This article contains spoilers for The Walking Dead season 11 episode 1.
Throughout The Walking Dead season 11 premiere, “Acheron Part I”, it seems as though Eugene, Princess, Ezekiel, and Yumiko don’t have much of a compelling reason to stay at The Commonwealth.
Yes, the small group knows things are dire in Alexandria and they seek the help of a bigger, hopefully benevolent community. But it’s still hard to endure The Commonwealth’s curious initiation rites, which include probing questions like “How many bowel movements do you have a day? What do you use to wipe?”
Thankfully, the crew ultimately finds a reason to stay…and it’s a good one. As Eugenue and company try to make their escape (borrowing a tactic from A New Hope no less), Princess’s eyes are drawn to a big board that reads “FLAGGED FOR EXPEDITED ASSESSMENT AND ADMITTANCE TO THE COMMONWEALTH” or as Ezekiel dubs it “The Wall of the Lost.” On the Wall of the Lost is a photograph of Yumiko along with the text “Have you seen my sister, ‘Miko? Contact Tomi at H.”
Just like that, Yumiko (Eleanor Matsuura) and all her friends know they have to stay. This is a big moment for The Walking Dead and it borrows from an equally big moment in the comic series, albeit with a pretty major character swap. In Issue #175 of Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard’s comic, Michonne comes across the very same wall and a similar message written by her daughter Elodie, who works at the Commonwealth bakery.
Michonne, of course, is no longer a part of the TV series having gone off on her own adventure to find Rick Grimes as actress Danai Gurira moves on to other creative opportunities. According to Walking Dead showrunner Angela Kang, however, The Wall of the Lost was significant enough for the show to preserve with a different character.
“We’d always think about ‘do we drop this or just try to adapt it a different way?’” Kang says. “But we did feel that it was important to have some person at the Commonwealth to connect to our characters so that there’s somebody who’s vouching for the place beyond just Stephanie. Because the Commonwealth has these aspects of class difference.”
Kang and the show’s writers considered a couple of other characters to fulfill Michonne and Elodie’s roles at The Commonwealth, and even settled on Connie (who was established to be a journalist of repute) before actress Lauren Ridloff’s casting in Marvel’s Eternals necessitated the move to Yumiko. The fact that Yumiko was previously established as a lawyer (like Michonne in the comic) was a plus.
The show did change the nature of the relationship at play. Though Michonne is Elodie’s mother in the comic, Michonne does not have children in the show, nor does Yumiko (that we know of). Instead, The Walking Dead opted to make Tomi Yumiko’s brother.
“The story doesn’t really play out the way that Michonne’s story with Elodie does because a sibling relationship is such a different sort of relationship,” Kang says. “But we felt there was still value to having somebody who feels like there’s somebody that (they) love there and it makes this place feel real and not just a fiction or something that we automatically have to be afraid of.”
Character swaps are nothing new for The Walking Dead. Previously the show has had Aaron lose his hand rather than Rick, Bob Stookey stand in for Dale Horvath, Lydia take over from Sophia, and many more examples. Even Michonne borrowed several of Andrea’s comic plot lines once the latter made an early departure from the show.
With 23 episodes to go before the very end, The Walking Dead has around 25 remaining issues of the original 198-issue comic to work with. It’s fair to expect some more character arc changes are on the horizon. After all, someone has to take Rick Grimes’s place…
The Walking Dead season 11 airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.