Overshadowing everything about The Walking Dead towards its next season is the poor victim of Negan and his beloved Lucille, a Louisville slugger wrapped with barbed wire. The Season 6 finale cliffhanger sent viewers into a fury, their jaws on the floor and fists shaking, but after a long summer, The Walking Dead returns on October 23 on a night that will change everything.
But let’s be real: We’ve talked enough about who will live and die on The Walking Dead. Everyone has theories; no one has answers. So what else is in store in the next season? A few important things, actually.
Meet Ezekiel and the Kingdom
In the original Walking Dead comics from Robert Kirkman, Ezekiel is (or, was) the flamboyant ruler of The Kingdom, a tightly-guarded community in Washington, D.C. that appropriated a public high school building into a fortress. Little is known about his life before the apocalypse, except that he was a zookeeper and keeps a pet tiger named Shiva, who is loyal to him. Soldiers of the Kingdom were first seen towards the end of The Walking Dead last season — they were the padded dudes who saved Carol and Morgan.
But even in the comics, there’s not a whole lot revealed about the kingdom itself; the comics didn’t explore the compound entirely, but it is part of the trading network with Hilltop and the Saviors. In the TV series, Rick and the rest of Alexandria try to get involved but, well, you saw how that turned out.
In the comics Ezekiel is killed by Andrea, but that alone should put off any concern that Ezekiel is coming in marked for death. The Walking Dead notoriously deviates from the comics, making it hard to actually guess what it will do next; if the TV series followed the comic 1:1, Abraham would be dead and Andrea would still be alive and with Rick. There’s an entire war between Negan’s Saviors and the Kingdom before Ezekiel’s head goes onto a pike, if at all.
Expect a very different kind of leader ever seen before in Ezekiel. “He’s a very different leader than Gregory or Rick or Negan,” says producer Greg Nicotero, “and I think thats tremendously interesting. Hes in a community that has actually been doing pretty well.”
Meet Negan, the Man Behind the Bat
Before the world ended, everyone in The Walking Dead were generally normal people with normal lives. The rise of walkers altered their worlds forever. Season 7 will not only explore Negan today, but the Negan of the past and how he came to be. Actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan and producer Scott Gimple hinted shortly after the end of Season 6 that Season 7 will witness some of Negan’s origins.
Meet the Rest of the World
Although the entire world has changed, The Walking Dead has only spanned a few states in the southern U.S. There aren’t any known plans for the series’s scope to expand globally, however the show is prepared to open its view wider than it’s ever been before. Gimple told IGN back in April that this upcoming season will “have a wide variety of locales and a wide variety of tone,” adding that Season 7 is “going to be probably the biggest variety in stories we’ve done yet.”
Okay, Fine, Who Does Negan Kill?
Every so often little reveals indicate it won’t just be one death, but one death and severe injuries wrought upon the survivors dished out by Negan. Nicotero (again) teased Rick Grimes finally gets his hand cut off by Negan, whereas it was the Governor who chopped it in the comics. “I think it’s safe to say that the axe could play a prominent part in the episode,” Nicotero said.” In the Season 7 preview released at New York Comic Con, Negan wields an axe right in Rick’s face.
But as for who Negan kills? If you’re actually placing bets, the smart money is on Glenn and/or Abraham, two characters who are not only dead in the comics but have finished arcs and have nothing left to do. Because of their longevity and fan appeal, killing them would be a real gut punch instead of someone like Aaron, who no one cares about. The Walking Dead also enjoys its place as a ratings juggernaut to kill Daryl. Daryl will never die. Daryl lives forever.
The Walking Dead returns Sunday, October 23 on AMC.