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Rare is the plotline on The Walking Dead that goes completely left field from its comic book source material, but it seems like Robert Kirkman and showrunner Scott Gimple could be onto something starkly different with the introduction of the “walkers with Ws on their foreheads.” (Spoilers if you haven't seen "Try.") The brandings, which have been appearing since the midseason premiere, have been less of a threat than a curious oddity so far, but they’ll almost definitely come into play by next week’s Season 5 finale now that Daryl and Aaron have discovered someone new living in the area around Alexandria. And we’ve got some ideas on who’s doing the carving.
The Wolves. In a list full of speculation, the “Wolves” group deals with the most guesswork, because the name itself is based on a seemingly random bit of graffiti in Noah’s hometown seen several episodes back. The message stated “Wolves Not Far,” as seen above, and was a little too on the nose to be just a random piece of set design. My best guess for the Wolves is that they’re comprised of the people that Deanna banished from Alexandria. We’ve seen enough of the Ws around the safe haven’s walls to cancel out coincidences, and while I’m not sure how one trains a walker to aim for a particular location, this could be a direct revenge tactic. Although that doesn’t quite explain the disemboweled walker tied to the tree, or the selection of appendages that Daryl and Aaron stumble upon.
The Scavengers. Perhaps this group is indeed a creation of the comic book, only remixed to keep fans on their toes. Led by the cocky sumbitch Derek, the Scavengers are exactly what their name implies: a group of roaming survivors who take anything and everything they come across, and murder is hardly an obstacle. It would be just like them to mangle up walkers and send threats to Alexandria’s citizens, although the comic group was much more up front about their plans to take over everything. Although, for everyone out there who understands how spelling works, there are no Ws in “Scavengers,” so the forehead carvings wouldn’t seem to be very meaningful. But notice the dialogue in the image above, and you’ll see how a wolf reference of the big bad variety fits.
Morgan. Okay, so this point admittedly comes from The Internet, where all great theories are made. It’s thought that Morgan, who has been known to leave his mark on trees, is possibly carving upside-down Ms on walkers in order to…let people know he’s around? If he used an M, it could be a sign let let Rick know he's nearby, but maybe the reversed lettering would signify how twisted Morgan has gotten since he and Rick last met. Going from marking trees to marking walkers is certainly odd enough that he wouldn’t need to shake things up too much. (Especially if he's the one that tied that girl to the tree and cut that other body up.) And while this seems like the most outlandish of these theories, we haven’t seen Morgan in ages, and this would be a better lead-up to a possible return in the finale than nothing at all. Also, it might have been Morgan’s camp (or whatever that light was) that Daryl and Aaron saw, and it might not have anything to do with the Ws. But he’d better show up in the finale, or WTF?
The Whisperers. We all know that Kirkman and Gimple love to keep comic readers happy while also dropping surprises here and there, and bringing the Whisperers into the show would arguably be as wild a twist on things as having Andrea and Tyreese getting killed. The Whisperers have only been introduced relatively recently in the comic series, putting them well beyond the Scavengers and even Negan (whom I don’t think the Ws are referring to at all) in the timeline, and they’re known for roaming around while donning walker skin and viscera to blend in. So perhaps the forehead markers are to let other Whisperers know who’s alive and who’s not, although there aren’t nearly enough Ws seen for this to be a largely successful tactic. Still, flipping up the order of events in the comics could be a winning tactic for the series.
Hopefully we'll find out what it all means when The Walking Dead Season 5 comes to a close next week. But until then...
Where Do The Ws Come From?
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