The Walking Dead is aging fast – in a good way. At a public press event hosted by AMC on Wednesday, the newest showrunner for the network's hit zombie drama, Angela Kang, offered up a big teaser for what fans can expect when Season 9 premieres later this year.
"We're playing with time in the season, so we get to jump forward in the story," Kang revealed at a "Kick-Ass Women of AMC" panel, per The Hollywood Reporter. The concept isn't a new one for the franchise, as Fear the Walking Dead has spent its entire season jumping between a time jump to the future (well, present?) and the past.
Of course, as TWD diehards know from reading Robert Kirkman's comic book series, the news means the show is sticking close to its source material as the comic leaps ahead by two years following the conclusion of the "All-Out War" arc that sees Rick Grimes take down Negan.
Unlike the book, where Rick continues to tangle with walkers, the character's days on AMC's flagship are numbered. That's because star Andrew Lincoln will be hanging up his guns as he's set to exit The Walking Dead before the end of next season, leaving Norman Reedus' Daryl as the show's new leading man.
And he's not the only one leaving. Lauren Cohan's farm girl heroine Maggie won't be around for long either, as the actress is only contractually obligated to appear in six episodes in Season 9. That's after getting into a contract dispute with the network that saw her try her hand at pilot season and ABC ordering her upcoming midseason FBI-CIA drama, Whiskey Cavalier, to series.
According to Kang, however, the pending departures provide a wealth of opportunities to dig deeper into existing characters, especially Carol (Melissa McBride) and Michonne (Danai Gurira).
"We're working on a season that has a really fresh look and feel," the writer-producer added. "We come in on some pretty fun stuff. I'm really focusing a lot on the core character relationships in the show that have kind of been long-lasting, as well as all of our wonderful series regulars."
There's also the exciting news that Jon Bernthal will be reprising his character Shane Walsh, one of The Walking Dead's original survivors and former leader of the Atlanta Group, for one episode next season. Shane's resurrection is likely tied to Rick's storyline, considering that Rick killed his former best friend back in Season 2.
Kang is The Walking Dead's fourth showrunner, taking over for Scott Gimple, who was recently promoted to oversee AMC's entire Walking Dead universe, including the spinoff Fear the Walking Dead.