The Walking Dead has left characters behind before, but few so drastically as with Heath’s abrupt Season 7 departure. Corey Hawkins was busy filming the new 24, but does its cancellation mean the character’s return? Yes! Well … maybe not this season.

You’re warned of moderate spoilers for The Walking Dead from here on out, but it was midway through Season 7 that we finally caught up with Tara (Alanna Masterson) and Heath out on the road, before the episode switched to the former’s perspective. Heath was last seen to be alive, but mysteriously vanished with only a “PPP” card as clue to his whereabouts.

Understandably, Hawkins had to move on to FOX’s since-canceled 24: Legacy and other projects, but showrunner Scott Gimple doesn’t believe Season 8 has space to answer the character’s fate. We’ll see Heath again someday, but perhaps in Season 9, Gimple tells Entertainment Weekly:

Not a huge chance [of seeing Heath this year]. But we definitely have not seen the last of Heath, period. I will say that. I don’t mean to disappoint the Heathies. He will be on the show. He will be within The Walking Dead again.

Season 8 might actually complicate Heath’s return, if indeed the series follows through with the multi-year time-jump teased in the first trailer. Were the series to move forward a few years, it might mean Heath had been absent for all that time; perhaps requiring a more involved story to explain what his “PPP” exit was all about (assuming he wasn’t just tallying pee breaks).

In the meantime, The Walking Dead will return for Season 8 on Sunday, October 22. Who else might make a surprise return?

More From WKFR