The Walking Dead's fifth season has come to a close! Finding the Alexandria Safe Zone is a huge turning point for the show — and it was equally so in the comics, transforming the series. Here's a brief catch up on what's happened in the comics, and how likely it is those changes will come to TV.
Warning: There will be of course Major Spoilers for the events of the comic, up to and including the most recent issue, #138. Although these things may not happen or may be translated differently for the show, I guess that technically counts as a spoiler warning for what could happen on the show, too. You've been warned, either way!
Despite the comic still being set in a world of living dead and still being called The Walking Dead, the presence of the undead has declined greatly as the comic books have progressed. This has allowed the series to focus more on the interaction between the survivors — both allies and inhuman foes — than on the simple vagaries of surviving and fighting walkers.
Now that Rick and his group have settled in the Alexandria Safe Zone, entire issues of the comic can go by without sight of a walker (or at least, a grave encounter with one) as the survivors become more secure and have better defences, groups patrolling routes, and the knowledge they've acquired from having lived in this post-apocalypse for many years. Walkers are no longer a constant, alarming threat, just something in the background of a more human drama.
Likeliness Of Happening On The Show: Very likely. We're already seeing signs of Rick and the group permanently transitioning into life in Alexandria and settling down, and it makes sense for the show, as time goes on, that the focus becomes less on imminent survival and more on trying to rebuild a life in a changed world.
That doesn't mean there aren't big zombie attacks, though. In fact, relatively early into the group's stay in Alexandria, a massive horde of zombies breaks through defences and begins munching its way through the survivors. Jessie and her son are two big causalities, devoured when Rick tries to lead them through the horde to saftey, as is Douglas (whose counterpart in the show is Deanna). Douglas goes down aimlessly firing his gun into the crowd of walkers and survivors, which leads to Carl taking a bullet in a pretty bad way.
Likeliness Of Happening On The Show: Likely. It's a pretty big moment for the group in terms of trimming some of the numbers down and also in allowing Rick to step up as the leader of Alexandria in the wake of Douglas' death, and it's a big moment of zombie madness that you just know AMC will love to have as a cliffhanger at some point. Plus, as we'll see, it has some huge implications for a main character...
So yes, Carl gets hit by one of Douglas stray bullets, which isn't fatal, but takes out a pretty mean chunk of his face, including one of his eyes. Carl barely survives the ordeal but is now, as his father is, heavily impaired. It's a big moment in the character's evolution as he grows up, and it's sort of a new connection between him and his one-handed father. You can't have a Grimes with all of their parts left, after all.
Likeliness Of Happening On The Show: 50/50. It's a big shocking reveal and The Walking Dead loves nothing more than that, especially for a main character. It would obviously affect Carl, and eventually helps harden him a bit more emotionally, and has a big impact on Rick. But Rick's amputation at the hands of the Governor hasn't made it into the show (I should say yet, but it's unlikely to happen at this point) and that was an equally important moment for the character in the comics. The show might similarly avoid Carl's maiming. It could go either way, but I'd lean slightly towards it not.
Time passes after the walker herd attack, with Rick leading Alexandria through hard times and into a period of relative calm (although he does face a brief coup attempt from some Alexandrians displeased with Rick's no-nonsense rule), and the group even encounters another friendly enclave of survivors at what's known as the Hilltop community, and begin to trade supplies with each other. But they also come across a group called the Saviors, a roaming band led by a man named Negan, who go around killing walkers and demanding supplies from other survivor groups as a sort of extortion racket.
Negan turns out to be a major thorn in the side of Rick and the other survivors, and hostilities spill out. Also, Negan is infamous for being the person who kills Glenn in the comics, bludgeoning him brutally to death in front of Maggie with his baseball bat, Lucille. Oh dear.
Likeliness Of Happening On The Show: Almost certain. Fans have been clamouring for Negan's appearance pretty much since the Governor was done with. Eyes were peeled during Season 5 for signs of Negan's arrival, and many comic fans are talking the arrival of the "Wolves" group in the latter half of the most recent season as a hint of Negan's imminent rival. Plus, Glenn's death at Negan's hands is another big moment for the series (it happened in the comic's 100th issue), and who doesn't love the brutal loss of a main character? Given the show's penchant for changing things up, it might not even be Glenn who finds himself (or herself) under Negan's bat.
