SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for this week’s episode of The Walking Dead, “The Key,” which as of publication has not yet aired on the west coast, plus major spoilers for The Walking Dead Vol. 30, by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, Stefano Gaudiano and Cliff Rathburn.
This week's episode of The Walking Dead saw a brief break from "All Out War" in the form of new visitors at the Hilltop. After noticing a signal left outside the gates, Michonne, Maggie and Enid set out to meet the potential allies who left it. While Maggie and Enid are insistent that it must be a trap, Michonne pushes to meet the strangers to learn more. What they find couldn’t have been further from a Savior trap.
When they reach the meeting point, a woman in a beige pantsuit introduces herself as Georgie, and she’s flanked by two guards, Midge and Hilda. They seek to barter -- music records (no spoken word) and food in exchange for knowledge. At the time of the meet, Georgie’s enigmatic about what that knowledge might contain, but she agrees to return to the Hilltop with a skeptical Maggie.
Once there, Maggie’s fears are allayed when the women make good on their promise that their mission is one of benevolence, offering some of their own food to the starving community instead of trading once they realize how dire the situation is. They also offer a handbook on medieval engineering that will come in seriously handy when it comes time to rebuild, not to mention the news that despite all the conflict, Alexandria, the Kingdom, the Hilltop and the Saviors are four of the most advanced communities the women have encountered in their travels.
After the exchange is made, the women leave, promising to return and depart as mysteriously as they arrived. The entire storyline felt otherworldly -- people showing up with no other desire than to further the development of society in a positive way? Did The Walking Dead accidentally film some pages from The Good Place? Fans have already been expecting newcomers for most of Season 8 as showrunners have repeatedly hinted at the arrival of the Whisperers, the next primary antagonist to appear after the close of "All Out War" in the comics. But these ladies didn’t seem like they were about to reject all attempts to reestablish human society and walk around draped in walker skins -- just the opposite, in fact. And actually, it’s their distance from anything we’d expect from the Whisperers that actually might lend a clue to their identities.
HAVE WE JUST SEEN THE ROOTS OF THE COMMONWEALTH?
During the events of "The Whisperer War" in the comics, Eugene starts talking to a mysterious woman named Stephanie over his radio. The two share stories from their respective settlements and forge a tentative friendship. Stephanie reveals that she lives in a large community called the Commonwealth. Eventually, Eugene, Michonne and a few other survivors visit the Commonwealth and discover it’s the most advanced community they’ve encountered since the apocalypse.
Their settlement is incredibly advanced and organized compared to anything else seen in the comics since Woodbury. They have more than 50,000 members and they’ve managed to turn their community into something resembling the pre-apocalypse, with a sports arena, concerts and even twee coffee shops. According to their governor, Pamela Milton (who also happens to be a blond, middle-aged woman concerned with the advancement of civilization), they seek to be a beacon of hope that society can redevelop out of the chaos into which it was thrust.
Georgie and her compatriots, Hilda and Midge, don’t look like they’re in control of a large, advanced, community. They also don’t sport the fancy coordinating armor members of the Commonwealth’s militia do. However, they are in possession of the kind of confidence and patience that only exists in humans who’s lives aren’t a constant struggle for survival. And given the fact that there’s a two-year time jump between the end of "All Out War" and the beginning of "The Whisperer War," it could be we just met an early beta of the Commonwealth procedure to scout new members.
Or it could all be a red herring and lead to something completely new and unrelated to the comics. It’s worth noting that the Commonwealth storyline is still in its nascency, so if producers moved it up, they’d be on pace to outrun the comics pretty quickly, which is something they’ve explicitly said they will not do. That said, Georgie, Hilda and Midge could be meant to represent the Commonwealth before it’s reached the advanced stage it has in the comics, in which case it’s possible this interlude was only meant to whet our palates until such a time is appropriate to introduce them.
In any case, the appearance of Maggie’s benefactors certainly introduces an interesting perspective on the future of the communities once they learn to play together nicely.
Airing Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on AMC, The Walking Dead stars Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes, Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon, Lauren Cohan as Maggie Rhee, Danai Gurira as Michonne, Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier, Lennie James as Morgan Jones, Alanna Masterson as Tara Chambler, Josh McDermitt as Eugene Porter, Christian Serratos as Rosita Espinosa and Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan.