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Spoilers are all over for The Walking Dead's midyear opener, so watch before reading.
While viewers technically got to meet a lot of Saviors in Season 6 of The Walking Dead, Season 7 brought us into The Sanctuary for the first time, along with taking us into The Kingdom and the Oceanside campground. And tonight's midseason premiere somehow introduced another giant batch of survivors that Team Rick has managed to avoid coming into contact with. But unlike Ezekiel's crew or Negan's many henchmen, this new group doesn't have an already assumed set of morals or motivations. So are they going to be a weaponized front that's more dangerous than Negan, or will they have a more friendly relationship with Rick's group?
For most of the episode, Rick was hunting things; sometimes it was assistance from other groups and sometimes it was for a viable way to mow down an army of walkers with one swoop, and so on. But in the episode's final moments, he once again looked like HE was the hunted prey to this new and unnamed group of weapon-toting ruffians. And I gotta say, of all the surprising character introductions that The Walking Dead delivered not in recent years, tonight's midseason premiere offered one of the most exciting, and all the Alexandrians currently on Rick's mission no doubt lack a healthy dose of optimism right now. Except for perhaps Rick himself, who broke out into a cheesy grin upon sizing up this predicament.
This group has a full arsenal of weaponry, from shotguns to handguns to swords to billy clubs and beyond. Like the position Negan is in, if these people want anything that Rick, Aaron, Tara and the others have, it's clearly theirs for the taking. Their front line has weapons up and aimed at the new strangers on their stomping grounds, and waves of others would fill in the gaps if Team Rick managed to take out those first few. Of course, it's almost as bad for our protagonists if this new squad doesn't want anything, as they'd have no reason to keep any of our heroes alive. Least of all the dude who looks like he's in charge.
Only a fool would believe Rick could soon be taken down and out by any just-arrived characters, though, so we assume nothing too awful will come from this initial meeting of the minds. In the small amount of hinting that the cast and crew have given for this new group, it sounds like things will take an initially amicable course, but with no guarantees that things will stay that way. And considering this group appears to be completely independent of Robert Kirkman's comic book series, it's hard to know just how good or bad things could get with them, and they're the kind of people that keep weaponized walkers around.
On the one hand, Rick might be smiling because he foresees a future where he convinces this locked-and-loaded community to join his mission to take down Negan and the Saviors for good, even though he has no clue of their own potential relationship with the tyrant. After being denied full assistance by both Gregory and Ezekiel, Rick has a need to find strength in numbers, and the constant in-pouring of greyscale survivors in the final minutes could absolutely create a formidable army, if everyone's interests align. And though we know that The Kingdom and Hilltop Colony will eventually become one with Alexandria's plight to destroy Negan's rule, all of these newbies create quite the interesting wrinkle in how it could all pan out.
Because, of course, the group's leader(s) could easily make an agreement with Rick to join an assault on the Sanctuary, only to double-cross Team Family with the reveal that they've actually been a Savior outpost all along. Because, you know, they have so many guns, which is something that Negan removes from the townships he lords over. As Rick & Co. learned all too well with the Saviors, there is even more power in knowledge in a world where you can't look people up on the Internet, and there are few things more crippling to good guys than big groups with big guns and a lack of clear intentions.
Admittedly, it will be easier to get a reading on where things will be going next week, when we'll presumably get to hear one or more of them speak. (Perhaps Rick's mystery interest in the Oceanside group involves finding out information about this new dirt-faced crew.) But when that does happen, there will always be the underlying suspicion that something isn't on the up and up. It's a terrible way to live, but it's the only way to live in this world. I'm not sure if I made that line up or if it was on a bumper sticker on one the cars that Rick and Michonne drove to wipe out that zombie herd.