2017 was a big year for The Walking Dead: the hit zombie drama saw Rick Grimes unite the Alexandria, Hilltop and Kingdom communities and rise against Negan and the Saviors, and the last episode of 2017 ended with a shocker that set up the series’ first major casualty of 2018.
SLIDE 1/10 – CHANDLER RIGGS’ DAD BLASTS THE WALKING DEAD
William Riggs, father of series veteran Chandler Riggs, took aim at AMC and showrunner Scott M. Gimple after his son was “fired” from the show.
“Watching Gimple fire my son 2 weeks before his 18th birthday after telling him they wanted him for the next 3 years was disappointing,” Riggs wrote in a Facebook post after the December 10 episode that revealed Carl had fallen victim to an injury where the only outcome is death.
“I never trusted Gimple or AMC but Chandler did. I know how much it hurt him.” Riggs added the family knows how “lucky” they are to have been a part of the series and expressed appreciation towards the fans.
The post has since been deleted.
Chandler’s mother, Gina-Ann Riggs, later shared a thank you note addressed towards fans on social media.
The Riggs patriarch isn’t the only one to have shown vitriol at Gimple and AMC’s decision making: fans have taken to social media to decry Carl’s doom, and a petition launched to fire Gimple has since earned nearly 80,000 signatures.
SLIDE 2/10 – THE DEATH OF STUNTMAN JOHN BERNECKER
The Walking Dead stuntman John Bernecker tragically passed away as result of injuries sustained performing a stunt on the series’ Georgia set.
The industry veteran, whose credits include the upcoming Dwayne Johnson-starrer Rampage and Marvel Studios’ Black Panther, died after suffering blunt force trauma after he fell more than 20 feet onto a concrete floor. He was 33.
Production on season 8 was temporarily halted over the summer and October’s season 8 premiere was dedicated to Bernecker’s memory.
The stunt performer was also honored during this year’s Emmy Awards.
SLIDE 3/10 – THE WALKING DEAD’S $1 BILLION LAWSUIT
The Walking Dead made headlines again this summer when several key figures — creator Robert Kirkman and series producers Gale Anne Hurd, Glen Mazzara, and David Alpert — filed suit against AMC.
The complaint claimed AMC failed “to honor its contractual obligations to the creative people… behind the wildly successful, and hugely profitable, long-running television series The Walking Dead.”
According to the plaintiffs, AMC kept “the lion’s share of the series’ enormous profits” after exploiting a vertically-integrated corporate structure that combined the production as well as the exhibition of the show, violating profit share terms laid out in the foursome’s contracts.
The suit is ongoing.
SLIDE 4/10 – SHIVA DIES
The Kingdom suffered massive losses when almost all of its military force was obliterated in a single attack by way of the Saviors’ powerful .50 cal machine gun. Only King Ezekiel, Jerry and Carol ultimately survived the massacre, and the battered trio were later pursued by possibly radioactively-infected walkers when they were saved by Ezekiel’s loyal pet tiger Shiva.
Shiva leapt into action, only to be swarmed and ultimately surrounded by the pack of walkers, who killed Ezekiel’s beloved pet. The internet took the loss of the CGI-crafted tiger particularly hard, with Shiva’s death inspiring an outpouring of appropriate send-off messages and GIFs.
SLIDE 5/10 – SASHA DIES
Sonequa Martin-Green’s Sasha met her end in the season 7 finale, having sacrificed herself in an attempt to prevent any of her friends from dying.
2017 saw The Walking Dead kill dozens more characters, but Sasha was the group’s biggest loss since Abraham and Glenn in October 2016’s season 7 opener.
Martin-Green has since joined Star Trek: Discovery, making her the first-ever Black woman to star as the lead in a Star Trek series.
SLIDE 6/10 – THE WALKING DEAD’S SURPRISING TIME JUMP
The premiere trailer for The Walking Dead season 8 ended with a shocking tease over San Diego Comic Con weekend: longtime hero Rick Grimes was laid up in bed, visibly older, sporting a grizzled look with a buzzcut and a beard.
Dubbed “Old Man Rick,” the possible time jump kept fans buzzing over the summer, and the possible flash-forward was eventually revealed to be hallucinatory visions experienced by a distraught Rick Grimes.
The scene — which can’t be a true peek into the future in light of recent events — has also been theorized to include an older baby Gracie who may or may not replace Rick’s adopted daughter Judith.
SLIDE 7/10 – MORALES RETURNS
Another surprise came with the return of Morales, an old ally of Rick’s who hadn’t been seen since The Walking Dead’s first season in 2010.
Among the first group of survivors Rick met after waking up from his coma in a devastated Atlanta, the family man-turned-Savior attempted to turn Rick over to Negan — only to be struck down and killed by a bow-wielding Daryl.
Morales’ unexpected reappearance gave fans a lot to talk about, even if his return to The Walking Dead was ultimately short-lived.
SLIDE 8/10 – THE WALKING DEAD EPISODE 100
The Walking Dead’s season 8 opener doubled as its landmark 100th episode, a milestone reached after seven years on the air and hundreds of millions of accrued views.
Episode 100, directed by Walking Dead veteran Greg Nicotero, included well-placed callbacks to the series’ past seasons — including re-introducing the first-ever walker, played by the same actress — even recreating the last shots of the 2010 pilot in the season premiere’s closing moments.
8×01, “Mercy,” also launched the adaptation of the All Out War storyline, finally putting Rick Grimes and co. back on top after an entire season of subjugation under Negan’s rule.
SLIDE 9/10 – THE WALKING DEAD AND FEAR THE WALKING DEAD CROSSOVER ANNOUNCED
The Walking Dead made waves ahead of its season 8 debut when series creator Robert Kirkman announced the flagship series would be crossing over with Fear The Walking Dead.
The announcement, made at New York Comic Con, fueled speculation the character at the center of the crossover would be a returning fan-favorite who has since died: many pegged Michael Cudlitz’s euphemism-loving Abraham Ford as popping up on Fear as part of his journey towards The Walking Dead.
Lennie James, who plays Morgan Jones, was revealed as the crossover character in late November. James, who has been with the series on-and-off since his first appearance in the pilot, said he’ll miss his Walking Dead co-stars very much and has since relocated to Fear’s Austin, Texas set.
Morgan has “a lot of story left on The Walking Dead,” according to Gimple, and season 8 will launch the staff-wielding Morgan over to season 4 of Fear.
SLIDE 10/10 – THE WALKING DEAD’S BIGGEST (SOON-TO-BE) DEATH YET
The Walking Dead dropped a bombshell when Carl Grimes revealed an incurable walker bite sustained two episodes prior to the events of Negan’s explosive attack on Alexandria.
18-year-old actor Chandler Riggs, who has played Carl since the show’s first season in 2010, says it wasn’t his decision to depart The Walking Dead and that the young Grimes’ death was for “story purposes.”
Riggs has since said the decision to axe Carl was made by showrunner Scott M. Gimple, the actor explaining Carl’s death will serve as a major attitude shift for Rick and his handling of villain Negan moving forward.
The cliffhanger will resolve when The Walking Dead resumes with its mid-season premiere in February, but fans’ best efforts to save Carl from his imminent demise and oust Gimple from his position are being made in vain: season 8 has already wrapped shooting, and leading man Andrew Lincoln says Carl’s death leads to an entirely new Walking Dead.
“This is bigger than any other death that we’ve ever had and we realize that as it plays out in the back eight,” Lincoln told ComicBook.com.
“The back eight is completely different from the front eight. This episode happens and everything changes. We spin off into a completely different new world.”
The Walking Dead returns to AMC Sunday, February 25.