The Walking Dead is easily one of the most secretive shows on TV. Yes, the producers and AMC (who broadcasts the show) went to great lengths to keep secret who Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) killed in the Season 7 premiere, but it goes far beyond that. From press photos that are usually just close-up shots of actors' heads, to blurbs that offer little to no information, on a weekly basis TWD is closed up tighter than a jar of pickles (the hardest-to-open thing known to man).
That said, this year's slew of episode titles are teasing... something. There's a pattern there, one that didn't become abundantly clear until after the Season 7 premiere. And granted, it's still not totally clear where this pattern is headed, or how it will pay off; but here's what we can glean from what we do know.
The first thing we definitely know for sure is that the titles for the first three episodes are: "The Day Will Come When You Won't Be;" "The Well;" and "The Cell," respectively.
We've already broken down what the first episode title is a reference to at length, but to give you the capsule version: In Season 1, Dr. Edwin Jenner (Noah Emmerich) told Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) to, essentially, be careful what you wish for. Releasing Rick and his group from their temporary imprisonment in Atlanta's soon-to-explode Center for Disease Control, Rick told Jenner, "I'm grateful," to which Jenner replied, "The day will come when you won't be."
The Season 7 premiere wasn't a direct link to Season 1's finale; it was a thematic one. We stayed firmly in Rick's perspective for the majority of the episode, as Rick finally experienced that day when he wouldn't be grateful for having survived that CDC explosion.
So episode 1 of Season 7 ties to the finale of Season 1; but what about the rest?
Episode 2 of Season 7 is titled "The Well," which could mean a lot of things. We know for sure that we'll be following Carol (Melissa McBride) and Morgan (Lennie James) as they explore a new area called The Kingdom. The official blurb teases that without even coming close to saying it (and see what I mean about the vagueness?):
For a number of familiar faces, a new, well-established community seems too good to be true.
Well-established. WELL-established??? Is that it? No, that's not what I think is going on here. Actually, I'm pretty convinced that "The Well" is a reference to Season 2, Episode 4, "Cherokee Rose." That was the episode that introduced the Grimes Gang to the Well Walker, a water-bloated monstrosity stuck in the well at Hershel's farm, polluting the drinking water.
There are two key elements to this episode that seem to indicate why this might be tying in to Season 7. In "Cherokee Rose," Glenn (Steven Yeun) volunteers to be lowered into the well, as bait for the Well Walker. Sure Glenn had been in danger before, but this was the first time we had a real "Glenn is maybe going to die" scare. Add in that later in the episode, Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and Glenn have sex for the first time, kicking off their relationship in earnest, and you get a clearer idea why we might be calling back to "Cherokee Rose."
Just to make it uber clear: Glenn died in "The Day Will Come When You Won't Be." Referencing the "first" time he almost died, as well as the start of Maggie and Glenn's relationship seems like a fair follow-up for Episode 2 to tackle.
But there's one other element that may indicate where we're going in "The Well." The cherokee rose is a flower, and Daryl (Norman Reedus) gives it to Carol — whose daughter Sophia (Madison Lintz) is missing — as a sign that life can bloom out of tears (based on an old Native American legend). Later in the episode, Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) finds out she's pregnant.
Given that Maggie is pregnant with Glenn's child, it makes a kind of sense that this reference to "Cherokee Rose" means we'll get a resolution to The Baby Sickness storyline that started at the end of Season 6 — perhaps with the hopeful note that Maggie and the fetus will survive. That would certainly offset the grimness of Glenn's death, and give Maggie something additional to fight for.
So how about "The Cell?" Here's the blurb:
A new group of survivors seem to have it all in their impressive community; however there is a price.
Cool, thanks The Walking Dead, that's super helpful. I'm a little less sure on what this all refers to in particular; but in general? Where Episode 1 referred to Season 1; and Episode 2 most likely refers to Season 2; it's pretty clear Episode 3, "The Cell," is a reference to Season 3, which took place at a new location: The Prison.
This is definitely far further into speculation, but I'd guess the community referenced in the blurb isn't The Kingdom, it's The Sanctuary, home of Negan's Saviors. If that's true, this episode probably focuses on Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus), who was captured at the end of "The Day Will Come When You Won't Be."
Season 3 heavily featured two elements: the introduction of the previous Big Bad, The Governor (David Morrissey); and the return of Daryl's brother, Merle (Michael Rooker). Instead of The Governor and Merle, we'll get to see Daryl's relationship with the new Big Bad, Negan; and Daryl's new spiritual brother, Dwight (Austin Amelio). Where Daryl was constantly cowed and deferential to his domineering big bro, Dwight is trying to dominate Daryl, but doesn't have the skills to back it up.
Like I said, we'll have to see if there's an episode in particular from Season 2 this is calling back. If I had to bet, I'd say "Made to Suffer," or "The Suicide King," the episodes where Daryl was captured, and forced to battle Merle to the death in The Governor's zombie infested fighting pits. But who knows? I don't know.
Regardless, there's a clear pattern going on here, with each episode in Season 7 matching a key episode in the same numerical Season. If the pattern holds, we'll catch up to Season 7 by, you know, Episode 7. Given that there are eight episodes in this first half-season, it'll be interesting to see where we net out once the dust clears, and whether Episode 8 is (somehow) a preview of Season 8.
Though as usual, Walking Dead will be super vague about it.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.