The Walking Dead has been off the air for months now since the Season 7 finale, so the brand new trailer for Season 8 was more than welcome for fans. In true Walking Dead fashion, there were zombies and explosions and all kinds of epic acts of destruction as we’ve come to expect out of the series. The kicker came at the end, however, when the action stopped and we got a look at Rick Grimes as we’ve never seen him before: grey-bearded.
Yes, in the final scene of the Season 8 trailer, we see Rick with grey hair and a grey beard, lying on his back in a bed that is shockingly clean for the zombie apocalypse. In the room with him are a cane and a bouquet of flowers. He opens his eyes, and… fade to black, with no definitive explanation likely to come until October. Still, we can make some educated guesses.
The most obvious reason for a Rick who’s gone grey is that there’s a major time jump in the not-too-distant future of The Walking Dead. The comics on which the show is based used a major time jump, and it mixed things up in a big way. The cane could be a pretty significant clue, as Rick took a serious injury to the leg at one point in the comics that required him to use a cane. While the show tends to diverge from the specifics of the comic stories, it has stuck to some of the biggest plot twists. If Glenn could go out in the same way that he did in the comics, why can’t Rick injure his leg? Or lose a hand, for that matter?
That said, there are reasons why the time jump theory doesn’t make total sense. For one thing, Andrew Lincoln looks like a middle-aged man wearing a grey beard and grey wig. His hair points to a time jump; his face does not, and The Walking Dead isn’t exactly a show that doesn’t know how to use makeup to change actors’ appearances. Also, if the show goes with a huge time jump, that would require the aging up of all the other characters, which could be tricky when it comes to folks like Carl and Enid. Sure, it would be convenient if we got to skip most of Maggie’s pregnancy, but aging up the entire cast for a time jump might not be practical for the show.
Instead, the grey hair and beard could simply point to Rick in a dream or hallucination sequence. Rick has had hallucinations in the past, and the Season 7 dinner party with the deceased Glenn and Abraham proved that the show isn’t afraid to get dreamy. The shot of Rick at the end of the trailer could be be an innocuous moment from a dream with little significance, only included to give fans something to talk about while we wait for Season 8.
A third — and extraordinarily unlikely — possibility is that we’ll soon discover that the entire series ever since Rick was shot back in the first episode was a coma dream concocted by Rick, and he’s waking up looking very different than he did before. He could be surrounded by Shane and Lori, and he could have a totally happy ending while fans at home sputter in fury. Is it likely? No. But what is hiatus for, if not crazy theories?
Let us know your theories about the final trailer scene in the comments! The Walking Dead will return for Season 8 on Sunday, October 22 at 9 p.m. ET on AMC. Our rundown of what we know so far about Season 8 can give you some clues of what’s ahead.