The Walking Dead as it has been known for eight years is over. Carl (Chandler Riggs) will be but a memory, perhaps as a ghost in an eye patch. Morgan (Lennie James) took his pole and vaulted on over to another dimension. But that's the granular stuff. On a macro level, The Walking Dead is expected to look like an entirely rebooted show in Season 9, as departing showrunner Scott Gimple has tapped long-admired writer/producer Angela Kang to take over. With a new showrunner and new characters stepping into the limelight, The Walking Dead is poised to be a show more focused on creating life than destroying it.
It would of course be silly to suggest The Walking Dead would be any less violent, gory or fast-paced because a woman — one more woman of color in field that's overwhelmingly white and male, in fact — now leads it. But it's clear after getting to know Season 8's newcomers that Season 9 will embrace a different tone. Should Siddiq (Avi Nash) and Georgie (Jayne Atkinson) stay in the story — and let's hope so since the sensitive Muslim man and empathetic businesswoman are great to see on TV — they hint at thematic revolutions or transfers in focus now that Rick (Andrew Lincoln), and Negan's (Jeffrey Dean Morgan)'s destructive pissing contest has finally ended.
The Walking Dead's season opened with an Islamic hadith, with calls for mercy. It's fitting then, that all along, visions of serene pastures in lush green — which represents peace and life and of fertility in Islamic cultures — loomed over the horizon. As Rick's living link to Carl (Chandler Riggs), Siddiq reminded Rick that peace is an option, and so Rick chose. Intuitively, viewers who didn't bail on the show during its arduous, tedious war knew that eventually, somebody was going to have say, 'Guys, what's our end game here? Doesn't anybody just want a nice brunch and a long nap?' and make creation, not annihilation, the only way forward for the series. Siddiq, with his instinctive empathy and capacity to heal and nurture, is metaphorical bridge to obtaining an at least momentary peace that moves the people trapped in this hell towards prosperity. While there are no guarantees Siddiq won't be the sacrificial lamb who keeps the rivers of blood flowing on the series, he's brought The Walking Dead closer to a flourishing future, one in which children put on plays instead of tote AKs.
Although she wasn't seen in the finale, Georgie's (Jayne Atkinson) impending influence also feels imminent. With an eye towards using knowledge and science to produce fruit (and multiply), Georgie is one of few people on The Walking Dead focused on thriving instead of surviving. That Georgie bartered for music suggests the new Walking Dead may not only be calmer and more expansive in its view of the world, but also more strategic and more cultured. Books and art, as Georgie values, mean society is flourishing; they're markers of people wanting something more than primal survival. "To be clear, this isn't a gift. It's a barter. I'll be back and by then I expect great things," she says to Maggie (Lauren Cohan), hinting at a relative abundance — possibly The Commonwealth alluded to in the comics, which has some 50,000 residents. That lines up with the bigger world Gimple has teased.
Georgie may very well may be the optimistic leader this bleak situation needs; if that means a possible showdown with vengeance-minded Maggie, all the better. But after years of watching men lead people into battle over bare essentials like food and medicine, the sight of a charismatic, intelligent woman leading people to invention, growth and the planting of seeds for the future sounds really appealing. Chaos and violence have reigned on The Walking Dead for so long; it's time for optimism, stability and signs of progress — a model for what revamped civilization could look like after so many men led it to the brink of extinction. Wait — we're still talking about The Walking Dead, right?
The Walking Dead will return for Season 9 in the fall.