Between the dwindling time remaining in the season and promises of some kind of "happy ending" from the Powers That Be, fan expectations for certain events to take place and particular locales to make their debut may or may not happen by the end of March, when the show's season finale is expected to take place.
There have been some hints dropped, though, and there's at least one supposedly-major player out there that hasn't yet appeared on-camera. What can it all mean? We've got some projections for the rest of the season, beginning with tonight's "Alone," which airs at 9 p.m. Eastern.
With the events of AMC’s The Walking Dead Season Four having evolved to the point where events from Skybound’s The Walking Dead #49-60 from the comics have popped up onscreen, many fans assume it’s only a matter of time before television viewers become acquainted with The Hunters.
The group, a roving band of cannibals, were headquartered out of an isolated, rural house in the comics. They would stalk, trap and kill other survivors for their meat, eating them slowly and putting tourniquets on their wounds so that their victims would last longer in a world without refrigeration.
Keeping their victims alive as long as possible also had the added benefit of preventing them from reanimating before the meat was off the bone.
And, yes, not only did they take one of the principal cast, but that character got one of the most memorable deaths in The Walking Dead history out of it. That was Dale Horvath, though, and on the TV show, he’s been gone for quite a while. When he died, I vaguely remember producers saying that they had another character in mind who could “take” his death to make it work, but it would be difficult to speculate who that would be, if indeed it happens.
That said, we do have a whole batch of survivors who were either dead at this point in the comics, or didn’t exist at all. Carol, Tyreese, Daryl, Lizzie, Mika and Beth could all die and not impact future storylines at all, assuming (which of course you can’t really do) that the show plans to follow the comics faithfully.
Again, the comics aren’t necessarily a foolproof indicator of future storylines, and some of those characters are not likely to die anytime soon. Nevertheless, having all of those people collected into a pair of groups traveling together seemingly makes one or more of them vulnerable.
Around the same time Rick's group was dealing with The Hunters in the comics, a pair of recently-orphaned twin boys named Billy and Ben stepped to the forefront back at the survivors' own encampment.
Ben started torturing and dissecting animals and, ultimately, killed his brother Billy. When confronted about it, he told his fellow survivors not to worry–that Billy would reanimate, since Ben had not damaged his brain. It’s the epitome of “creepy kid” stories from Kirkman’s comic, and while it’s not yet totally clear that Lizzie is a danger to others, she’s definitely a creepy kid.
Tyreese has been thinking all along that whoever is killing the animals and feeding the walkers is a threat to the group, and probably the one who killed Karen and David. Nobody has yet told him that Carol is gone because she confessed to the deaths. And now, he’s on the road with Carol, Lizzie and Mika–a perfect opportunity for viewers to learn the truth in dramatic fashion.
Should Lizzie turn out to be a substitute for Ben, as many people have projected, the question becomes how that story will end.
In the comics, it’s Carl who kills Ben, secretly and under cover of night, while the adults struggle with what to do about a killer in their midst who is both psychotic and a child. It’s a cold and calculated decision that he makes, but he makes it for what he believes to be the good of the group and he makes it without hesitation. The initial discussion about whether to kill Ben actually evoked a similar debate to that one in season two, when Dale tried to talk the group out of killing Randall because it’s not what they would have done before the apocalypse, and several members of the group telling him that this isn’t that world anymore.
In the TV series, it probably depends on when the truth about Lizzie is revealed, and how it’s revealed. It’s not a stretch to imagine Carol meeting up with Tyreese and the girls before she meets up with Rick, Carl and Michonne. Could Carol–whose focus all season long has been to teach these kids how to live in this dark and violent world–be the one to kill Lizzie for her crimes? If Lizzie were to kill Mika, it certainly isn’t outside of the realm of possibility, and the psychological and karmic punishment that Carol would have to undergo after all of that transpired would leave her a radically changed character, and one Tyreese could hardly debate keeping out of the group when and if they all reassemble.
Depending on how it's handled, this could tie to the Lizzie and Mika adventure, but if not, any number of other characters could be solid candidates for being a major death before the season is up. Sasha and Beth have done little besides prop up the men around them, while Carol and Tyreese are both living on borrowed time, in terms of adapting the actual comic book source material (both of them died during the storyline leading up to The Governor's attack on the prison).
And, of course, there's Judith and the other kids. They're kids, so not likely to survive left to their own devices. They're also...well, we'll get to more on the kids later.
Tara, another character who doesn't exist in the comics and whose role in the show is unclear now that Glenn already has traveling companions, is a solid candidate for a hero's death, too, especially considering how guilty she feels about Hershel's death.
It's likely that when Glenn finally does find the signs for Terminus, he'll start heading there almost by default like everyone else has.Whether it's genuine, a trap or something in between, the odds are good that he and Maggie will end up together by the end of the season.
Why? Well, because as we noted above, we've been promised at least something resembling a happy ending this season, and there's just no intellectually-honest way of doing a happy ending at this point without reuniting the pair.
Terminus will be (or at least seem like) a good thing
All along, there's been that nagging doubt about whether Terminus is going to be a good thing or not, but with four episodes left and seemingly none of the groups particularly close to arriving there, it doesn't seem as though they've got time to deal with Terminus being a potential trap.
Terminus, I think, will be the ultimate symbol of faith rewarded this season...and perhaps something that's got a darker underbelly next season, when they have time to really dig into the possibilities.
At least one more big fight
In the comics, Rick and his group stomped The Hunters' heads in when push came to shove in one of the most brutal and one-sided battles of the series. It's no coincidence that it was also the first big conflict they got into following the siege of the prison, and while it created some consternation among the group as to whether that level of violence was necessary against people incapable of defending themselves, it gave both the characters and the readers a much-needed catharsis.
Whether The Hunters show up or not, don't be too surprised if we get something like this, anyway...maybe from the home invaders from "Claimed." If they stumble across Rick, the one who was choked out under the bed will likely recognize the face of the man they have to have figured out killed one of their friends.
Andrew J. West, an actor who was said to play a major role in this season, hasn't yet appeared in the show (and doesn't appear in tonight's episode). That gives the studio three weeks to give his Gareth character a big role. That seems to us to be begging either to secretly be, or to have a major impact on, someone familiar to fans from the comics.