Now that we're at the midseason break for AMC's The Walking Dead, the Beth Greene subplot is resolved and the group is reunited, it's easy to ask: What's next?
Based on the comics, we can carve out a pretty good idea (assuming they follow the comics at all). It's likely that the actual show will move a little slower, since that's been their MO since the fall of the prison, but taking a look at what's going on in the characters' heads and what happened in the comics should give a pretty decent sense of place to Season 5B.
What do we expect to see? Read on...!
A sense of loss
This one seems like a no-brainer, right? I mean, they just lost somebody, and we see that the next episode will be a funeral, so of course there's a sense of loss.
But there's more to it than that. When we last saw the group all together, there were so many reasons to go on living that they were actually in competition with one another. The idea of going to Washington, D.C. stood in the path of rescuing Carol and Beth, and vice versa.
Now, nobody has a next step. It's just...survival. And that's got to be depressing. The idea that you can't stay anywhere for long is one that has been engrained into the group following the loss of the prison, the fall of Woodbury, the sham of Terminus and more. Seeing their four walls and a roof with Father Gabriel compromised as well just has to reinforce what they already suspect...that no place is safe. If they were ever going to do it, this is a pretty decent place for Rick's "We ARE the walking dead" speech, or some variation thereon.
The Alexandria Safe-Zone
Producers have repeatedly said that this season will follow the comics closer than other years, and at this point in the comics, they should already have met up with Aaron and be en route to Alexandria.
When their trip to Washington, D.C. was a bust, Rick and company were joined by a scout for Alexandria, who invited them to the settlement. In fact, if we were to go by the comics timeline, it should have been immediately after Eugene confessed he was a liar. Of course, in the comics, that also happened with Rick present and Aaron approached both Rick and Abraham at the same time, meaning that it couldn't have happened yet on TV.
A new group dynamic
This goes hand-in-hand with Alexandria, but Rick Grimes is not the undisputed Boss of Everybody at the Safe-Zone. In fact, when Team Rick arrived, people didn't quite know what to make of this crazy man who distrusted everybody and never wanted to take his gun off his hip.
In Alexandria, the first little while Rick was the hardest one to assimilate. Having just dealt with the rapists, murderers and cannibals in Woodbury and on the road, Rick walked into Alexandria with zero damns left to give...and was ultimately told that's not how they live their life.
In the comics, the survivors in Alexandria head to Washington for supply runs. The fact that Alexandria (located in Northern Virginia) is not a hugely recognizable locale to most people (don't yell at me for that -- I lived there and love NoVA but it's objectively true) means they can shoot the Safe-Zone and similar locales in Georgia, where they've been since the start of the series. The Walking Dead not only enjoys generous tax incentives there, but have built themselves into the local community and have a good relationship with Sequoia and Georgia in general.
That said, a day trip at least to D.C. seems in order for a couple of reasons. First of all, the images of D.C. overrun are the kind of iconic, memorable images that helped cement the visual identity of 28 Days Later's London in the public imagination.
Second, our survivors have been heading that way for a while now -- especially Abraham's group, who have been trying to get to Washington for possibly as long as Rick and the gang have been together. Abandoning hope on something that has taken on such a larger-than-life identity in their heads might be nearly impossible. Seeing it -- even just once -- and knowing there's nothing there for them might be a helpful coping mechanism, especially for Abraham and Rosita. That's true, too, of somebody like Noah, who comes from the delusional world of Grady Memorial where people are still waiting on a rescue.
Seeding things for down the line
The publishing period set in and around the Alexandria Safe-Zone wasn't without its challenges, but it was relatively stable and without a major, explosive conflict in comparison to most other long runs in the comic.
That said, fans now know what it was building to, and with "All-Out War" fresh in the memory of the viewers as well as creator Robert Kirkman, who writes for the AMC show, it seems likely we'll get mentions of other colonies, of the Saviors and possibly Negan sooner than later.