The Walking Dead ended its 2016 run with a gut-wrenching (and gut-spilling) episode that saw Rick (Andrew Lincoln) finally come to the realization that it was time to rise up and take down Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). Better late than never, Rick!
Just because we're still processing everything that happened in the episode and the first half of Season 7, it doesn't mean we can't start speculating about what's ahead. Here are five important things to expect in the rest of Season 7.
1. Negan will make it out of Season 7 alive
Just because war is being declared against Negan, it doesn't mean it will end shortly after. In fact, we know that Negan lives straight from the man himself. Morgan told Howard Stern last month that he would appear in Season 8, all but ensuring that Negan won't be killed in Season 7. Sure, Negan could be featured in flashbacks — though The Walking Dead is very light on flashbacks — or other storytelling trickery, but it's doubtful.
Negan has also become an anti-folk hero of sorts to some, his heinousness drawing comparisons to *gulp* Donald Trump and Morgan's swaggery performance already earning him award nominations. And because The Walking Dead doesn't seem to be in a hurry to get anywhere, a lengthy stay by Negan makes a lot of sense. Plus, a particularly brutal arc from the comics indicates that this war will be long fought. Could that take up the bulk of Season 8?
The mid-season finale jumpstarted the idea of multiple factions — Alexandria, Hilltop and The Kingdom — teaming up to take down Negan. Theoretically, that's a great idea, but Rick is going to have to do some convincing to get everyone on board.
If half of Season 7 was spent showing the extent of Negan's terror, then the second half could easily be filled up with Rick's efforts to gather the tribes together to take Negan out. That involves convincing Ezekiel (Khary Payton) to turn, somehow getting through Gregory's (Xander Berkeley) thick skull (or more likely, ousting him from power) and showing everyone that they have the resources — more on that in a second — to make this plan work. We'll likely also see Oceanside — the all-female group that Tara stumbled upon — get in on the action, too, so yeah, that's about six episodes of plot right there before a single trigger is pulled.
3. Eugene will be the key
Rosita (Christian Serratos) may be brave enough to take on Negan with a single bullet, but most people with a half a brain won't be. Guns will still be key to taking out the Saviors and now that Negan has stripped Alexandria of its armory, Rick will have to resupply without Negan knowing. Rick found some guns on that houseboat trap, but noted that there were no bullets. That's important because...
Enter Eugene (Josh McDermitt)! His ability to craft ammunition makes him arguably the most valuable tool in this oncoming war. Negan knows this, and took him prisoner only when he knew Eugene could make bullets. It'll be up to Rick to find a way to get him back, because Rick needs him even more.
4. Negan will face a threat from within
Though Negan struts around the Sanctuary with his chest puffed out confidently, the underlying feeling there is that the Saviors aren't as stable as he thinks. Dwight (Austin Amelio) is clearly the wild card here, as he's shown signs of wanting to break out of Negan's grasp. He's already tried to leave once, and watching his ex forced to play House with Negan is only putting him more on tilt. Maybe Negan's plan of preferring to turn people who hate him into loyal servants instead of bringing on sycophantic opportunists (sorry, Spencer) isn't such a good idea in the long run. Expect Dwight to make a game-changing move in the second half of Season 7.
5. A new group might introduce itself
One thing The Walking Dead loves to do is overlap its villains. We were first introduced to the Wolves, Saviors and Gareth's man-eating mob long before they actually became integral to the story, and with things so focused on Negan and the Saviors now, it's time to add someone else in the mix. Plus, gotta tease those faithful to the comics, right?
The Person in the Boots! Who is this guy/gal? Though we were meant to think it was the owner of the boat watching his/her twisted game unfold, a theory floating around the internet is that it's the next big enemy from the comics, a group known as the Whisperers. It's awfully early to tease this group since we still have all-out war to deal with, but there's precedent set here with the aforementioned Wolves, who were slowly introduced in Season 5 before actually appearing in the Season 5 finale. Don't expect Mr. Boots to play a big role in Season 7, though.
The Walking Dead returns Feb. 12 at 9/8c on AMC.