The Walking Dead: Eight Unresolved Questions for the Rest of Season 4
The Show Returns This Sunday
To this point, The Walking Dead generally hasn't been the type of show to tantalize us with unresolved questions and subtle clues for its more devoted viewers to decode. But the first half of season four featured an unusually large number of plot points that remain unaddressed as we head into the final eight episodes. After a gruesome mid-season finale that came as close to hitting the reset button on the storyline as anything in the show's history, the surviving group members are now scattered into the woods and neighborhoods surrounding their former prison home, and addressing those lingering questions will likely unite the two halves of the season. Series creator Robert Kirkman recently said, apparently with no small amount of satisfaction, that AMC is "very worried" about how the show's viewers will receive some of the more disturbing plot developments that will unfold over the next two months of shows, and given the nature of these unsettled plotlines it's not hard to imagine how events could turn grim in a hurry. As a recap, here are eight questions Walking Dead fans have been waiting to see answered. [Be prepared for spoilers, if you have yet to see last fall's midseason finale then read no further.]
1. Did baby Judith survive?
If Hershel's beheading was the emotional climax from the mid-season finale, the moment that Rick and Carl find Judith's baby carrier empty and stained with blood was the cruel addendum. Given the intensity of Rick and Carl's reaction, it doesn't appear that the show's writers are indicating that we should hold any hope that Judith somehow survived the shootout and swarm of zombies that overran the prison, scattering the prison group to the wind. And yet much of the online buzz the day after the episode focused on the likelihood that Judith actually did survive, if only because we didn't actually see a body (nor a place in the "in memoriam" montage that follows the death of every major character on AMC recap-and-chat show Talking Dead).
Of course, even though The Walking Dead has featured as much blood and guts splatter as any television show in history, no show is going to depict a toddler being torn limb from limb by monsters. But does that mean Judith could have survived? Online sleuths have noticed that the seatbelt on her carrier was open when Rick and Carl found it. Obviously, zombies would not have taken the time to carefully unstrap a toddler before devouring her. We also know that the children who carried her from the nursery into the prison yard survived the attack, so it's possible that one of them grabbed her and jumped on the bus or escaped with Tyreese, who slipped into the woods with sisters Lizzie and Mika (and possibly two other children). There's even a photo still from the mid-season finale that seems to show the burly Tyreese running from the prison while cradling something in his arms.
On the other hand, Judith being alive seems to cause more logistical issues. How does a group of survivors travel with a potentially screaming toddler freaking out every time a zombie comes near? How can you be stealthy with a toddler on your back? In more practical terms, how can a TV show subject a child actor to seeing people decked out in zombie makeup without traumatizing her into a lifetime of AMC-funded therapy sessions? Even though the show has veered far from the graphic novel source material, it is worth noting that the comic Judith did, in fact, die in the prison melee. Kirkman has been clear that he regrets some of the choices he made in writing those original storylines (having comic Rick lose his hand, for one) and that he will be careful not to hem himself in by repeating certain plot points. Perhaps keeping baby Judith in the storyline is one of those changes.
Prediction: Judith is still alive. She'll turn up with Michonne. Which leads me to...
2. Why did Michonne break down when she was holding Judith early in season four?
Thus far, the writers have been cagey about revealing too much of Michonne's backstory, aside from the fact that her two "pets" were her former boyfriend and a friend. But given her tearful reaction to being asked to hold Judith—the sort of emotional reaction we haven't seen from the stoic scowler—it's apparent that caring for a child stirred up something painful. Now that she's vulnerable, apparently the sole character left alone in the aftermath of the prison confrontation, who better to have raced in to grab baby Judith before the zombie horde snagged her? Could this even be setting up a long-rumored romantic relationship between Rick and Michonne? For now, she's alone, just like another character who figures to be a central player in the second half of season four...
