The Walking Dead will air its eighth season finale this Sunday, but it’s not just war at stake. According to cast departures and a new quote from exiting showrunner Scott Gimple, Sunday’s finale will be “the conclusion of the first eight seasons,” and lead to “a bigger, new narrative” next year.

You’re warned of full spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 8 from here on out, but it’s no secret that multiple cast departures have plagued the series ahead of schedule, while ratings and reception have slid far enough that the series’ future has become an open question. Showrunner Scott Gimple will depart with Sunday’s “Wrath” finale (producer Angela Kang will take over), and Gimple tells Entertainment Weekly that the end of Season 8 will mark something of a transition for the series:

This episode isn’t just like these 15 episodes coming to a conclusion, but Angela and myself and the writers had always talked about this in many ways being sort of the conclusion of the first eight seasons. This show will be very much a new show next year and with a bigger, new narrative. It was something I was really excited about getting into even before season 8. And so there was just a certain weight in the air of the kind of conclusion that we were getting closer to. It was a weird graduation for everybody.

Mind you, Gimple’s quote about a “bigger, new narrative” is somewhat at odds with producer Greg Nicotero, who told Fandom of Kang’s takeover that “I feel like the show is kind of morphing back into a Season 4, Season 5 kind of vibe” – specifically, their “on the road” structure. The series has also been laying seeds of a larger group on the horizon, evidenced by Jayne Atkinson’s enigmatic leader Georgie and a helicopter repeatedly circling Jadis’ junkyard. Explanations of either are said to wait until Season 9, and it’s been theorized The Walking Dead may skip the comic “Whisperer War” that follows the battle with Negan. Instead, Season 9 may jump to the more recent “Commonwealth” story introduced in comics.

All of that is compounded by the fact that major stars like Lauren Cohan have yet to ink deals for the ninth season, which could well mean The Walking Dead moves away from the communities it’s settled into over the last few seasons. AMC has not yet confirmed plans to end the series with any set number of seasons, but is Gimple being more truthful about the shakeup than we realize?

Watch the trailer for Sunday’s “Wrath” below, and stay tuned.

Gallery: The Worst ‘Walking Dead’ Death Scenes, Ranked

More From The Basin's Classic Rock