[This story contains spoilers through season seven, episode 15 of AMC's The Walking Dead, as well as the comics on which they are based.]
Alright, Alexandria. It's finally time to go to war.
With the season seven finale now less than a week away, AMC's The Walking Dead is finally on the cusp of one of the signature storylines from the comic books: "All-Out War," a 12-issue event focusing on Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) finally casting aside all niceties in favor of settling their differences on the battlefield. The back half of season seven, labeled "Rise Up," has been building to this moment, and it looks like it's finally about to arrive, given the events of Sunday's penultimate episode, "Something They Need."
But how exactly is this war going to get started? That's the inevitably fatal question, and one that boasts a few potential answers, based on what we know from Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard's Walking Dead comics. In that version of the story, "All-Out War" begins thanks to Rick and his allies finally rolling right up to the Sanctuary and making their intentions loud and clear. Here, in the spirit of a picture speaking a thousand words …
Charlie Adlard / Image Comics
In the comics, Rick leads a massive group including Jesus (Tom Payne), Ezekiel (Khary Payton), Michonne (Danai Gurira), Aaron (Ross Marquand) and more right up to Negan's doorstep, armed to the teeth. Rick raises his pistol and fires a shot into the air, simultaneously serving as a means to summon Negan, as well as becoming the first shot fired in "All-Out War." But Rick isn't necessarily out for blood in this moment. When Negan comes outside, Rick offers an ultimatum: live in peace, or die.
"We stand before you three communities united, saying to you and your people - no more," Rick shouts at Negan. "We will not give you our supplies, we will not bow to your will. Those days are over. But there doesn't need to be violence, we don't have to fight over this. I feel like we'd all prefer not to. We're giving you a chance to surrender. We know you have children inside and people who are not a part of this ... who are not Saviors, who have not attacked or killed anyone. Those people will be spared, their lives can continue as they are."
Negan chews on the offer for less than half of a second before asking a fair follow-up question: "And what of the others? Me … the rest? The killers who have been keeping you all safe."
"Once, a long time ago, I made a rule … I think maybe it's time to finally stick to it," Rick replies, before delivering the stone-cold answer: "You kill and you die."
Needless to say, Negan's not exactly on board with forging a truce through his own death. He has a different plan in mind for how to deal with the gathered Alexandrian, Kingdom and Hilltop forces. Once again, here's a picture, this time with Negan's not-quite-thousand words:
Charlie Adlard / Image Comics
For those who can't quite make it out, that's Gregory (Xander Berkeley), the current leader of the Hilltop, completely selling his people down the river in order to shore up favor with Negan. Following Gregory's defection, all attempts at peace are called off, leading to an immediate shoot-out right then and there at the Sanctuary's front gate. All-Out War is officially underway.
Will the show follow the same exact path as the comics? History says no. When it comes to the big moments, the show often sticks close to the comic book script, but with its own distinct flourishes. See: Negan killing Abraham before killing Glenn, when Glenn was his only victim of that moment in the books.
But the show is in a similar place as the comics right now, especially with the Gregory story. When last we saw him, the cowardly Hilltop leader was planning a road trip to visit Simon (Steven Ogg), taking the man up on his offer to swing by the Sanctuary if things ever get too tense. It's easy to see him going full Team Negan in time for the finale.
What's more, Rick and the crew finally have all the guns in the world they need, thanks to their trip to Oceanside. They have willing fighters at the Kingdom and the Hilltop, as well as the promise of even more able-bodied soldiers in the form of the Garbage People. Will we see Rick rally the troops and march right up to Negan's home turf before the season finale ends? It's certainly one way to end a season and start a war with the same single shot.
How do you see the war beginning? Let us know in the comments below, and keep following THR.com/WalkingDead for news, interviews and more.