3. What will happen to Carol?
Since being exiled from the group by Rick after admitting she murdered Karen and David to halt the spread of the prison flu, Carol has been surviving alone. We know she's going to turn up again this season, likely to be confronted by Tyreese, who promised to exact revenge on whoever murdered Karen. Having been saved from execution by burgeoning adolescent psychopath Lizzie and her sister Mika, Tyreese now finds himself paired with Carol's adopted daughters in the post-prison chaos. Will he be grateful to Carol for training the girls in the self-defense techniques that eventually saved his life? Can he forgive Carol for making a hard decision for the good of the group? But maybe his anger shouldn't be focused on Carol at all.
4. Did Carol really kill Karen and David?
No other question splits The Walking Dead community as much as this one, and it's easy to get caught up in the speculation. Sure, Carol admitted to killing Karen and David, and her honesty was rewarded with a stinging reprimand from Rick and her expulsion from the group. Case closed, right? But if that was the case, why did the writers make a point of showing Rick doing some detective work at Karen and David's murder scene, finding a small, bloody (child-sized?) handprint on the doorway?
We've been given considerable evidence that Lizzie is one messed up little girl. She had crushes on her favorite walker like a tween pining for a pop star. She also appeared to fake contracting the illness that was sweeping through the prison group in order to get into the quarantined cell block, though nothing came of that plotline, and her condition never worsened. In one of the show's more visually disturbing moments, she was seen playfully pawing around in Glenn's vomit after he nearly choked to death on his own blood after contracting the prison virus. As her little sister, Mika, said, "She's not weak. She's messed up."
But could a child have killed two adults, even ones already weakened by the prison flu? Early in the season, she couldn't put her father out of his misery as he was dying from a zombie bite. Seeing that weakness, Carol asserted that she would need to be strong enough to take such action in the future. Perhaps Lizzie was attempting to prove herself to Carol by dealing with the prison group's biggest threat before it took out everyone. That has led some to believe that perhaps Lizzie killed Karen and David, and Carol helped her attempt to destroy the evidence, then took the fall for her. No doubt, Carol would feel responsible for having instilled in Lizzie the urgency that threats need to be dealt with quickly and ruthlessly. And having seen Tyreese promise to murder whoever killed Karen, she may have decided to protect Lizzie from this fate by substituting herself. (Additionally, with Lizzie and Mika now paired with Tyreese in the post-prison diaspora, wouldn't it be a clever plot point to have Tyreese now protecting the murderer of his girlfriend?) But perhaps there is an even more explosive, if less likely, possibility.
Adding to the speculation, show executive producer/director/special effects expert Greg Nicotero reportedly* said in a ComicCon panel that clues to the identity of Karen and David's killer could be found at the end of the "Infected" episode. Neither Carol nor Lizzie appear in those final moments, as the last minutes are spent watching Rick and Carl setting ablaze the pen where the prison community's sick pigs had been living and possibly spreading illness. In the final scene, Tyreese discovers Karen and David's charred remains. Here, in both scenes, fire is used as the antidote to the spreading illness. As such, is it a huge stretch to assume that Carl, already having shown a willingness to make the sort of cold-blooded decisions that continually puncture his father's psyche, could have taken it upon himself to halt the spread of the illness within the prison by using the same remedy his father used with the pigs? The evidence still fits. Carl could have left the small, bloody handprint on the door. Carol could have helped him drag the bodies from the prison to complete the act. But why would Carol accept blame for what Carl did, especially when she'd know that Rick would never have the heart to boot his own son from the group nor allow him to be killed by Tyreese?
(*Admittedly, this account was been widely reported on Walking Dead message boards but has not been confirmed by other sources. Give it about as much credence as you would any other rumor.)
Admittedly, this is a harder question to answer. Are we to believe that Carol is so altruistic that she'd accept blame to protect Carl, even when that would mean that she would be exiled and taken away from her surrogate daughters? Or, perhaps more likely, Carl and Carol could have collaborated on the act, the only two people in the prison so hardened by their losses to be willing to take action while others pondered the appropriate response. Remember: after burning the pig pens Rick hands Carl a gun, seeming to show a symbolic recognition that the world is, indeed, a dangerous place that requires some violence in order to survive. Could Carl have decided that this was the time to act, even if his dad wasn't ready? Having Carl be the real killer of Karen and David would prove that, all along, he understood this reality better than his father. Or, applying Occam's razor to the story, the simplest explanation is probably the correct one: Carol did it.
