When the group of home invaders first arrived on AMC's The Walking Dead for the second time, and made it clear they would be a fixture for the rest of the season, we wondered whether they might be The Hunters, among other groups of generally unpleasant characters from the comics. One possibility that didn't occur to us at all was "The Marauders," a group of savage, roving thugs from the comics who held Rick, Abraham and Carl at gunpoint and, among other things, tried to rape Carl. Their efforts were halted when Rick Grimes brutally murdered two of the three men and Abraham killed the third. Their deaths were some of the most brutal in the series and, like The Hunters shortly thereafter, their pleas for mercy went unheeded by Rick. Less than twelve issues for readers (and likely just a few days for the survivors) since the death of Lori, Tyreese and others during the fall of the prison, Rick was at the end of his rope and during this time, he committed a number of truly savage acts to protect what was left of his group.
The possibility, honestly, didn't occur to us in part because the group's role was relatively small; they appeared in a single issue of the comics and weren't even named characters. Over the last month, though, both producers and the press have taken to referring to Joe's group on the TV series as "marauders." Whether they're the capital-M Marauders hasn't been clear, but it seems as though a spoilery, new TV spot for the season finale suggests they might be. In the image at right, Carl Grimes is comforted (on TV) by Michonne, his face smeared with blood as it has been in some preview photos and promotional images. It seems that's an image they want fans to remember, which would track with it being part of one of the more iconic sequences from the comics (one that Carl recently referenced himself, even though it was a long time ago and there's been a great deal more trauma since). "You done f---ed up," the ringleader of the Marauders tells Abraham when the group jumps him in the comics. That's echoed in the New Zealand TV spot when Joe, about to start beating on Rick, tells him that "you screwed up!" by killing Lou in order to escape the group in "Claimed." The confrontation between Rick, Michonne, Carl and Joe's group seemingly happens in a very dark environment -- apparently at night and outdoors, as the same ad shows Dan, one of Joe's group, approaching Carl as he sleeps in a car. While Joe's group has been looking for Rick to exact their revenge for Lou's death, then, it seems that the first of his group they encounter is Carl. We've already heard from context clues in "Claimed" and "Us" that rape and underage sex, respectively, are not big taboos for Joe's group. It's possible that even before realizing that tehy've found Rick, they're already prepared to abuse whoever they find. In any event, that trailer either spells out the way Joe's group meets its end -- with Rick tearing one of their throats out with his teeth along the way -- or it's very misleading, cutting footage from the show to look like a specific story from the comics. That Rick and Carl already appear bloodied in the "Who Will Arrive?" teaser with a #Terminus hashtag suggests that the pair may have already had this conflict by the time they arrive where the rest of the group is waiting. Does that mean the story with Joe and company is short-lived? It seems likely which, given the investment in the characters so far this season by the writers, may well prove the point further. If the sequence itself wasn't significant, why build them up so much for what seems likely to be a relatively minor appearance? What's arguably more disconcerting is that -- if all of those assumptions are true, and the group reaches Terminus after their conflict with Joe and the other marauders has already happened -- the question of what happens to Daryl is an open one. He doesn't, from the photos and footage we've seen so far, seem to be with Rick and Michonne. Is it possible that Rick excommunicates Daryl as he did Carol for his role in helping to track Rick and his companions? Could Daryl have struck out on his own, impacted by Joe's claims that "people like us" won't be welcomed at Terminus? Or could something bad actually happen to the show's most popular character? The Walking Dead wraps its fourth season Sunday night at 9 p.m. EST.