We've got your first look at the final installment, including new photos of Daryl and Carol.

There are only 8 episodes remaining of The Walking Dead, which will return this fall for its final batch of installments. And in advance of the franchise mothership's last stand (and its upcoming July 22 appearance at San Diego's Comic-Con celebrating said last stand), we've got the exclusive first images of those final episodes.

Where there is smoke, there is usually fire. And as our first image of Commonwealth soldiers shows,  you can count on a fiery conclusion to the series now that creepy manipulator Lance Hornsby (Josh Hamilton) has taken Alexandria, the Hilltop, and Oceanside by force. Not only that, but his boss, Pamela Milton (Laila Robins) could be on the rampage now that Connie (Lauren Ridloff) and company are out printing disparaging articles in the press and stirring up the masses. (Maybe she'll just call it "fake news" and hope for the best?)

The Walking Dead
Commonwealth soldiers on 'The Walking Dead'
| Credit: Jace Downs/AMC

As for what we can expect in the final eight episodes, showrunner Angela Kang hints that "there are going to be some twists and turns in the journey, but also some really beautiful emotional scenes." And it appears there will be strength in numbers. "In the second block of episodes, they were sort of torn apart," says Kang of our heroes both in and outside the walls of the Commonwealth. "And in this last block, the gang is back together again, moving with a common purpose. There's always a particular fun that comes with that for us and for fans who like to see what happens when the group is doing their thing as a unit."

Among those doing their thing will be the two characters that go all the way back to season 1: Norman Reedus' Daryl and Melissa McBride's Carol. What can expect from that dynamic (and sometimes dysfunctional) duo?

"Daryl, more and more, is being thrust into the role of a leader," says Kang. "And the way he does it is different than some of the others. His style is not like Rick's, it's not like Maggie's or Ezekiel's. Daryl is Daryl. He's not the guy who likes to give a lot of speeches. He kind of likes to do."

The Walking Dead
Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon on 'The Walking Dead'
| Credit: Jace Downs/AMC

And it sounds like Daryl will indeed have plenty to do, including becoming something of a father figure. "You're going to see Daryl have to step up in some of his decision making in some key ways," teases Kang. "And he's going to be very crucial to the way all the events play out in this season. We also to remember that Daryl is a parental figure to Judith and RJ, and that's an important part of the story as well — his role with those kids and the things that they'll all do to protect the children of the apocalypse."

As for his post-apocalyptic BFF, Kang notes that "Carol is somebody who's come so far in her journey, and there's been times when she's been really, really tormented about the things she's had to do, but I think Carol's in a place of a pragmatic acceptance of the decision she has to make."

Once again, the stealthy cookie-baking warrior is to be underestimated at one's own peril. "We'll get to see some really cool moments from Carol as she's just outwitting and outlasting those that are seeking to do harm to her folks," says Kang. "She gets to have some memorable moments with both villains and our heroes. She's like a chess master who's playing 4D chess while other people are just kind of cranking along moment to moment."

The Walking Dead
Melissa McBride as Carol on 'The Walking Dead'
| Credit: Jace Downs/AMC

As for the show's return to the Comic-Con stage after a few years away due to COVID-19, it can't help but be a bit bittersweet. While Kang notes that "people are really looking forward to being with the fans again and feeling their energy and just being able to kind of return the love that they give us," the zombie drama's annual appearance this year will mark the final one for the main show that kicked off the now expansive Walking Dead universe. "There are going to be some tears shed," says Kang. "We're a sentimental bunch."

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The Walking Dead

AMC's zombie thriller, based on the classic comic book serial created by Robert Kirkman.

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