“Welcome to Terminus.”
Sunday’s episode of The Walking Dead, “Us,” finally offered us a glimpse of the so-called “sanctuary for all” that has been the show’s main object of mystery for weeks. There were flowers and palm trees and meat was ready on the grill. It actually looked lovely—and no one in their right mind should trust it for a second.
The episode, the second-to-last of the season, started off by telling us a few things we already know: Eugene is probably full of it and isn’t actually interested in getting to Washington D.C.; that anyone with a pulse should be suspicious of Terminus (Joe, played by Jeff Kober, bluntly calls the place “a lie”); and, duh, Glenn and Maggie were always destined to reunite.
But we learned a few things, too: Daryl’s new group, led by Joe, is after Rick for attacking one of their own after Rick was caught hiding under a bed earlier this season; wherever Beth is, she isn’t with anyone we’ve been acquainted with so far (some had speculated that Joe’s group of marauders was actually behind the kidnapping). And, finally, we saw Terminus with our own eyes: the brick exterior of a few buildings, bizarrely lax security, palm trees and well-tended vegetable gardens. Maggie, Glenn, Abraham and the others meet just one person there, a friendly woman named Mary.
After the prolonged nightmare that was Woodbury, no sane Walking Dead viewer trusts this newest “sanctuary” (why the characters in the show apparently do is mystifying). Attempting to predict just how disastrous Terminus will be, however, is where things get interesting.
One popular fan theory involves (get ready!) cannibalism, an idea possibly supported by both the show’s source material and what we saw in last night’s episode. In The Walking Dead comic books (skip the next two paragraphs for no graphic novel spoilers), a group of survivors called the Hunters resorts to cannibalism and causes trouble for Rick’s group. There were enormous slabs of meat on the grill behind Mary in last night’s episode and her choice of words when making the group feel at home doesn’t help her case either: “We’ll make you a plate.” It’s possible that the Hunters are running Terminus and luring travelers in, then killing and eating them—but the Hunters of the graphic novel series were lurkers and not strong enough to overcome even Rick’s small band of fighters. Not that the show’s writers are opposed to reinterpreting the comic books—after all, it’s a gruesome theory that would play out amazingly on TV.
Then there are the Saviors, a cult-like group of survivors led by a violent man named Negan. Negan and the Saviors’ base of operations is referred to as “Sanctuary.” (Sound familiar?) They terrorize Rick’s group, kill one of its core members and wage war against several nearby communities, including the Alexandria Safe-Zone, a stretch of cleared streets near Washington D.C. where Rick and the group take refuge. Though the location would be different (it seems the show isn’t leaving Georgia anytime soon), another theory posits that Terminus is a version of the Alexandria Safe-Zone—which would mean a version of Negan and his gang isn’t far behind. Special effects master and director of “Us,” Greg Nicotero, tells The Hollywood Reporter that if Terminus is “a group of people that have been posting signs all over the Georgia countryside and doing radio messages, they're trying to rebuild the world.” So there’s a chance this could all end on a happy, bloodless note, too—but that isn’t exactly The Walking Dead’s style, is it?
Next week’s season finale will see the introduction of other Terminus residents, including Gareth, played by Greek alumnus Andrew J. West, who’s been billed as a “remix” of an important character from the graphic novels. Since this is also the first penultimate episode of any season in the show’s history to not feature a major character death (season one killed off Andrea’s sister, Amy, in the second-to-last episode; season two killed off Shane; and season three turned Merle into walker meat), it’s probably also safe to say that blood will be shed. Which is great—we don’t watch this show for the happy endings anyway.