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Spoilers below for the most recent episodes of The Walking Dead, so be warned!
The Walking Dead's midseason finale dropped quite a few giant shocks on fans, from The Whisperers' first deadly attack to the character who was killed off in that attack. Unfortunately, we didn't get to learn anything new about those mysterious scars that were seen on Michonne and Daryl's backs in the most current timeline. Angela Kang spoke with CinemaBlend ahead of "Evolution" and she told me the scars play a big part in Alexandria's current state of dismay. In her words:
So, the scars. Clearly, our group has been through some stuff in the six years that we've jumped. I will say that within the back half, we will start to learn more about what the story was. There will be an answer for the audience in terms of what was the origin of these scars and what kind of led Alexandria a bit down the path that it's been on. It's what's exciting about the six year gap is there's some opportunities to play with time and maybe see some of what that story was in the future. So that's kinda what I'll say.
First up, Angela Kang basically confirms there that fans won't need to wait out multiple seasons in order to learn how the scars came about, similarly how the big helicopter mystery got teased out. And since this was a situation that happened in the past that's serving as subtext for the current-day story, the reveal probably won't be pushed back to the season finale.
Second, the showrunner also seems to be implying that The Walking Dead will take a relatively uncommon storytelling turn by using flashbacks. At some point, viewers will likely take a trip back to the point during the six-year time gap when Michonne, Daryl and others (assumedly) suffered the wounds that led to those scars. Flashbacks aren't confirmed, to be sure, but to "play with time" seemingly means that the show will directly show audiences what went down, as opposed to laying it out in spoken-word exposition.
Here, Angela Kang talks more about Alexandria being ground zero for the as-yet-unknown incident.
It's definitely something that is a big part now of the backstory of Alexandria and the people there. It's something that looms large in their minds and has obviously had an effect on them. Because six years is a long time, so stuff had to have happened. So they've all been through a lot, some more than others.
Angela Kang is more or less saying that whatever event led to those scars is the central reason why Alexandria is now on uncertain terms with the Hilltop and other communities. I thought that might have been the case, since there haven't been any other outwardly obvious reasons. Still, without knowing all of the characters sporting those scars, it wasn't fully possible to limit the potential scope of everyone that may have been affected.
It does sound like not all of the Alexandrian survivors were victimized or involved in whatever went down -- "some more than others." That may play into why only a certain number of characters within the community appear far more protective and territorial than the rest, or why others appear to be feeling the opposite way. Eugene, for instance, went from confident to invertebrate extremely quickly before even hearing the Whisperers for the first time, but that might just be Eugene's nature.
With the tension-soaked arrival of Magna and her crew, Michonne has obviously proven how important security is now within Alexandria. One would imagine she not only got physically injured during that situation, but that she also has to take on the mental burden of having been Alexandria's leader whenever their sense of safety was taken from them. In that respect, I am leaning more towards the argument that this was done by someone the group knew and trusted.
Daryl, meanwhile, packed up and left Alexandria altogether, choosing to live in solitude out in the woods with his dog. (A pet whose name, Dog, always needs to be addressed.) That's not so much of a surprise, given Daryl's outsider qualities, but his protective instincts for those within Alexandria add weight to his self-imposed exile. Are Daryl's scars a reminder that larger communities breed larger troubles?
Also, I'm curious if Michonne might have been equally traumatized enough to leave if she didn't have Judith and R.J. to take care of. Coming off of Rick's disappearance (thought by most to be a self-sacrificial death), Michonne likely wasn't in any shape to handle another large-scale controversy, but one came calling anyway. I just hope it all happened after the pregnancy and childbirth, and that the kids were far away from anything painful. (That said, I'm also non-secretly hoping that Judith is the character who saved everyone.)
The 'X' scars mystery and other current-timeline stories might not have come about had the creative team not been tasked with writing Andrew Lincoln's Rick and Lauren Cohan's Maggie out of the show during the first half of Season 9. While losing that pair (for now) was a blow, Angela Kang said one of the good things that came out of it was being able to build more stories up for everyone else in the main cast. In her words:
I think that the characters that we still have, they're so strong and it's been really gratifying to really get to have more material for Norman Reedus and Danai Gurira and Melissa McBride and Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who's doing amazing work, as well as this entire ensemble of people. And so I think they''ve really been just shining in their episodes.
Speaking of Jeffrey Dean Morgan, whose villain is now something of a free man within Alexandria, could Negan possibly also be suffering from a big X on his back? Seems like whoever harmed the other characters would be interested in having a fellow antagonist to yuk it up with, but maybe he's also suffering from a past attack.
Unfortunately, we'll still have some months to wait before we even get to see another new episode of The Walking Dead, much less to learn all of the details about who was responsible for putting Xs on people's backs. For now, we wait patiently, hoping for more clues to come calling.