of the group, having forged relationships with everyone from Glenn to Abraham to Rosita (Christian Serratos) to Eugene (Josh McDermitt) — who is now playing for the other team, seemingly loyal, even if tentatively so, to Negan. It was Tara who helped Eugene find some inner sack (to put it in a not-so-delicate Abraham-ism way), when Eugene — who was written off as a coward — rescued Tara after she was rendered unconscious from a grenade blast.
Tara takes after Glenn in that she puts a sometimes unfounded faith in people, and if Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn), Hershel (Scott Wilson), and Glenn are anything to go by, being the Jiminy Cricket of the group is a good way to get yourself killed. If Rick and the Alexandrian's plan to blow up Negan and the Saviors wasn't sabotaged by the Scavengers in episode 7.16, "The First Day of the Rest of Your Life," Eugene would have been blown to smithereens — and if anyone is going to bring Eugene back from the Dark side, it will be Tara. Or the Grimbly Gunk. But probably Tara.
Glenn almost met his end when he gave Nicholas (Michael Traynor) a shot at redemption and a chance to prove himself, despite the cowardly Nicholas having almost killed Glenn in the woods. When Glenn and Nicholas were trapped on top of a dumpster with no apparent way out, Nicholas killed himself, his dead body toppling Glenn into a horde of hungry Walkers; a situation that Glenn barely survived. Could Tara attempt to similarly redeem Eugene, only for it to somehow lead to her end? Not that Eugene would himself kill Tara, but The Walking Dead likes to delve into the consequences of actions...
Or maybe Natania (Deborah May), leader of the all-women Oceanside community, will enact revenge on Tara for having lead more survivors to their hidden outpost in season 7 — who ended up relieving Oceanside of their large cache of guns. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.
Simon (Steven Ogg), Negan's charismatic but sociopathic right hand man, gets little airtime in the trailer — and while this means little on its own, being the Saviors' second in command puts a big target on his head. When The Walking Dead returns, it will be all out war, with Alexandria, Hilltop, and the Kingdom taking on the Saviors and their newfound cohorts, the Scavengers. As seen in the trailer, Simon and a rather large group of Saviors are seen holed up in what seems to be some kind of outpost. Maybe the same outpost that looks to be under attack from Alexandria/Hilltop/Kingdom forces from the outside? We see Carol (Melissa McBride), Morgan (Lennie James), Michonne, and Aaron (Ross Marquand) among others in battle with Saviors both indoors and out — it's likely that Simon, being as involved as he is, will be present during at least one of these times. Simon does a lot of field work, going out on Negan's behalf, and with a war going on, he's a prime target for elimination.
Once Negan's main man is out of the way, oversight of the Saviors would probably fall to Arat — but if she's taken out too, the Saviors are weakened even further, giving our heroes even more of a chance at beating Negan. Morgan seems to be on the warpath in the trailer, maybe with a specific mission in mind, but it could be Carl (Chandler Riggs) who brings Simon to his end: he flicked Carl's sheriff hat one too many times.
I know: hell no, not Jerry (Cooper Andrews)! He may be the world's most beloved Samoan-American second only to Dwayne Johnson, and the cobbler-loving, battle axe-wielding Kingdom member has been a fan-favorite ever since his brief first appearance in 7.02, "The Well." We've seen little of the jovial Jerry, and we want to see more, but the good hearted big guy might be too pure for this world. As the adviser and right hand man of King Ezekiel (Khary Payton), one of the key leaders in the war against Negan, Jerry is in a particularly dangerous position.
We especially don't like the look of that scene in the trailer: the one where a bloodied Ezekiel and Jerry are seen backed up against a fence, Jerry saying "thank you, your majesty, for being such a cool dude," where it looks like dear, sweet Jerry is making the kind of speech reserved for people about to meet their end. Jerry has no comic book counterpart, same as Merle (Michael Rooker) and Daryl, so we have no basis on where his character is going — but we're hoping for a last minute save, so Jerry can continue to kick ass and eat cobbler and destroy Walker faces with his sweet-ass battle axe.
Another fan-favorite, Carol has been one of the series' strongest characters since season 4. After the death of her young daugher Sophia (Madison Lintz) in season 2, Carol went from meek housewife and clothes-washer to a cunning and more sturdier survivor in season 3. Continually evolving, Carol grew into one of the group's most efficient survivors, often doing the dirty work that, in her mind, helps everybody see another day. While the world's apocalyptic situation has transformed her from a self-admitted timid victim to a hardened survivor and heroine, the cost of survival continues to take its toll on Carol.