5. Who was feeding rats to the walkers at the fence?
One benefit of having a deranged child as a plot device is that you introduce a chaotic element into the storyline that can be used to explain just about any unexplained narrative twist, and pretty much every inexplicably lingering plotline has been tied to her at some point. (And fans of the comic are wondering if Lizzie's character is based on a similarly disturbed child—this one a boy—who ended up committing some fairly horrifying acts that touched off a round of even more shocking repercussions.) Given her sympathy for the walkers congregating at the fence, it would make sense that she was feeding them in some misguided attempt to keep them from starving. That said, viewers have argued that the shadowy figure shown feeding the walkers was too tall to be a child. If that was the case, which adult from the prison group would have the motive or desire to do so?
6. Who dissected the rat that Tyreese discovered in the mid-season finale?
Again, much of the speculation among Walking Dead fans points at Lizzie as being the one who carefully pinned, mounted, and dissected a rat for unknown purposes. But does it seem likely that a little girl, even a weird one who likes to play in other people's vomit, would have the desire or knowhow to so expertly and scientifically study an animal in such a methodical way? But if not Lizzie, then who? Former Army medic and shaky alcoholic Bob is the only person who seems to clearly stand out as a candidate, if only because he would likely have the training and education, and there seems to be some heavy foreshadowing that he's an odd and untrustworthy person, the last surviving member of his previous two groups. Additionally, we saw him staring into a shoebox with unknown contents, then nervously hiding it when Sasha approached his cell. Naturally, we are to assume that he was hiding a secret stash of alcohol, but since that's the obvious conclusion, why not show us the contents of the box? Instead, perhaps it was Bob feeding the walkers at the fence, attempting to infect the rats in order to study the progression of the disease. But if you were studying the rats to better understand the zombie fever, why hide it from the rest of the group? Who would have a problem with someone wanting to discover a possible cure for the infection that will turn each of them into ravenous flesh-eating beasts?
7. Who was sending messages over the radio?
Right before Daryl, Michonne, Tyreese, and Bob drive into a mega-herd on their supply run, they briefly pull in a mysterious radio transmission of a muffled female voice saying "Those who arrive, survive." Now that the prison group has been dispersed into the Georgia countryside, finding a sanctuary is of primary importance. That said, readers of the comic know that there are several candidates for the unknown message senders. Could it be The Hunters, a group notorious in the Walking Dead universe for their, shall we say, inventive dietary choices? Or could it be a message from The Sanctuary, a safe zone run by The Saviors and their leader, Negan, a man whose brutality and wanton cruelty makes The Governor look like a well-meaning camp counselor by comparison? (That particular plotline seems far more likely to turn up in season five, though, given the current pace of the TV show compared to the comic.) Or could it be a message from Eugene, Abraham, and Rositathree characters that we know are going to be introduced this season? My bet is on the latter.
8. What was the deal with the dismembered hippie girl?
Remember Ana and Sam, the goofy lovers that Rick and Carol stumbled upon in an abandoned house? Remember how Rick and Carol then found Ana with walkers feasting on her entrails, her neatly severed leg lying about 20 yards away from the body? Either the prop department made the mistake of creating a leg that looked like it came straight off a storefront mannequin or the writers were indicating that Ana had an unfortunate run-in with someone who uses something more precise than teeth to dismember its victims. Also, remember that Rick gave the now-missing Sam his wristwatch, a memento that seems likely to turn up again to remind viewers of that brief encounter if/when he turns up again. Showrunner Scott Gimple has already indicated that the second half of the season will parallel most of the major plot points from the comic, meaning that The Hunters would play a significant role at some point. (Could they also be the same group that raided and executed the camp that was discovered by The Governor?) If so, get ready for one of the more stomach-turning moments in the show's history.