7:00pm PT by Lesley Goldberg
Did 'The Walking Dead' Just Introduce Negan's Group?
[Warning: This story contains spoilers from episode 606, "Always Accountable," of AMC's The Walking Dead as well as the comic book series on which it is based.]
Days after casting its iconic villain Negan, AMC's The Walking Dead may have offered the first glimpse at the psychopath's group.
During Sunday's episode, Daryl (Norman Reedus) encounters three strangers who have fled from a community where people trade anything and everything in exchange for safety and seemingly have to work for food and supplies (like insulin).
Little is known about the community from which the mystery man and his two female companions fled. The character — who isn't ever referred to by name — revealed that his former community featured people who "made the choice to kill for someone else" and that he and his two female companions refused to "kneel" anymore, and took only the supplies that they "earned."
The AMC zombie drama failed to include the names of the two surviving duo (only Tina, the diabetic who died during Sunday's hour, was identified in the closing credits as actress Liz E. Morgan). THR, meanwhile, has learned that the guy who steals Daryl's motorcycle and crossbow is played by actor Austin Amelio.
The episode, perhaps fittingly titled "Always Accountable" in a nod to the debt Amelio's group may owe their former community, also introduced another pack of survivors — led by Wade (Darin Cooper) — from a larger camp who were charged with finding the escapees. Wade appeared to be so seasoned in the new world that he chopped off companion Cam's (Matt Lowe) arm without hesitation after he was bitten. What's more, the seemingly emotionless guy made fun of Cam and went back to take his watch — and tossed the useless limb away as if it was a gum wrapper.
While it's unclear if Wade's pack is from the same group who attacked Abraham, Sasha and Daryl at the start of the episode, both Amelio's character and Wade's camp may be from a community known as The Saviors, who play a pivotal role in the comic book series on which the AMC drama is based.
[Spoilers ahead from the comic series.]
In Robert Kirkman's comics, a character named Dwight — who coincidentally is an ace with a crossbow — is introduced in Issue 98 and is a member of Negan's The Saviors. Dwight later becomes a key ally for Rick and the Alexandrians in the war against Negan.
The Saviors, meanwhile, are a group who form a community at a large factory that is surrounded by a wall of impaled and tied up zombies. They're a faction comprised of strong and violent members led by Negan who originally were part of a community known as the Hilltop Colony. The Saviors wind up demanding half of all the food and supplies from both the Hilltop and the Alexandria Safe-Zone, among others, in exchange for protection from both them and the undead.
Furthermore, Negan rules the cult-like community with fear (and a bat covered in barbed wire that he named Lucille) and uses a point system instead of money in which residents must earn their keep and barter for food and supplies in order to sustain their lives.
The character of Negan, sources say, will first appear on the AMC drama in next year's season six finale and be played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan with production on the Greg Nicotero-directed episode having started last week.
"I don't know, mayyyybe!" star Reedus told THR when asked if Wade's people may be connected to Negan's camp, adding that the group will be seen again. "[Showrunner] Scott Gimple doesn't put things in storylines and scripts that don't come back. He's had stuff plotted for so long; every little thing means something in the future. Everything. You can bet money on it. There's no wasted screen time."
Unlike Rick Grimes, Negan believes in ruling by fear and creates his own set of laws — which afford him the ability to have multiple wives and use an iron to burn the faces of those who dare to defy him.
While initially a high-ranking member of The Saviors, Dwight eventually forms an alliance with Rick in a bid to overturn Negan after the dastardly yet charismatic leader takes Dwight's wife as one of his own. (The psychopath ultimately burns Dwight's face with an iron when Dwight's wife crosses Negan and returns to her rightful home for a night.)
Given the events of Sunday's episode, Amelio's character could be a remixed version of Dwight — who may be fleeing The Saviors after refusing to "kneel" before Negan. Given showrunner Scott M. Gimple's penchant for remixing the events of the comic series, Wade may be looking to bring Amelio's character back to the community to repay his debts — perhaps referring to Negan's point system. (Wade does seem to indicate that the escapees have broken the "batshit crazy" rules of their former community.)
Should Amelio be playing Dwight and Wade's group be part of The Saviors, it would help The Walking Dead to set up a backstory for the Dwight character and offer a different take on the bad blood between him and Negan. What's more, if Amelio is Dwight and he winds up being recaptured by Wade and the potential Saviors, it would set up a conflict between Daryl — who already has it out for the guy who stole his bike and crossbow. On the other hand, if Amelio's character and his companion find refuge in Alexandria, it would create instant odds between Negan's group and Rick's community, setting the stage for the pending war between the two.
"If you take the ratio of good people we've meet out there and bad people we've met out there, the bad people outweigh the good people — especially at this stage in the game," Reedus said. "There's an interesting storyline, too, when Daryl comes around the corner with his crossbow and finds the two girls [for the first time] and they say, 'We took what we earned' — there's a story there. So you can put stuff together in a way: who runs a camp where you have to pay for things? It's not like Alexandria, where it's, 'I'll man the wall or pick the vegetables.' Those people are being forced to do something they don't want to do, so you can put that together."
While Reedus remained mum on if Negan would be introduced in next year's season six finale — as THR has reported — he noted Jeffrey Dean Morgan is already fitting in well.
"I've known Jeffrey for a long time, maybe 15 years, and I know everything he does he brings a certain pizzazz that's genuinely his own," Reedus said. "He's such a good actor and guy. Part of the casting on this show is that they have to fit; they can't just be a good actor. That goes for on- and off-camera. It's such a team down here [in Atlanta], that there's no room for someone to come in and not fit — even if they're great, they have to fit. And he totally fits. He's super likable, he's 100 percent a team player and he's got his own pizzazz that's genuinely his style and he owns it. I'm excited to work with him."
Of course, anything can happen on the AMC series which also may be in the process of remixing Glenn's storyline. In the comics, Glenn is brutally beaten to death by Negan during his first appearance in the series. That major milestone (which happens in the landmark 100th issue of the comic) is part of the reason diehard fans of the series are so upset about Glenn's uncertain fate on-screen.
Given the evidence, do you think The Walking Dead has just introduced The Saviors? Sound off in the comments, below. The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.