By Nick Romano
July 02, 2019 at 03:44 PM EDT

Warning: This article contains spoilers for The Walking Dead season 9 and Fear the Walking Dead season 5.

With the events that are transpiring in Fear the Walking Dead season 5, it appears the AMC spin-off has a much larger purpose than initially expected in this television universe: setting up the first Rick Grimes movie. Hear us out…

Gene Page/AMC; Ryan Green/AMC

Everyone (the characters, we mean) thought Rick died in the bridge explosion in season 9 of The Walking Dead, but really Anne bartered safe passage on a mysterious helicopter to parts unknown. The identities of the pilots and their group have since eluded us, but the aircraft and its equally perplexing three-ringed symbol reappeared on Fear, where they maintained a looming presence in the story of Morgan and Alicia’s group. Then came “The End of Everything,” which finally revealed the identity of one of the masked soldiers, bringing with it an info dump of clues.

We know that actor Andrew Lincoln will eventually return to pick up Rick’s story in a series of Walking Dead movies, so it would appear that this group and its members, whoever they may be, will have a larger role to play.

Based on what we know so far, let’s try to make sense of it all.

What happened with Rick?

Jackson Lee Davis/AMC

To recap…

Lincoln’s final episode of The Walking Dead (season 9, episode 5) came with a surprise twist: Instead of Rick meeting his death, which many expected, he found himself severely injured on a muddy riverbank. He attempted to lead away a growing herd of walkers but fell off his horse and pierced his side on a metal spike, causing him to hallucinate as he fled from the dead. Ultimately, he brought them to the bridge — the one he and his people were trying to build to promote trade — and blew it up to save the others.

Anne (Pollyanna McIntosh), who had already been trying to buy herself a ride on the chopper, spotted Rick clinging to life by the water and used him as her payment to get on the aircraft. So both she and Rick (who was last seen recuperating midair in a hospital bed), were ferried off to somewhere far, far away.

The Anne connection

Jackson Lee Davis/AMC

At some point in the timeline of the Walking Dead universe, this mystery group crossed paths with Anne, then known as Jadis. There was mention of a helicopter pad in the back of her junkyard community (before they were all gunned down by an ego-crazed Simon), and later it became clear that she had a deal with this group involving human trafficking in exchange for supplies.

People would be marked as either an A or a B, and they would then be handed over to the folks in the chopper to be sent off someplace to an unknown fate. When she once kidnapped Gabriel and Rick, Anne had plans to trade them off to the group. In season 9, she retrieved a long-range radio to speak with an unidentified man from the helicopter, asking to be extracted herself. Anne paid her dues, she said, but the man on the walkie demanded she give them an A to secure her travel arrangements. She tried to get Gabriel to run away with her, but when he refused and threatened to tell Rick, she knocked him unconscious and said, “All this time, I thought you were a B.”

Rick, at the time Anne found him by the river, was considered a B. But he was once an A. The Walking Dead showrunner Angela Kang referred Insider to the season 8 episode “Time For After,” in which Rick is held at the junkyard by Anne. “The container he was in was marked with an A, so Rick is clearly an A,” Kang said. She also teased that when Anne told the helicopter Rick was a B, that statement was “perhaps a lie.”

The helicopter that arrived to pick them up in the season 9 episode had the letter A painted on the side door.

What is this group?

Jackson Lee Davis/AMC

To put it simply, these folks are “the future.” That’s what Isabelle, a new character from this group who appeared on Fear the Walking Dead played by actress Sydney Lemmon, kept telling Althea (Maggie Grace) in the episode “The End of Everything.”

After her plane crashed in the mountains, Al split off from Morgan and the others to investigate an intriguing walker. It was dressed in black military attire and had a series of maps on its person. Al was then surprise-attacked and dragged off by another soldier in black, and this soldier was later unmasked as Isabelle.

The group may be referred to as CRM, based on the letters that appeared on the documents Al found on the walker. Isabelle says stuff about her people like, “Everything I do is to ensure there’s more than stories left after I die… It’s bigger than me, it’s bigger than you, it’s bigger than all of us… We are a force who are not living for ourselves or for now. We have the future.” Their mission is “rebuilding what we all once had,” no matter the cost of human life.

Military teams, most of which are considered hostile, are deployed to grow and maintain what the group has. One such team, which includes Isabelle, is referred to as Ground 17 and is responsible for acquiring certain supplies; in Isabelle’s case, that would be technology to purify water. Another team is referred to as the Reclamation Team. Based on the name and Isabelle’s reaction to hearing of their impending arrival, it would seem they are sent in when things go south.

The group is considered highly dangerous, even by Isabelle’s standards, and the Reclamation Team seems worst of all. “If you see someone wearing this jacket, you should be afraid,” she warns Al.

