The Walking Dead’s new key art made explicit Season 8's intent to adapt the comic “All Out War,” but could the battle with Negan really last sixteen episodes? Perhaps not, as showrunners hint that Season 8 will resolve the conflict, and potentially move on to a new, soft-spoken big bad.

You’re warned of light spoilers from here on out, but The Walking Dead doesn’t have a strong track record of armed conflicts with any one big bad lasting more than a few episodes. Sure, Season 8 will up the ante with Alexandria, Hilltop and The Kingdom vs. The Saviors and garbage folk (I’m not saying “Heapsters,” guys) but as showrunner Scott Gimple tells Entertainment Weekly, “The war will absolutely be resolved by the end of Season 8.”

That would naturally pave the way for a new big bad, just as those “Old Man Rick” teases seemingly cement we’re in for the same post-war time-jump of the books. AMC’s Walking Dead has a habit of interim antagonists like Terminus or the Wolves, but next on the list are that of the skin-wearing “Whisperers,” and their bald female leader “Alpha.” Gimple appreciably dodged confirming that notion with “I’m going to give you a full no-comment on that.”

The Walking Dead won’t necessarily need Season 9 teases until spring 2018, so there’s no reason to believe Alpha announcements are incoming. Still, there’s always one leftover nugget that seems to have been forgotten in Season 7’s press cycle; that actress Maria Bello reportedly took a role in Season 8. That’s an Alpha choice if ever I’d want one.

Season 8 will premiere on October 22, so The Walking Dead has one long “All Out War” to get through in the meantime.

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