The Walking Dead Is an Entirely Different Universe Post-Rick — Here's What Changed
Warning! Spoilers for the latest episode of The Walking Dead below.
Rick Grimes may be gone, but The Walking Dead lives on. The first episode of the series's post-Rick universe aired on Sunday night, and it introduces a number of changes. Appropriately titled "Who Are You Now?," the episode basically acts as an introduction to this new world featuring both old faces and new, as well as a plethora of untold stories itching to be uncovered.
Not only have the characters changed over the six-year jump, but the communities have as well. Alexandria is being led by a safety-oriented council, the Kingdom is ruled by King Ezekiel and Queen Carol, and Hilltop is a big question mark in the distance. With the addition of several new characters, whether they be friend or foe, there's a lot going on. If you're wondering exactly what changes occurred over the six-year time jump, keep reading. We've got everything you need to know ahead.
Judith Is All Grown Up
Who is this walking, talking boss in a four-foot frame and sheriff hat? It's one Judith Grimes, assuming duty for wise-beyond-her-years troublesome youth! She's living up to her childhood nickname of "Lil Asskicker" by toting around both a pistol and sword, because badassery is obviously a familial trait. Though she's only 10-years-old, Judith is already headstrong and extremely vocal about her opinions, much like her older brother was (RIP Carl). She's the one who saves the strangers and brings them to Alexandria, willing to face her mother's wrath to lend a helping hand. As she explains, it's what her father would want her to do. She's also developing an odd friendship with the still-imprisoned Negan, one reminiscent of his relationship with Carl in the graphic novels and sure to bring some stress in the future.
Alexandria Now Has a Ruling Council
Similar to how the Kingdom has its monarchy, Alexandria now has its version of a democracy. The council is composed of elected officials that include Father Gabriel, Aaron, Siddiq, and Michonne. While we don't know what everyone's official role within the council is yet, we do know that Michonne is the head of security and she takes it very seriously. While it seems like the council is a well-intentioned way for decisions to be made without bias, it's also obvious that certain people have a heavier influence than others, such as Michonne, which makes sense considering she was the one Rick wanted to lead in his stead.
The Kingdom Is in Disrepair
Apparently not all is well within the Kingdom. As a now-teenage Henry (Matt Lintz) attempts to fix a broken pipe, he laments to Carol and Jerry about how everything is constantly falling apart and no one knows how to repair anything. He mouths off about it to King Ezekiel, who does not appreciate the 'tude or the tone, and reveals that he wants to travel to Hilltop to apprentice under their blacksmith. It's during the subsequent conversation between Ezekiel and Carol that we learn the communities have drifted apart since Rick died and relations have been tense.
Ezekiel eventually agrees to let Henry go off to Hilltop with Carol riding along via wagon. Their ride is interrupted by a group of Saviors who Carol ends up killing for roughing up Henry. When they continue their journey, they run into a wandering Daryl, who seems to have taken his lone wolf nature to an extreme during the last six years.
There Are Several New Faces
"Who Are You Now" introduces a group of new survivors looking for some help. Magna (Nadia Hilker), Luke (Dan Fogler), Connie (Lauren Ridloff), Kelly (Angel Theory), and Yumiko (Eleanor Matsuura) are rescued by Judith and taken to Alexandria to stand before the ruling council. While the trial doesn't go that well for the group — Michonne riles up the community by uncovering Magna's past behind bars and hidden weapons — they're saved from being completely cast out by her change of heart. She tells them they can't stay in Alexandria, but she will take them to Hilltop.
In the books, Rick welcomes the new survivors with open arms and Magna becomes a close friend and adviser to the still-alive Andrea. Since the group is currently on their way to Hilltop in the series, perhaps they will serve as the new liaison between the two communities since it's unlikely that Maggie will fulfill that role.
Michonne "Trust No B*tch* Grimes Is Playing No Games
It's safe to say that the six years have changed Michonne a bit, and we're not just talking about the badass haircut. She's lost two sons, lost the love of her life, and has to raise both Judith and her son with Rick (that's right, Richonne had a baby!) as a single parent. Michonne has understandably hardened herself to focus solely on her roles as a mother and head of security for Alexandria. As showrunner Angela Kang told The Hollywood Reporter, "The Michonne of the new world is confident in who she is. She's extremely focused on safety and security. She's figured out a way to close off her heart in some ways to avoid hurt."
Her initial distrust for Magna and company is one borne from experience, which considering how many times Alexandria has been burned in the past, is not an outrageous reaction. While the rest of the council is more open to accepting the strangers, Michonne is wary, which she makes plain during the trial. She vaguely tells the community, "I remember," which could be alluding to anything considering how wild their past has been, but seems to reference something more recent. We have a feeling that something bad went down during the time jump and it resulted in the giant "X" scar on Michonne's back and Aaron's artificial arm. This could mean that Michonne's wariness come from a lesson learned the very hard way.
Negan Has a New Side Hustle
Oh Negan. Before the time jump, he had already been in the Alexandria prison cell for a year and a half. When we get back to him six years later, he's still right there, languishing. He's formed a friendship with Judith, the young Grimes coming to him for help with her math homework (which should seriously not still be a thing after the apocalypse). While the friendship between the two is similar to the one between Carl and Negan in the books, Kang promises we're in for some interesting scenes in the future.
"We all internally [in the writers' room] love the relationship between Negan and Carl in the comic book," she told THR. "This gave us an opportunity to tell a very different sort of story, because Judith is a different kind of child than Carl. It's really fun to put those two together."
Kang also noted that this is a different story for Negan since "we're dealing with a different kind of passage of time than we saw in the comics." We're seeing a Negan who has been imprisoned for six years versus two, and who has developed complex relationships with his captors.
Carol Takes a Level Up in Savagery
Married life hasn't changed Carol much, as she's still a savage. Even with her Legolas hair and seemingly cozy living as the queen of the Kingdom and mom to Henry, she has no qualms about burning the last of Negan's disciples to death. In fact, it might be motherhood making her even more brutal than usual. Right before she burns up Jed and his ragtag group of Saviors, she tells him she's doing it because, "You hurt my kid."
Gabriel Is Trying to Find Others
Gabriel's radio plays a significant part of this episode, if only because of the promise it brings. In the show, Gabriel explains to Rosita that he wants to use the radio to broadcast over the airwaves in an attempt to find other communities. The Father is obsessed with finding out if there are others out there and has plans for how they can get in contact with them. It's revealed during his talk with Rosita that the two are in a relationship (yeah, we were confused, too) and have been for a while.
At Gabriel's request, Rosita and Eugene head out far from Alexandria to set up some radio equipment that will boost the chances of discovering more survivors. The two are surprised by a herd of walkers and run to escape. Eugene injures his leg, so the two hide themselves on a hill as the walkers pass by. It's there that they hear the whispers from within the herd asking, "Where are they? They must be close. Don't let them get away." They're understandably shook.
In the books, Gabriel's radio eventually leads to him contacting a community called the Commonwealth. If you'll recall, Maggie met with Pamela Milton, the leader of the Commonwealth, back in season eight. Perhaps we'll be seeing Pamela again?