Glenn's death and Negan's encroachment on Alexandria eventually sees the survivors banding together with the Hilltop community, and a third group of survivors known as the Kingdom, lead by Ezekiel (who, fun fact, has a pet tiger named Shiva. Yup) to end the threat of the Saviors. This all takes place in a massive arc in the comics called All Out War, big enough that it was split into two volumes for the trade paperback release, with Rick and his army going to war in a protracted and bloody engagement, with plenty of survivors perishing in the process. It ultimately ends with Negan's forces almost destroying Alexandria, before Rick, purportedly seeking a truce, slashes Negan's throat. Negan is incapacitated but not dead, and Rick decides to prove himself better than him by throwing him in jail while the remaining Saviors are killed or forced to leave, and the remaining survivors rebuild Alexandria anew.
Likeliness Of Happening On The Show: Equally almost certain. Negan's introduction is a given, so it's natural that the show will at least loosely follow down the path of major hostilities between Rick's groups and Negan's. TWD creator Robert Kirkman also recently teased the arrival of a tiger on the show in the near future, hinting at the entrance of Ezekiel.
Following All Out War, the comic takes an unprecedented step: It skips ahead two years. Alexandria is rebuilt into a large and prosperous community, relatively peaceful and happy. They have farms to grow food, protected and walker-free zones around and between the Hilltop Community (now led by Maggie, looking after her and Glenn's young child, Herschel) and the Kingdom. Everyone has aged up, of course. Rick is in a stable relationship with Andrea (who didn't perish as she did in the show), but Carl is growing rebellious, wanting to go and work as a smith's apprentice at the Hilltop, against his father's wishes. Carl even starts sneaking in conversations with the captive Negan, still imprisoned, and eventually engages in a relationship with another teenage girl, Lydia.
Likeliness Of Happening On The Show: 50/50? Rebuilding Alexandria is an obvious step following its near destruction, but I'm not sure the show will take the same path as the comic in doing a sudden leap ahead. In the comics, it's an easy way to pass over the time it takes to get the group back on their feet again, which might be something the show actually might want to spend some time dwelling on (and, at least logistically, it would make for a slightly cheaper, less hectic season or half-season after the events of All Out War) for some good character moments. Plus, it's a bit harder to suddenly age people in real life than it is in a comic book. This is another decision that could go either way.
But all is not peaceful in this new world: a new, potentially unfriendly group may have emerged. At first thought to be a group of walkers that could actually communicate back, the Whisperers were revealed to be a roaming gang of survivors who live among the walker hordes, wearing disguises that are essentially skin suits made of walker flesh, to blend in and avoid being detected by actual walkers.
Led by a mysterious woman named Alpha, so far the Whisperers have maintained an attitude of not wanting to particularly engage with Rick, Maggie and the Alexandrians, outside of one demand: that Lydia, the girl Carl is seeing and who is actually Alpha's, returns to them. Maggie agrees to this, but Carl decides to follow the Whisperers to get Lydia back, which could eventually lead to a confrontation between the two groups.
Likeliness Of Happening On The Show: I'll be hopeful and say likely. The Whisperers are being set up as a potential new threat to the peace in the comics, and Alpha could eventually become the next big antagonist, but as it's currently an ongoing development in the comics and it's hard to tell if it's a plotline the show will use.
Plus, how amazing would the makeup and prosthetics have to be to make the Whisperers' walker-suit disguises work convincingly? That's almost a reason in and of itself for the Whisperers not to appear. While the skin-suit idea is easy enough to convey in comics, it might be a challenge to recreate for the show. I almost want it to happen just so we can see the behind-the-scenes footage of the process that goes into making the suits, which would be wonderfully gross.
Obviously, just because these things have happened in the comics does not mean they will translate directly onto the TV show — after all The Walking Dead on TV is a very different beast from the comics, and there have already been plenty of diverging branches, small and large. But let this serve as much of a sign that, without a drastic fork away from the source material, The Walking Dead is up for some big changes in the future, a change that could be as sharp and dramatic as it has been over the run of the comics. Hopefully the show will pull it all off.