Among the many things we learn from Isabelle is they aren’t supposed to be seen by anyone. If their identities or the information they possess gets out, they consider it a threat to “operational security.” It would make what they’re striving to achieve “vulnerable.”

Aside from helicopters and radio equipment, the group has vast resources at its disposal: weapons (like Isabelle’s automatic rifle with three spikes at the tip for skewering walkers), climbing equipment (Isabelle uses this to scale a cliff with Al), survival gear (including matches and a tent that suspends above the ground), maps of various locations specifically coded to be read by their own people, and even beer (this group apparently has its own brewer). Their reach is also farther than initially expected. Anne told Gabriel they would go some place far from Alexandria, Hilltop, and the Kingdom, but Fear the Walking Dead revealed that there are various refueling stations scattered across the country. This implies their reach extends, at least, from Texas to Virginia. There’s no telling how many stations there are, but Isabelle traveled to one in the mountains near Al’s crash site to acquire gas and supplies to get her helicopter up and running again.

Who’s in the group?

Well, we assume Rick and Anne are now in the group — or, at the very least, with the group.

Zach Dilgard/AMC

The three rings are led — at least, at one point — by a woman named Elizabeth, played by Emmy winner Julia Ormond. We’ll meet this character when she touches down in the third Walking Dead seriesThe Walking Dead: World Beyond, which is set to premiere in spring 2020. The specific time frame for the show isn’t known yet, so it’s unclear if Elizabeth will still be the leader of the group by the time the events with Rick and the exploding bridge roll around.

“We are the last light of the world. We are the last hope,” she says in one of the show’s teaser trailers.

Ryan Green/AMC

We also know for certain that Isabelle is a member and her partner Beckett used to be a member. They were on a mission to retrieve technology for purifying water from a nuclear power plant, but Beckett “cracked” when he saw how the toxic radiation warped the walkers into deadly contagions. He tried to leave the mission behind and go to his secret remote cabin, but with the kind of maps and information he had, a fight broke out between him and Isabelle that resulted in his death. Beckett’s walker body was the one Al investigated when Isabelle surprised her.

Beyond that, we don’t have solid confirmation on anyone else, though we do have our theories.

Who we think is in the group

Gene Page/AMC

Georgie (Jayne Atkinson) was a mysterious character who appeared before Maggie (Lauren Cohan) near Hilltop in The Walking Dead season 8. Dressed in a striped blazer, tailored pants, and a white oxford shirt, she came with two sidekicks, Hilda and Midge, and the promise to trade her knowledge for supplies and phonographic records. So she comes from a place with access to a record player and more refined clothing than those in the apocalyptic wastelands are used to.

She believed the key to the future (there’s that word again) lay in the technologies of the past. She was developing a book called A Key to a Future that contained handwritten plans for making windmills, watermills, and aqueducts, as well as schematics for improving grain production, lumber, and the like. Amid Cohan’s move away from the series to ABC’s now-canceled Whiskey Cavalier, season 9 wrote that her character eventually joined Georgie with her infant son, Hershel, and wrote back to Hilltop that she’s happy.

It’s unclear whether Georgie does indeed have a place among the helicopter group, but all her talk about securing the future, her access to technologies, and the mysteriousness of where her community lies raises questions. If Georgie is a member of this group, then Maggie would also be involved with them.

Kang told EW about Cohan’s potential return to the show, “I’m not sure if I can say much about it right now actually. I’ll just say that we’re working on it.”

Any comic book comparisons?

Image Comics

Again, until we know more, much of this is speculation, but all signs seem to point to the Commonwealth, a group from the comics. (RIP, by the way.)

The Commonwealth, which appears later in the comic run from Robert Kirkman, is a more advanced society than most other communities in the Dead-verse. It maintains coffeeshops, tailors, butchers, artillery, and a class hierarchy. Pamela Milton is the leader of this group, and she bears a resemblance to Georgie on the show, which has led many to theorize there’s a connection. Although, if the three rings really are related to the Commonwealth and Elizabeth is their leader, that theory’s out.

The first episodes of The Walking Dead’s ninth season featured a tree bearing multiple direction signs pointing to the various communities. One such sign was labeled Toledo. The Commonwealth, which maintains a vast network, happens to be based in Ohio. The season 9 finale also ended with a mysterious female voice speaking out from the noise of Ezekiel’s radio, which appears to be an adaptation of a scene from the source material in which a woman from the Commonwealth named Stephanie makes contact with Eugene.

Isabelle’s uniform in Fear the Walking Dead also bears a slight resemblance to the uniforms warn by the Commonwealth’s army, not in precise color but in silhouette.

Fear the Walking Dead continues to air Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on AMC, while The Walking Dead prepares for its 10th season premiere later this year. Whoever this group really is, we haven’t heard the last of them.

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