She murdered Karen and David in order to prevent a sickness outbreak in season 4, the same season that Carol executed Lizzie (Brighton Sharbino) after the mentally ill girl murdered her younger sister, Mika (Kyla Kenedy). Carol then Terminator-ed her way through Terminus, single-handedly rescuing Team Family from the literal mouths of cannibals. After masking her true personality when joining Alexandria (pretending to be submissive and unassuming), Carol again steps up to save the day in the fight against the Wolves' brutal siege on the unprepared suburban community. It's around this time that Carol begins to unravel, taking part in a strike against a Saviors outpost. Captured by a small group of Saviors alongside the pregnant Maggie (Lauren Cohan), the pair fight their way out, with Carol burning a room of Saviors alive, adding to her kill count of 20 lives.
Carol eventually sneaks away from Alexandria ahead of another upcoming battle with the Saviors: all the killing is too much. She doesn't want to kill anymore, but a run-in with Saviors on the road forces her hand, and Carol kills again. Tracked done by a lone Savior, Carol pleads for death — a request that's denied when she's rescued by Morgan. Choosing to spend much of season 7 isolated in a house on the outreaches of the Kingdom, Carol eventually works through her crisis of conscious and takes part in the battle against Negan and the Saviors within the Alexandria walls.
With the survivors now in an actual war, and with lots of unpreventable killing on the horizon, how much more can Carol take before she breaks? Carol had to shut down as a way of protecting herself, and as seen in the season 8 trailer, she's back in the badass role, shooting and blowing things up. Will the deaths of foes and friends alike finally be too much for Carol?
She's one of the best characters on the show and certainly one of the most well developed — and any interactions between Carol and the bully Negan will be a joy to watch — but she's growing close to Ezekiel and back to her Terminator ways, ten fold. When Daryl informed Carol of the deaths of her Alexandrian friends, it was like reigniting her spark — she's either going to grow even stronger or reach the point where her damaged mental state leads to her end; which, for Carol, could be looked at as some kind of merciful release.
"I don't die," says Morgan in the season 8 trailer, which translates roughly to, "I'm going to die before the credits roll on the season finale."
Morgan has been around since the pilot, the first ally Rick made in the new world overrun by the cannibalistic undead. After having a mental break following the loss of his young son, Morgan parted ways with Rick once again following season 3's "Clear." Having had a lifestyle change put into motion by forensic psychiatrist-turned-cheesemaker Eastman (John Carroll Lynch), Morgan hit the road, eventually catching up with his old buddy Rick in Alexandria. Now a member of a community, Morgan struggled with morality, taking up a "no kill" rule despite the continued conflicts the Alexandrians found themselves facing. Taking yet another cue from Eastman, Morgan erected a jail cell that would, he hoped, be used to imprison enemies instead of simply killing them.
By end of season 6, Morgan was forced to break his no kill code to save the life of Carol, who had become Morgan's moral antagonist. Now that the two are closer in mindset, Morgan knows he has to kill: it's the world they live in. It was a lesson reinforced come season 7, where Morgan saw the loss of Benjamin (Logan Miller), a member of the Kingdom and kind of surrogate son to Morgan who was senselessly killed by the soulless Savior Jared (Joshua Mikel). The death of Benjamin returned Morgan to his "clear" state — where he becomes crazed and out of control, with a hard-to-curb bloodlust — with Morgan choking Richard (Karl Makinen) to death.
The trailer shows Morgan in action, and with Alexandria, the Hilltop, and the Kingdom in a war against Negan and the Saviors, Morgan — like Carol — will have to confront his old mentality to continue to survive in a world where you either kill or you die, or you die and you kill. Morgan is already on the edge — he all but lost control when killing Richard, confusing Benjamin for his dead son, Duane — and if he continues to kill without repent, Morgan could find himself losing his fragile grasp on reality and reverting to his more savage ways.
Morgan is a good man whose mental state has been worn down by isolation and repeated personal losses, and his "no kill" rule was tied to not reverting to the madman who lost control and killed indiscriminately. It was like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and now that Morgan will have no choice but to kill in this war, Morgan's time on the show could be coming to an end — and the loss of the otherwise morally strong Morgan could be what gets Rick to put Morgan's jail cell to use...
The Walking Dead returns to AMC on Sunday, October 22nd with its season 8 premiere, the series' 100th episode.