Spoilers below for anyone who hasn't yet watched the Season 11 premiere of The Walking Dead, so be warned!
Even though the moment was previously teased in promotional footage, The Walking Dead delivered an interesting twist with its Season 11 premiere, as Eleanor Matsuura's Yumiko discovered that her long-gone brother Tomi is apparently stationed at the show's newest location, The Commonwealth. She learned this life-changing factoid after Princess focused her detail-oriented attention on the filled-up wall of messages about lost survivors. The plotline is directly lifted from the Robert Kirkman's comic book, in which Michonne discovered her believed-dead daughter, but the TV series may have doubled-down on the wall's impact with a possible callback to a major storyline hiccup: Heath's disappearance.
The big board marked "Flag For Expedited Assessment And Admittance To The Commonwealth" was absolutely filled with photos, messages, drawings, and other assorted alerts for loved ones. And while many of the names seen on that board belonged to The Walking Dead crew members, as revealed during the post-premiere installment of Talking Dead, the name Heath brings about a wholly different layer of context that hearkens back to actor Corey Hawkins' short-lived stint on the AMC drama that ended mysteriously (and controversially) in Season 6. So you KNOW it sparked some speculation when The Walking Dead just casually threw Heath's name up on that wall of missing people, as seen below.
But here's the big question: is The Walking Dead just giving fans a winking easter egg, with Heath's name being posted up there as a self-aware joke about the character truly having been missing from the storyline for the past 4+ seasons? Showrunner Angela Kang, EP Scott Gimple and the rest of the show's creative team members are definitely aware that fans have questioned the lack of a clarified explanation behind Heath's absence, so I can't imagine all involved would think it fun and worthwhile to troll fans with more Heath clues and no plan to resolve it all. I mean, they might, but probably not.
So if we then assume there aren't any prank-adjacent motivations at play here, can we then start to believe that The Walking Dead will bring Heath back into the fold in Season 11 as another straggler attempting to be assessed for Commonwealth citizenship? That also doesn't seem extremely likely. For one, it would basically mirror Yumiko's discovery of her brother if Heath would show up just to discover his long-lost sibling or parent. And second, it would be very strange for Heath to show up in this context after having been previously assumed as a kidnap victim of the Scavengers, with Scott Gimple having previously "revealed" that Heath is mixed up with the CRM helicopter group that took Rick and Jadis away in Season 9.
So if that's the case, Heath would have needed to escape that situation in order to make it to The Commonwealth, which is assuming those two factions aren't connected in any way. (At this point, who knows?) It obviously doesn't help that there aren't any visual elements tied to the Heath note. And the lack of background information about the character also doesn't help us here.
Interestingly enough, it appears as if the location beneath Heath's name is Louisville, Kentucky. While we don't know if that's actually where Corey Hawkins' character was from, that is indeed the neck of the woods where The Walking Dead's co-creators Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore grew up. They're technically from Cynthia, Kentucky, but it's hard to believe TWD's TV series would throw a Kentucky reference out there without it being a nod to Kirkman and Moore.
At the time of Heath's exit, Corey Hawkins had landed 24: Legacy after the success of Straight Outta Compton, so it made more sense for him to be unable to return on a regular basis. But the Fox spinoff only lasted one season, and while the actor has most certainly kept busy in the interim, it's not quite the same situation as it was before. Perhaps it would have been too complicated narrative-wise for him to return out of the blue prior to now. But I think we can all agree the live-action series needs to give us some answers before Season 11 is wrapped up. (I'm really hoping this isn't a "we're saving that story for the anthology series" kind of situation, too.)
With 23 episodes left to go in its super-sized, triple-chapter Season 11, The Walking Dead airs Sunday nights on AMC at 9:00 p.m. ET. Check out our 2021 Fall TV schedule to see all the other big shows that are popping up on the small screen soon.
Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.
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