The Walking Dead season 8 trailer dropped during San Diego Comic Con over the summer, and fans' first look at the forthcoming season came with a surprise stinger: Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) laid up in bed, clearly older, a cane situated nearby. In a new interview with Entertainment Weekly, producers Scott M. Gimple and Greg Nicotero dished on the teaser, which will play out over the course of season 8.
"It's definitely not a one-time thing," Nicotero said. Showrunner Scott M. Gimple confirms "Old Man Rick" will be seen in the premiere, but answers won't come right away. "I will say that we won't know exactly what that's about after the first episode," Gimple said. "But we will know it about halfway through the season. We won't quite know what it's about, and then we'll get an answer to that about halfway through. It's something that's going to play out."
Fans have speculated the look at a more mature Rick could come as part of a time-jump, keeping in line with creator Robert Kirkman's comic books, or that the flash-forward is really a peek at a Rick Grimes who never awoke from the coma he slipped into way back in the series' premiere episode.
"I can say that that is not him waking up from the coma in the hospital," Gimple said, shooting down the "it's all a dream" theory. "Some people thought that, and it's not that."
With Gimple's aim to reinvent the show every eight episodes — and the recent admission that "All Out War" won't extend beyond season 8 — fans should expect the big twist to hit sometime around the midseason finale or the season finale.
"It's always fun to get a chance to think about where the show is going and where the characters are going," Nicotero teased. "And that's a really big moment in the comic book when we sort of jump forward and realize what's in store for the future. So to just to be able to give a little bit of a hint to that, I think it's exciting. It shows the audience that we're committed for this fantastic long-term storytelling and that Rick's got his sh—t together."
Rick actor Andrew Lincoln said the peek into the future is "a great storytelling device," adding the jump forward gives the show the opportunity to "do something else a little ahead of the game."
"I mean, it's a gray Rick," Lincoln said when asked if the grizzled Rick is a legitimate look into the future. "It's an older Rick. So by virtue of the fact that you see that means that it's in the future. It will become somewhat clearer after the October premiere. Then again, it may not be. It maybe still is somewhat opaque. I think that that's possibly all I can say on the matter."
The Walking Dead returns Sunday, October 22 on AMC.
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