The Walking Dead's war with Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) will end this season, so a new foe will have to emerge in Season 9. And Sunday's episode, "The Lost and the Plunderers," dropped some heavy hints that it will be someone we already know, in an as-yet-unseen form.
In "The Lost and the Plunderers," Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh) lost her community of funny-talking followers when Simon (Steven Ogg) disobeyed Negan's orders to reestablish a working relationship with the Heapsters and massacred them. He was only supposed to kill one, but instead he left Jadis the sole survivor. When Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Michonne (Danai Gurira) got to the junkyard to make their own recruitment pitch to Jadis (the Heapsters had never been so in-demand!), they found that the once-impenetrable black-clad badass who took Rick's boots from him was now barefoot and broken, wearing a thin white nightgown and talking in her normal voice.
"These weren't heaps before," she said. "It was just trash laid out as far as the eye could see." She used to come to the dump to scavenge for things to use in her art. "And then after everything changed, I realized this whole place was a canvass, that we were the paint. We could create something new, we could become something new. We did. This was our world. Apart from everything else. In every way."
Rick was not impressed, and with Jadis no longer useful to him, he abandoned her to fend for herself. This may have been a huge mistake, because Jadis may not be done creating something new. The heap may have just been the beginning.
In the comics, the enemy group after the Saviors is the Whisperers. The Whisperers make skin suits out walkers and live among the dead. Their leader, a woman who goes by Alpha, thinks that Rick's way of rebuilding civilization is "a shrine to a long dead world." She's brutal and weird and seems like she could be what Jadis evolves into. Jadis has already shown an ability to blend into her surroundings — the Heapsters were scavengers and observers before they got involved in the war — and an extraordinary amount of resourcefulness and cunning. And an affinity for leather. Jadis may make a vengeance-fueled rise of from the ashes and launch a sneak attack on Rick and Negan from inside her skin suit.
Pollyanna McIntosh says that people have been speculating that she would be playing Alpha since she was cast, long before anyone saw Jadis. "Alpha, Alpha, Alpha comes up all the time," McIntosh tells TV Guide. "And for me it's fun to play with, because of course it's an amazing character and she would be an incredible challenge. But then you have Jadis, who's a damn fine character herself. And wouldn't it be great if we could have another female leader and have Alpha in there separately?" She'd like to spread the strong female parts around and live in a world where both Jadis and Alpha exist independently. But she sees both sides.
"Both things are really appealing to me," she says. "I don't know, mate. Am I gonna have to shave my head? Is that what's in my future?"
There's also the issue of the helicopter. In the episode, Simon asked Jadis what's up with the helipad and the solar panels out back. Um, what? "What was this place?" he asked her.
"Just a dump," she answered, playing dumb. She obviously was not telling him everything. Because there's a helicopter.
If you'll recall, Rick saw a chopper fly over him in "The Big Scary U" in the first half of Season 8. He was on his way to the dump at the time. It was completely unexplained and not referenced again until now. And even before that, back in Season 7 when Rick first met the Heapsters, there may have been a helicopter flying in the background of a scene. The solar panels, I dunno. But clearly we're supposed to think that Jadis has a garbagecopter and maybe has other previously unseen and unimaginable paramilitary capability. From Jadis' despondence over the loss of her people, it doesn't seem like there are more Heapsters hiding in an underground bunker, but maybe she knows some people who have some firepower. The comics are currently in a storyline called "New World Order" where a community called the Commonwealth has advanced beyond any other community we've seen on the show in terms of population and art and military power. Maybe we're going to skip the Whisperers altogether and head straight to the Commonwealth. Or maybe Jadis is going to be a lone wolf in a chopper of vengeance.
McIntosh is playing as coy with the helicopter stuff as Jadis herself. "What's going on with that?" she says playfully. "When do we get to find about that?"
She says that producers told her the background helicopter in Season 7 was a mistake because she wasn't supposed to know the truth yet. So she's certainly not going to give away those "sly foxes'" secrets.
Given the gaps between helicopter teases so far, it may be awhile before we find out what's going on. But that's okay. There's a war to be fought in the meantime.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.