Warning: Spoilers ahead for the Fear the Walking Dead Season 5 premiere!
Fear the Walking Dead Season 5 may be focusing on the endeavor of Morgan (Lennie James) and company to find purpose in the undead apocalypse by providing help and/or hope to strangers, but its premiere episode managed to make different waves with a detail that might seem insignificant at first, but could prove crucial regarding the fate of missing main series protagonist Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and future of The Walking Dead TV universe overall. (Check out our review of Season 5 premiere “Here to Help.”)
The now-Austin-based Fear the Walking Dead gang’s magnanimous modus operandi – as declared in the closing of Season 4 – of providing unsolicited help to those in need (even if they don’t want it,) took them into unknown territory (which ominously bear “radioactive” signs,) via plane crash; an especially curious incident, seeing as we’re deep into the apocalypse. However, something piqued the curiosity of our resident inquiring mind post-apocalyptic photojournalist, Althea (Maggie Grace), who would discover an intriguing clue amongst the walkers who attacked their wreckage, which yielded a potentially monumental Easter Egg for us viewers, even though the situation ultimately wouldn’t pan out too well for her.*
After using the cockpit to radio Strand (Coleman Domingo) back at the abandoned denim factory they now use as a base, Al stumbled upon a most curious walker wearing a menacing helmet and a shockingly fancy black uniform that appeared to bear high-tech features, evidenced by some of the visible internal wiring for some kind of electronic function. Just as the main series gang learned way back in their early-Season 3 storming of the prison, Al realizes that killing armored walkers is a tough order. After piking and immobilizing – rather than killing – the undead trooper, she returned to the crash site later in the episode to look into the mystery further by going through his pouch, in which – amongst some plastic cards – there was a map that appears to delineate mysterious boundaries. However, the catch to all of this was the symbol that appears on said map: a familiar one in three interlocking rings.*
As viewers will recall, The Walking Dead Season 9, Episode 5, “What Comes After,” in which Rick Grimes – grievously wounded and knocked out from the sacrificial bridge explosion that saved his people – was fished out of a river by Anne/Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh) and given over to a mysterious – clearly well-resourced – group in their (previously seen) helicopter, which happened to bear the symbol of… you guessed it, three interlocking rings! Oh, yes, things are getting interesting in AMC’s beleaguered-but-fighting Dead TV universe, and we probably won’t have to wait long for more details, since, at this point another (alive) individual in a similar uniform snuck up behind Al and knocked her out, presumably set to take her somewhere where we’ll learn more about them.
Speculation over the identity of said group is already underway, and, given the nature of the uniform and general context, there is a widely-held belief that the three-rings group is a (loosely-based) version of a network of communities – made up of about 50,000 people – featured in The Walking Dead comic book series, called the Commonwealth. However, if that proves to be the case, then we’d be looking at a potentially super-sized version of the Commonwealth, since the network – as depicted in the comics – did not have the kind of resources and magic fuel supply for all the vehicles we’ve been seeing. Yet, as the TV universe continues to make major divergences from the comics, we’re probably at a point in which a purist interpretation of the mythology is a luxury that has long passed.
Regardless, the Easter Egg is a major declaration on the part of the TV franchise, especially as we remain without even the most minute detail about the return of Andrew Lincoln to The Walking Dead franchise for a trio of TV movies, as teased last year upon his exit from the main series. Moreover, as we would also find out, the same three-rings group was confirmed to be responsible for the disappearance of Heath (Corey Hawkins) back in Season 7 of the main series. Consequently, as the premiere episode seems to hint, Fear the Walking Dead Season 5 could end up serving as a prologue of sorts for the still-mysterious first Rick Grimes TV movie, which, at this point, could prospectively see Rick reunite with Morgan and even former rival-turned-ally in Austin Amelio’s Dwight, who’s set to join the spinoff series this season.
Fear the Walking Dead will continue to unravel this mystery and more, as Season 5 continues to air on AMC on Sundays at 9 p.m. EST.
*Edits made for clarity.