The Walking Dead: Are the Hunters Coming?

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Last night as part of a story about The Walking Dead's journey toward Terminus/Sanctuary, we speculated that the entire thing might be a trap laid by The Hunters--a group of cannibals from the comic book source material who jump strangers along the road and eat them. The Hunters were a group of survivors that Rick's group encountered while on the road to Washington, D.C. following the fall of the prison. In the comics, the group was traveling together at this point, rather than scattered around as the TV series currently has them--but then again, in the comics both Carol and Tyreese were dead by now, so one of the groups headed for Sanctuary is charting totally new territory from the comics anyway. The Hunters, led primarily by a man named Chris, consisted of five men and one woman who turned to cannibalism after desperation and hunger led them to kill and eat the children traveling with their own group. Their base was shown to be an isolated countryside home with dense forest and some fences surrounding it.

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In the comics, they led to the death of Dale (although he'd been bitten anyway and was in no position--having been captured almost immediately afterward--to amputate or otherwise attempt to avert the inevitable) and attacked Glenn (although they were unable to take him away) before being subjected to a group slaughter so savage that Rick and the rest of the survivors had internal conflict over whether it was really necessary. The "Fear the Hunters" storyline took place beginning in The Walking Dead #61--notable because some of the events of last night's episode took place in The Walking Dead #60, and series creator Robert Kirkman has said repeatedly (and been borne out by the episodes) that the second half of Season Four is as close an adaptation of the comics as the series has ever done. During that time, the reason Rick's group were targeted by the Hunters is that they were transient, making nightly camps and having no consistent roof over their heads. A lot of fans, seeing so many parallels between that point in the comics and this point in the TV series, are asking whether The Hunters are coming. Maybe the better question is: Are The Hunters already here? On last night's episode of AMC's The Walking Dead, Rick found himself in closer proximity to an aggressive group of survivors who were obviously meant to be bad dudes--one guy nearly killed his buddy over sleeping arrangements, while another found a woman's shirt in the house where they had chosen to squat for a few hours and started calling "dibs" on her when she returned home. We didn't think much of this group at first, especially when Rick got away from them, but a couple of points were raised on Talking Dead that made us wonder. "My feeling is, and again I haven't watched ahead so I don't know what happens, but I feel like it would be a good plot point to have that guy still alive, because he did see Rick," host Chris Hardwick said of the man who had been choked unconscious in a scuffle with his friend over who got to sleep in the more comfortable bed. While Hardwick often points out that he hasn't watched ahead and doesn't know anything, his predictions are often on the money--presumably because whether you've seen the episodes or not, having access to the set and knowledge of who's being cast as stunt casting versus recurring is a helpful tool. "The guy who comes out on the porch is an actor whose name is Jeff Kober," Hardwick continued. "He always plays a bad guy and stuff usually. He was in China Beach, and he's been in a bunch of stuff. He's a fantastic actor. When I watched the show, I was like, 'Oh, I recognize that guy,' so maybe he's coming back at some point." That's a fair point--the only real counterpoint to it is that this year we've had a few strong, recognizable actors--including Phineas & Ferb's Vincent Martell and Leverage's Aldis Hodge, appear in basically cameo appearances. All that said, there's a lot going on with The Walking Dead right now. There are multiple groups working at on different, unrelated goals and the threat of The Hunters is very real. There's the subplot of Lizzie and Mika being potentially stand-ins for the tragic characters of Billy and Ben from the comics...something that played out during the "Fear the Hunters" storyline. There aren't that many episodes left to reunite the group (or however much of it survives) and deal with all of the baggage they're carrying--complete with what's been said will be a happier ending for the group than most of the seasons so far. That suggests that if the Hunters are going to happen--or at least if they're going to happen in anything even remotely resembling the timeline they did in the comics, they've got to be coming now...and Rick probably doesn't have time to deal with the reappearance of the jerks who stole his bottled water and Michonne's shirt, unless they are the Hunters and doing so will serve a larger storyline.