12:23pm PT by Lesley Goldberg
The 'Walking Dead' Scene That May Hold the Key to Season 7
[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Sunday's "East" episode of AMC's The Walking Dead and the comic book series it is based on.]
As AMC's The Walking Dead prepares to introduce dreaded villain Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) in next week's season-six finale, what seemed like a throwaway scene in Sunday's penultimate episode may hold the key to season seven.
As Morgan (Lennie James) and Rick (Andrew Lincoln) searched for Carol (Melissa McBride), the duo crossed paths with a briefly seen man searching for his horse at a farm.
While Rick attempts to take a shot at the guy — he no longer takes any chances — Morgan pushes his arm and the mystery man clad in protective armor runs away (seen above and below).
Rick takes note that the guy was using a spear clearly manufactured by the Hilltop community and believes him to be a member of Negan's savage Saviors, but Morgan isn't so quick to write the guy off as the enemy.
"Maybe he's from the Hilltop, maybe he's from somewhere else," Morgan says. And Morgan may have it right.
For eagle-eyed fans of Robert Kirkman's comic series, the mystery man may belong to a community known as the Kingdom. The Kingdom, like the Hilltop and Alexandria, is another community of survivors — and they detest Negan and the Saviors.
The Kingdom is overseen by a George Clinton-like leader named Ezekiel, a former zookeeper who oversees the community with Shiva, his pet tiger. (Yes, a tiger.) The residents of the Kingdom dress in protective armor — and serve as knights to the so-called "King Ezekiel" at a transformed high school.
Members of the Kingdom, like those of the Hilltop and Alexandria, do not wish to be a part of Negan's reign of terror as the f-bomb-dropping baddie uses fear, intimidation and violence to take half of the neighboring communities' food, supplies and weapons in exchange for safety (from the Saviors).
The man in protective armor in Sunday's episode may be the biggest hint to date that The Walking Dead's world expansion will include the Kingdom — and likely Ezekiel and (hopefully) Shiva (both below).
"There's not a great chance but if it were happening, I wouldn't tell you either," showrunner Scott M. Gimple told THR ahead of the midseason premiere regarding whether Ezekiel and Shiva might be introduced this season. "The world is going to be expanding in a lot of different directions."
Introducing The Kingdom serves as a next logical step given where the AMC series is in the comics' run. Negan makes his debut in the landmark 100th issue, coming face-to-face with Rick, Michonne, Carl, Glenn, Maggie, Sophia and Heath as they are on their way to the Hilltop while the Saviors plan their attack on Alexandria. That would match up with where the series is — with Rick and company likely taking Maggie, who is on the verge of losing her baby, to the Hilltop to see the ob-gyn there as Daryl, Michonne, Glenn and Rosita are held by Dwight and the Saviors.
The Kingdom also will help fortify what could be a massive army between the residents of Alexandria, the Hilltop and the Kingdom, who could unite to bring down Negan and the Saviors in a take on the comics' "All Out War" arc.
What are your theories? Sound off in the comments section below. For more Walking Dead coverage, go to THR.com/WalkingDead. The 90-minute season-six finale of The Walking Dead airs on Sunday at 9 p.m. on AMC. Stay tuned to THR for more coverage.