Last week, “Skidmark” from Fear the Walking Dead (the episode, not the cat) confirmed what many of us already surmised: the three-ringed symbol Althea found on a series of maps that were in the possession of a mysterious soldier in black is the same symbol on the side of the helicopter that ferried off Rick Grimes in The Walking Dead. This week, we get even more answers… well, teases to who this mysterious group really are, at least.
The downside, the intel comes via a solo episode for Al, which isn’t the worst thing. At least nobody finds themselves locked in a moral dilemma about helping people who don’t want to be helped.
The Walking Dead universe gets its own “Happy,” who is not played by Jon Favreau this time.
“The End of Everything” takes us back to the night Al was knocked out by that soldier. She wakes as she’s being dragged off and attempts to flee with her stuff through the woods. Thanks to some walker-related obstacles, she can’t escape her pursuer, but the scuffle knocks off the soldier’s helmet, revealing a woman. She’s played by actress Sydney Lemmon from one episode HBO’s Succession and a small role in Netflix’s Velvet Buzzsaw.
This woman needs the tape containing what Al recorded of her former comrade and his maps, but Al hid it somewhere and won’t fork it over until she hears this woman’s story. Thus begins their own mini adventure.
Al first ironically calls this woman “Happy,” but later learns her name is Isabelle. She and her former partner Beckett are part of a squadron, “Ground 17,” from this mysterious group. During a radio call back to base, she confirms the lead (that would be Beckett) was killed in action and that she needs to refuel her helicopter before returning, but the payload is secure. The voice on the other end says he’s sending a Reclamation Team, news that causes her some anxiety. Al picks up on it. Isabelle will later tell her that when the Reclamation Team arrives, if she’s “anywhere near that helicopter… just don’t be.”
Isabelle and Beckett were on a mission: retrieve supplies for purifying water. They’ve done this kind of thing all the time: get in, get the package, get out. Are they the ones who set up traps at grocery stores all around Daniel’s warehouse? We don’t know, but it doesn’t seem like it. These guys operate in the shadows. They are not supposed to be seen by anyone.
“If you see someone wearing this jacket, you should be afraid,” Isabelle initially warns Al. “We are a force who are not living for ourselves or for now. We have the future.” This woman connects with Al because, like herself, Al “had a job” and “kept doing it and it mattered more” to her “than peoples’ lives.”
When Isabelle and Beckett arrived at the nearby nuclear power plant — presumably the same one Grace came from with the toxic radiation — Beckett cracked, fearing he would end up like the radioactive walkers. He kept a key on him, one to a remote cabin somewhere with a great view. But, as Isabelle says in opening up to Al, nobody just walks away from their group, especially someone like Beckett with the maps he carried. A fight broke out between him and Isabelle. Part of their protocol is to “extinguish the threats to operational security.” Beckett became a threat, but Isabelle hesitated in facing her friend. But she shot him anyway.
Beckett was the walker body Al initially stumbled upon, and “operational security” is why Isabelle needs the tape Al recorded. As we gather over the course of the episode, Isabelle would give her life to help this community, whatever and wherever it might be.
The three rings
So, what are the three rings? Who’s behind it? What’s their name? We still don’t have answers to any of these questions, but do have answers to others.
“Everything I do is to ensure there’s more than stories left after I die,” Isabelle tells Al. The word “future” is also brought up a lot. Whoever these people are, their goal is to create a future for the world… by any means necessary. To Isabelle, they are the future. “It’s bigger than me, it’s bigger than you, it’s bigger than all of us,” she says.
Al wants to see this place, but Isabelle warns “you don’t want to go there.” This place may be innovating for some good down the road, but right now they are hostile. “If someone finds the tape, if they figure out how to read the map, it makes what we have, what we’re working towards, vulnerable.” And that’s not a good thing. “This isn’t about me or Beckett,” Isabelle adds. “This is about the future and rebuilding what we all once had.”
The group, we know, also has a lot of tech. Aside from the helicopter and Isabelle’s automatic rifle tipped with a three-pronged spear, she comes with clothing durable enough to withstand walker bites, mountain climbing supplies tucked away in the side of the chopper, and a tent that suspends in the air with rope so they can sleep without being surprise attacked by the dead. She also has access beer, so there’s a brewery where she comes from.
Unless this is some brand-new group the architects of the Walking Dead universe are trying to introduce into the series, all signs, for me, keep pointing back to The Commonwealth, a highly advanced society that plays a significant role in later story arcs in the comics. It’s a group with everything from militia to coffee shops.
It would also seem the reach of this group exceeds what we previously thought. We know the base lies somewhere far away from Hilltop and Alexandria, but now we know they also have refueling stations for their choppers in various locations. To refuel her own craft, Isabelle takes Al mountain climbing up the side of a cliff, avoiding rock slides and zombified mountain climbers along the way. These stations also have food and other supplies, and it’s here where Isabelle and Al share a peaceful night under the stars.
Despite all of her operational protocols, Isabelle takes a risk.
Over the course of their trials, the two women fall for each other. As Al learns more about Isabelle and her group, she reveals something she never told anyone. There’s a tape hidden underneath the cloth of bag titled “The Bog #7.” As Isabelle watches, she hears how Al left her brother to find out more about the outbreak and watches as the National Guard and the army fight each other in the streets. Her brother died while she was doing this and the guilt has long remained with Al.
Al eventually agrees to hand over the tape of Beckett’s maps to Isabelle. She hid it on a walker lying in a riverbank while she was attempting to flee through the woods. In the event she died, she wanted it to be somewhere where someone could eventually find it. But after Al hands it over and watches as it’s destroyed, Isabelle says she now needs to kill Al. It’s protocol. Al gives Isabelle “The Bog” tape and asks her to make sure this story means something. But Isabelle, with a gun pointed at Al’s head, can’t bring herself to pull the trigger. They share a deep kiss instead and go their separate ways, with Al promising not to go looking for Isabelle or to chase this story.
Isabelle suits back up and carries the fuel tanks along the old utility road, which brings us back to the present where Annie and Max once hid beneath a tree when they saw a mysterious soldier. Isabelle starts flying away in her helicopter, the same chopper Morgan and the others hid from in last week’s episode, and Al starts radioing to her friends. She reunites with Morgan and Alicia, but makes no mention of Isabelle or the three rings. Instead, she claims she got overrun by walkers and has been fleeing them since.
So, the secret of the three rings is safe. For now.