Warning: This post contains spoilers for The Walking Dead TV show and comics. If you are not up to speed, then make like a walker and shamble on outta here.
GIF via Vanity Fair
Last night’s episode of The Walking Dead ended with a bang. Quite literally. (If you missed it, you can read our review right here.) But I’m not here to talk to you about my theory that Daryl is going to get an up close and personal tete-a-tete with Lucille on next week’s season finale. While I’m champing at the bit to meet Negan in all of his Jeffrey Dean Morgan-ly goodness, I’m even more excited by a tiny little plot thread that Scott Gimple and The Walking Dead writers dangled in front of us during last night’s episode. And this tiny little plot thread is a wink and a nod to savvy comic book readers who know exactly what it means for season seven.
In “East,” we saw the survivors of Alexandria scattered to the winds. Daryl (Norman Reedus) went off in search of Dwight and the Saviors, hoping to exact vengeance for the death of Denise. Rosita (Christian Serratos), Michonne (Danai Gurira), and Glenn (Steven Yeun) all followed suit — only to wind up captured by the Saviors they sought in the first place. But they weren’t the only ones to come across mystery men armed to the teeth.
While on the hunt for Carol (Melissa McBride), Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Morgan (Lennie James) come across an armored man hiding in a barn who claims to be looking for his horse. Going full-on Ricktatorship, Rick immediately raises his gun and tries to take the mystery man down. However, Morgan, ever the spoilsport when it comes to cold-blooded murder, pushes Rick, throwing off his aim. As a result, the armored stranger manages to escape.
Screenshot via AMC
In his haste to get the hell away from Rick, the stranger left behind a spear that is seemingly manufactured by the Hilltop’s blacksmith-in-residence. The same kind of spears and smithed weaponry that Negan and the Saviors have been using — at least that’s what Rick assumes. Morgan, however, thinks differently.
“Maybe he’s from the Hilltop, maybe he’s from somewhere else,” Morgan said. Little did he know, but that’s exactly where his man is from — “somewhere else.”
But where could that “somewhere else” be? Given his equipment, temperament, and the fact that he was looking for his horse, all signs point to him being a member of The Kingdom. Much like The Hilltop and Alexandria, The Kingdom is a community of survivors trying to eke out a living in this terrible world. And much like The Hilltop and Alexandria, they have a massive bone to pick with the Saviors.
Image via reddit user perinski
Most importantly, The Kingdom is ruled by a dreadlocked former zookeeper named Ezekiel, who looks like an amalgam between Afrika Bambaataa and George Clinton. Ezekiel rules over the settlement as a king, enforcing his royal justice with a pet tiger named Shiva by his side. (I know, I know — another pet tiger in the post-apocalypse? When will it end?) The other residents — like the man seen in Sunday’s episode — don armor and serve their king as knights of the realm. And if our theory is correct, then the man seen in “East” is a breadcrumb leading to season seven’s introduction of The Kingdom. Hopefully that’s the case because judging by the previews for the upcoming episode, the survivors are going to need all the help they can get.
Adding further credence to this theory is the fact that this season, moreso than others, has been hewing very closely to the comic book source material. (Making Carl’s head see-through, anyone?) As indicated by billboards from earlier this year, season six has roughly followed the “A Larger World” arc, as well as the “Something to Fear” arc from The Walking Dead comics. Logically, next season will follow “What Comes Next,” in which Rick, after being made to bend the knee to Negan and his men, must seek out Ezekiel’s help in order to put an end to the Saviors’ reign of terror.
Ezekial and Shiva on the cover of The Walking Dead #108
Season seven will likely also include bits and pieces of the “March to War,” as well as the aptly titled “All Out War,” which sees Rick and the gang teaming up with the settlers from The Kingdom and The Hilltop to wage total war on Negan and his terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad Saviors. That being said, I wouldn’t be surprised to see all of next season be the build-up to “All Out War,” which would culminate in the inevitable eighth season, but only time will tell. It all depends on just how much ground they’re trying to cover and how quickly the TV show would like to close the gap between itself and the comic books. To put things in perspective, Negan made his debut in the horrifying issue #100, and the next issue of The Walking Dead will be #153, so there’s definitely plenty of ground the cover between now and then. In the meantime, we’ll be sitting on the roof of the Nerdist office, eating our body weight in roof pudding, and wildly speculating as to what we’ll see next week and next year.
The Walking Dead‘s supersized 90-minute-long season six finale airs on AMC on Sunday, April 3 at 9PM.
What do you think of this theory? Who do you think will bite the bullet in the season finale? What would you like to see happen in season seven? Let’s discuss in the comments below.
Here’s everything you need to know about Negan before the season finale: