The Walking Dead rarely holds back when it comes to killing off characters, but it has been known to hold off on revealing their fates at times. Viewers spent months wondering who kidnapped Beth and whether or not Glenn scurried under a dumpster to save his life. Even Carol was M.I.A. for a while in the prison. So, the disappearance of Heath in Season 7 hasn't necessarily meant that he's dead. In reality, Heath is mainly gone due to the fact that actor Corey Hawkins landed a starring gig on 24: Legacy, and the actor has weighed in on whether Heath could return:
It's usually very finite, right? But me and [showrunner] Scott [Gimple] have had a lot of conversations; Scott has been great in terms of asking and talking and really trying to figure out where the character was coming from and going, and you know, professional things take you where they take you, that's normal. But we left it open...so I will just say that there is always a possibility, there is always a way.
When last we saw Heath, he was heroically doing all he could to hold off a horde of zombies from devouring Tara. When Tara went back to try and find him, all she discovered was his glasses smashed on the ground, a set of tire tracks leading away, and a mysterious keycard with "PPP" written on it. Heath could have been dead and simply disappeared because he had turned into a zombie and shambled off in search of humans to eat...or he could have been rescued by another mysterious group. Corey Hawkins' reveal to Collider at the TCA press tour indicates that we shouldn't start mourning Heath just yet, but we also shouldn't count on a triumphant return.
That said, we probably can count on the "PPP" key card playing a part in the future of the series. The camera clearly focused on it when Tara discovered it, and she clearly hoped that whoever dropped it had rescued Heath and driven off with him. Tara pocketed the card and took it with her, so we have a case of Chekhov's Key Card on our hands. Even if Heath comes to an untimely end because Corey Hawkins is busy on 24: Legacy or any other projects, PPP will most likely have a significant role on The Walking Dead at some point.
Of course, 24: Legacy may not take up so much of Corey Hawkins' time that he can't come back to The Walking Dead as Heath. The cast of The Walking Dead is so huge and so spread out at this point that most characters don't appear in every single episode, so Heath could remain alive and simply off-screen a lot of the time. Throw in the fact that 24: Legacy is a limited run series of only 12 episodes, and we shouldn't rule out Hawkins having the time to play Heath again.
Then again, it's possible that Heath is 100% dead and Corey Hawkins just can't spoil that his death scene was already filmed and there's no chance that he'll come back. We'll have to wait and see. The Walking Dead returns from its winter hiatus on Sunday, February 12 at 9 p.m. ET on AMC. Take a look at our midseason TV premiere schedule to see what else will hit the airwaves in the coming weeks.