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Decoding That Mysterious New Symbol on The Walking Dead

It might foreshadow something really grim coming up with the Whisperers

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Liam Mathews

(WARNING! Possible The Walking Dead spoilers past this point!)

Season 9, Episode 11 of The Walking Dead introduced a new mystery: What is that symbol painted on the back of a sign near the Kingdom?

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The symbol appeared toward the end of the episode as Carol (Melissa McBride) and King Ezekiel (Khary Payton) passed by it on the way back to the Kingdom after retrieving a projector lightbulb from a movie theater. The insignia is painted on the back of a road sign in red spray paint. It's an inverted V below a straight line. We don't know what it means yet, but the fact that the camera made such a point of lingering on it means it's important.

The Walking Dead

The most obvious theory is that it marks the boundary of Whisperer territory. Earlier in the episode, Alpha (Samantha Morton) told the Hilltoppers that they'd crossed onto her land, so we know that the Whisperers think of areas as their own. But Carol and Ezekiel don't even know the Whisperers exist yet, so they wouldn't necessarily recognize the symbol as a "DO NOT ENTER" warning even if they'd seen it. Crossing into Whisperer territory even unwittingly is a death sentence -- as Jesus (Tom Payne) found out -- and the show seems to be setting up something bad for the Kingdom. The sight of the symbol could mean Ezekiel is done for.

In the comics, Ezekiel (and a bunch of other characters) are punished for trespassing on Whisperer land by being decapitated and having their heads mounted on pikes, which are then discovered by their loved ones, which in turn kicks off a war with the Whisperers. The show will almost certainly do some version of this iconic comics moment at the end of Season 9, and signs point to Ezekiel keeping his death. He's in a loving, stable relationship, which means it's going to end violently. That is an inviolable rule of The Walking Dead. And his conversation with Carol in the moments just before the symbol appeared foreshadowed something happening. "It's smart to be ready for any eventuality," he said. "But maybe we're done losing for awhile." If history is any indicator, that is extremely unlikely! The very fact that the Kingdommers went on an unnecessary side quest and nothing bad happened means that the other shoe will inevitably drop.

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The symbol is not taken directly from the comics. In the comics, the Whisperers' territory is not obviously delineated to people who don't know what to look for. If indeed that's what the symbol indicates, the show could be creating an icon to make the trespass more explicit and build tension. The symbol could be interpreted as a body impaled on a spike, could it not? On the other hand, the fact that the Whisperers will violently enforce rules they made up and didn't tell anyone else about makes them even crazier and scarier, so maybe the symbol means something else?

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It could have something to do with whatever happened at Alexandria during the time jump, which was alluded to again in this episode. Whatever happened left Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Michonne (Danai Gurira) with psychological scars, as well as X-shaped physical scars on their backs. The symbol is not an X, obviously, but it could have something to do with whoever put the scars there. They might just love symbols! Or it could be the introduction of something that's going to play out in the very long-term, like how we first started seeing the letter "A" long before we got any sort of explanation for it (and which we won't fully know about until we see Rick Grimes again).

But it probably means that Whisperers are going to infiltrate the Kingdom's fair and execute Ezekiel for going where he does not belong.

The Walking Dead airs Sunday nights at 9/8c on AMC. Previous seasons are available to stream on Netflix.

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