[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the Walking Dead comic books on which the AMC series is based.]
When it comes to The Walking Dead, the shark isn't the only thing that gets jumped.
In the original comic book series written by Robert Kirkman and illustrated by Charlie Adlard, the story of Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and his companions is mostly told in real time, from the Atlanta days to the Alexandria days, and even through the war against Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and the Saviors. Then, something jarring happens: in the 127th issue of the series, the story suddenly leaps forward several years, revealing an Alexandria Safe Zone that truly lives up to its name.
Between the Hilltop, the Kingdom and other sanctuaries (including the literal Sanctuary), Rick has managed to actualize his vision for a safer future. He's successfully organized a network of communities working together in harmony, clearing out walkers and creating safe roads between the various compounds. At last, it looks like civilization is making a comeback ... so of course, it all goes to hell in a hand basket shortly after the story picks back up. That said, a few years of peace in the zombie apocalypse is nothing to snort at, even if it happens offscreen.
But will it happen offscreen on the show? That's the big question as Walking Dead starts to look toward that big future twist. More often than not, Walking Dead takes a remix approach to the comics, aligning with the bones of major story beats, albeit with key changes. See Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) getting lumped in with Glenn (Steven Yeun) in season seven's opening head-bashing as the biggest example of how much things tend to change in the adaptation process. Will it be a similar situation for the time jump? It sounds like a possibility, according to showrunner Scott M. Gimple.
"For the people who read the comics, they're going to be expecting this," he told The Hollywood Reporter of the time jump. "We're doing the book, we do all sorts of variations on it, and then we do things that are inspired by it and then we change things up with a remix. But I will say there are things that happen in that time jump that are referred to that are super interesting. And thus we might see some of that stuff; it might not be the same sort of jump, or we'll do that two to five years in real time."
As an example of what takes place during the time jump, the comic books' version of Michonne (Danai Gurira) experiences a rough breakup with Ezekiel (Khary Payton) and leaves the communities behind, setting sail for the high seas to scavenge on behalf of her people. Yes, Pirate Michonne is indeed a thing, and one that's easy to see the show taking time to explore - although given that Michonne is romantically involved with Rick on the show, perhaps the ocean-dwelling gig will go to another person who has feelings for Ezekiel. The Walking Dread Pirate Carol (Melissa McBride) writes itself.
"I've had a general plan for a long time, and invariably when I do that, there are little things that catch and change that plan," Gimple said, pondering the subject of the time jump further. "But in general, I think there's going to be a little bit more content that Robert actually refers to. There's stuff in there that I was reading that I wondered about, and when I wonder about stuff that I like, I like getting into that stuff [on the show]. We're definitely going to honor it and do it, but we're definitely going to have either more of it or possibly do it in a different way."
For his part, Kirkman weighed in on the show's eventual use of the time jump, with a typically coy take: "We've talked about whether or not we'll do everything that's happened in the comics, all the way up to the most recent issue. That's something that Scott and I are talking about all the time, and we sit down with all the producers and discuss what we're going to do and how we're going to do it because there's a tremendous amount of budget involved and strategic planning on how to keep the show going. We need to know these things and being able to know these things years in advance is what helps us make this show possible. So we've discussed everything."
"That was one of the best evasive answers I've ever heard," executive producer David Alpert said in response to Kirkman's take on the time jump. But there's no evading the fact that the comic's leap forward in time is an essential part of that story, and an inevitable development for the show as well. Just how many years that jump covers, when it takes place and whether we'll see a healthy amount of the intervening years? That's an issue for another day.
What's your take on the Walking Dead time jump? Let us know in the comments, and keep checking THR.com/WalkingDead for interviews, news and more.