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The Walking Dead: Does Xander Berkeley’s role spell doom for Rick’s crew?

The Walking Dead may not return until February, but that doesn’t mean fans don’t have plenty to mull over in the meantime — the midseason finale revealed Rick Grimes and his lovable gang of zombie slayers are now entering the era of the ultimate bad guy, Negan.

And, as though the impending introduction of that nefarious character looming over our heads wasn’t enough, the latest casting news to come out of the TWD camp is giving us major anxiety.

More: The Walking Dead: 11 Questions we need answered ASAP after the break

A little exposition: In September of 2014, actor Xander Berkeley signed what appeared to be a long-term contract to appear as a regular on the AMC series. While fans were quick to speculate about Berkeley’s role, the network was just as quick to point out that Berkeley would not be playing Negan — a role that ultimately went to Jeffrey Dean Morgan.

So now, with a little over a month to go before we get our next gory TWD fix, AMC is confirming that Berkeley will play another bad guy from the comic world: Gregory, the weaselly leader of the Hilltop colony. Not good, you guys. And not because Berkeley isn’t fantastic. In fact, the casting of the actor — who has been a standout star in shows like Longmire, Zoo, Salem, 24 and Nikita — will undoubtedly lend TWD even more depth and appeal.

Still, it doesn’t bode well for Rick, Daryl, Carol, Maggie, Glenn, Michonne and our other beloved survivors. Here’s what the new character could mean for TWD‘s existing characters. [Spoiler alert!]

Betrayal in the immediate future

In the world Rick and his crew inhabit, being betrayed is basically part of the territory if you still have any modicum of empathy in your soul. And, as we know by now, even the most hardened of the survivors have shown a soft spot for someone at some point along the way. Their kindness, in turn, has often been greeted with betrayal and led to disastrous consequences (hello, Nicholas!).

A new wolf in sheep’s clothing

So what does this have to do with Gregory? For starters, he’s just a prick. According to the casting notes for the role, the character is defined by “his narcissism, huge ego and self-preservation” and that he relishes “the superiority that comes with being in control, but he plays it off with a car salesman-type charm.” In the comic series, the people he lords over recognize his abhorrent attitude but feel they lack any other obvious leader.

More gore

Things will get worse before they, uh, get worse. Sorry to be such a harbinger of doom, but such is life in the zombie apocalypse, no? Here’s the problem. If you were hoping after the nearly heart-stopping suspense of the first half of Season 6 that Rick and the gang (and your nerves) would get a brief reprieve before becoming mired in more drama, it was in vain. From the moment the survivors meet Gregory in the comics, he brings nothing but trouble — especially for Rick, Maggie and Glenn.

The nearing of Negan

While all signs point to Negan not officially arriving on the scene until the finale of this season, the arrival of Gregory proves Negan’s special breed of pain is imminent. In the comic series, Rick and the crew’s first impression of Gregory is marred by a message from Negan sent through a battered member of the Hilltop colony. It only escalates from there, with Rick offering to help Gregory solve Hilltop’s Negan problem in exchange for supplies. Predictably, things go south fast from there.

More: The Walking Dead has major Season 6 news for comic nerds

Goodbyes we dread

With Gregory firmly in the picture and Negan drawing nearer, a new era of the survivors is being ushered in — and, real talk, it will undoubtedly include the loss of at least one fan favorite. Whether the series follows the comics to the letter and we lose Glenn (nooooo!) or AMC goes off-road and offs someone else first, we’re going to have to gear up to say goodbye to someone.

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