The Walking Dead: Five Theories About Sanctuary

Tonight's episode of AMC's The Walking Dead concluded with Rick, Carl and Michonne en route to [...]


Tonight's episode of AMC's The Walking Dead concluded with Rick, Carl and Michonne en route to Terminus, a spot on a laminated map that promises "sanctuary" for all who come. "Sanctuary - those who arrive, survive," it boasts. On the October 27 episode of Talking Dead, The Walking Dead producer Gale Anne Hurd teased fans that it might--or might not--be what you think it is if you read the comics. "Those of you who've read the comic book might have an indication of what it could or could not be, but it offered sanctuary. As we know in this world sanctuary could be a very complicated thing. It could be someplace you want to go and really is what it says it is, or maybe it's not quite what's promised." Well, we've got some ideas as to just where it might be.


Word is, The Walking Dead was doing some shooting at Fort Benning. Given the fact that Abraham is a soldier, it could easily have been a flashback sequence--after all, we've had a couple of those this season. Or it could be that this is where they're eventually headed. If you remember all the way back to the first season, this is where Rick and Shane were headed, and when ultimately the pair started disagreeing about heading to Fort Benning versus staying at Hershel's farm, it was a huge bone of contention. The Fort was mentioned a couple of more times, most recently by a survivor at the prison who told Rick and the group that the Fort had been overrun. Nevertheless, if anyone were able to secure it, it would be like the prison, but with better defenses.


An outdated or no-longer-safe location Obviously, it's a trope of zombie fiction at this point to have the false sanctuary, a message for which is delivered over some hand-cranked radio signal. The typical story is that your group of survivors will hear about it early on and, by the time they make their way there, the place will already be overrun. These kinds of tropes work for the same reason nobody knows immediately to aim for the head: in the world of The Walking Dead, there are no zombie movies before the outbreak and the survivors are encountering everything for the first time. So in other words, there's nothing in their brain to say, "Hey, wait, I've seen this movie before." You might head toward that false hope, because it's hope. Remember, too, that the map of Georgia that showed where Terminus/Sanctuary is, indicates the small city of Macon. That was a burned-out husk of a place in The Walking Dead video game.


The Alexandria Safe-Zone (kind of) We've already established that Terminus is in Macon, GA. So how could it be Alexandria, VA? Well, because The Walking Dead shoots in Georgia for practical reasons, so it makes more sense to stick to places you might actually be able to use. Also, Alexandria was an obvious choice because it was along the road to Washington, D.C.--allowing the survivors to transition from one mission to the next fairly seamlessly after they abandoned the fool's errand Eugene had sent them on. Since the survivors are currently split up, and the two groups headed for Terminus have no idea who Abraham, Eugene and Rosita are, there's really no need to create an additional setting on the road to D.C.

sanctuaryThe Sanctuary

In the world of the Image Comics/Skybound series The Walking Dead, "Sanctuary" has a particular meaning. It is, in fact, a very specific place–and a locale that's key to events taking place in the comic right now. The Sanctuary is the home base of The Saviors–a locale first seen in The Walking Dead #104, by which point we already knew that we didn't particularly like The Saviors–a group led by a lunatic called Negan who find other groups of survivors and extort them to survive. During the "A Larger World" arc, Rick Grimes and company were introduced to Jesus, who helped them find a community they could move to long after the fall of the prison and dozens of issues spent mostly on the road. Jesus brought Rick to Hilltop Colony, a farming community that survives by trading with other similar communities. It's terrorized regularly by Negan's men, who have a Mafia-like Protection racket set up, whereby they bully other colonies into giving them a share of their farming, hunting and other spoils in exchange for "protection," which basically means that the Saviors won't attack you themselves. In The Walking Dead #100, when Rick refuses to play ball with Negan, the survivors are met with overwhelming force and ultimately forced to watch while Negan brutally murders one of their group. Cowed into a strategic retreat, Rick lived under Negan's rule for a time, although Carl represented the readers' first look into The Sanctuary, when he launched an attack on the facility and killed a half-dozen members of the cult-like community, of which Negan is the undisputed and brutal leader. Within the community, The Saviors are divided up into castes depending on how much goodwill they've managed to curry with Negan, who presents himself as a kind of spiritual leader. Retribution for perceived crimes against Negan is brutal and he's free to do to people what he wants, including taking a harem of "wives," one of whom was actually married to one of his closest lieutenants before Negan took over. The Saviors have been the central antagonists in the series ever since, and a number of factions–including Rick's survivors, Hilltop Colony, The Sanctuary and more–went to war in last fall's The Walking Dead #115, the start of a story celebrating the tenth anniversary of The Walking Dead. That war is ongoing and won't wrap up until around the time of the season finale. The Sanctuary itself is a large factory, surrounded by a chain-link fence, with a wall of walkers (chained or staked in place so as not to threaten The Sanctuary but still a threat to anyone trying to infiltrate the property) and stone barricades. In many ways, it's as similar a setting to the prison as the Survivors have seen, in that most other places meant to provide living arrangements for large groups of people have been more like Woodbury–gated, fortified communities where there's at least an illusion of comfort–not unlike what Rick and company were cultivating at the prison before the flu outbreak. Series creator Robert Kirkman has gone on record as saying they have a plan to get Negan on the show, but not when. This one just feels like the most likely candidate.


There's a solid argument to be made that the name of Terminus--"the end of the line"--should be considered more carefully when you're getting yourself wrapped up in all of this. In a season that's following the comics fairly closely, we've seen scenes ranging from The Walking Dead #51 to The Walking Dead #60 in the last three weeks. Why's that significant? Well, The Walking Dead #61 kicked off the "Fear the Hunters" storyline, which pitted Rick and his group of survivors--then on the road to Washington, D.C. and without a permanent shelter--against a gang of cannibals. During that storyline, the title also dealt with the story of Ben and Billy, the twin brothers who many are theorizing Lizzie and Mika might be the television stand-ins for. They also encountered Gabriel, a minister who had been hanging out in his church since the start of the outbreak and who offered them, you guessed it, sanctuary in his building. The Hunters got their hands on (and started to eat) Dale before they were dispatched by Rick and the group in the comics. Since Dale has been gone for a while on TV, it's possible that there needs to be a blue-chip death in the family to even things out... The really scary thing is that, by the look of things, Carol, Tyreese and the girls are a day or so ahead of Rick, Michonne and Carl. If it is a trap, they could find themselves caught up in it before the big guns are there to help--and let us once again reiterate that right now, they're adapting the comics pretty closely... ...the comics where Lizzie and Mika don't exist, and Carol and Tyreese were dead by this point.