Rick’s group of merry survivors is back together after much turmoil and heartache. It’s actually been a pretty long while since we’ve seen everyone in the same place—since the prison was overrun, if I’m not mistaken. Given the circumstances, it’s definitely a bitter sweet reunion.

A lot happened during the first half of season five; in fact, considering how the first eight episodes went, it was kind of like a season within a season. Season-ception, if you will (Inception joke, ha!). Now, with no major storylines hanging in the balance, The Walking Dead is wide open, and I think the show is better off for it. No more jumping back and forth between locations, or dedicating entire episodes to just a single character. Now it’s all about surviving together.

With the band back together, their future is more uncertain than ever; I’m already dreading what’s to come. (I get the feeling we’ll see the demise of a pretty important character before Season 6, but that’s a discussion for another time.) Important characters have been killed off before. But they were characters viewers wanted to see die. Laurie? Andrea? They aren’t missed.

Imagine if Daryl, or Glenn, or Carol were to perish. The impact would be devastating, not just to the group, but throughout The Walking Dead community.

With no real place to go, the group is vulnerable to all kinds of danger (people, walkers, disease (maybe not disease)). It didn’t end well the last time they came upon so-called refuge, which means the survivors will likely seek out their own slice of post-apocalyptic paradise.

If you’ve stuck with the group for this long, congratulations. It’s been an exhausting, heartbreaking, and all-around rousing journey. Will Rick’s team come upon other groups, as they tend to do? Or will the more sinister threat of starvation and dehydration come into play? (Prob not.)

The second half of season five is going to be a doozy. If you haven’t been keeping up with the show, know that there are spoilers ahead.

How Does Daryl Deal?

Daryl is as tough as they come, but when it comes to friends and family, he’s the biggest softie there is. Over the course of season four, him and Beth forged a deep bond after being separated from the group—think of the relationship between Joel and Ellie in The Last of Us. Beth helped Daryl exorcise his past demons, allowing him to hit a new and unexplored emotional plane of peace. So to see her die will no doubt have a major impact on Daryl’s emotional state.

Although Daryl’s outward appearance doesn’t usually show it, he’s always been in a fragile state of mind, especially following what happened to Sophia and Merle. I get the feeling Daryl will feel responsible for Beth’s fate; after all, he was with her when she was swept away to Grady Memorial, and right behind her when she was shot by Dawn. The final shot of the most recent episode saw him carry Beth’s lifeless body out of the hospital—a symbolic image, and a huge blow to his psyche. He couldn’t rescue her, and I think the impact will be significant.


And What About Maggie?

Maggie didn’t feature much in the first half of season five—she volunteered to go to D.C. with Abraham’s crew—but I wouldn’t be surprised to see that change following Beth’s death. This makes two dead family members in as many seasons—that kind of loss would affect even the Terminator. So how will Maggie deal? You saw her immediate reaction, which was complete and utter devastation.

Maggie has become a strong presence within the group over the past couple seasons, proving that she can handle herself in sticky situations. But now that her sister is gone, it might be what puts her over the edge. If not for Glenn, what else does she have worth surviving for? That’ll be one of many internal storylines directors and writers will need to navigate in the coming episodes.

Where Does the Group Go?

There was the prison, Terminus, D.C. and finally the church, but now that Rick has decided not to stay at Grady Memorial, the group essentially has no particular place to go. In the trailers we’ve seen, it doesn’t look like the group is headed toward a specific destination. But I have a feeling Alexandria (or similar) is on the horizon, once again giving viewers a false sense of security. We already know places that seem too good to be true usually are, so we’ll see how the group reacts to another supposed “safe zone.”

The most recent trailer saw Rick say he’d do whatever takes to survive, which is definitely unlike the Rick we knew from earlier seasons. If they do come across other survivors, I expect Rick and The Survivors (cool punk rock band name) to be the aggressor in any upcoming confrontations. Cast members have said the group will essentially seek out danger in the new episodes, rather than operating out of fear. Where will that take them? Nowhere in The Walking Dead is truly safe, which means wherever they go, death won’t be far behind.


Can Abraham Cope With the News?

Poor, poor Abraham. After losing his family during the initial outbreak, he took it upon himself to deliver a frantic Eugene to a cured civilization. But, as we learned (and suspected), Eugene was lying through his teeth, sending Abraham into a spiral of rage. He has recovered somewhat, seemingly coming to terms with the situation. But how long will that last?

Abraham has the potential to be an important leader-figure within the group, and now that his D.C. dreams have been shattered, he seems to be onboard with Rick’s kill or be killed attitude. But he’ll still have his own inner demons to fight, which could become a liability for the group. He was essentially comatose after beating Eugene senseless, and who is to say he won’t do that to someone else? One wrong move and he could snap.

I don’t think that will happen—the group needs each other in order to survive. But with no real purpose right now, Abraham’s stubbornness could be a real problem going forward. Maybe not to Rick, but one disagreement with another member and fisticuffs—or worse—may very well ensue.


What Will Happen To Eugene?

After admitting his cure story was a lie, Eugene was immediately and expectedly beaten to a pulp by Abraham—to the point where he was knocked into a coma. For awhile there things weren’t looking good, but he finally started to come through in “Crossed,” though I’m not sure how much of a recovery he’ll make. As of now, he’s not back on his feet, which means he’s an immediate liability to the group; he’s like an adult Judith.

A slick new promo did show Eugene back to normal (mullet and all), but I’m not so sure how useful he’ll be going forward. He can’t fend for himself, so the group won’t be able to rely on him when collecting supplies or taking out walkers. That said, the group has reluctantly accepted Father Gabriel, who has proven to be more trouble than anything. Gabriel did provide shelter to the group, but now that the church has been overrun, what does he bring to the table? Nothing. Same goes for Eugene.

Who Will Die Next?

Everyone is vulnerable right now. Everyone. With the group back together, the show runners will likely use this as an opportunity to bring the cast closer, establish deeper bonds, and then kill someone off. It’s a classic dramatic trope, and we can see it coming from a mile away. Not to mention Rick’s crew is huge—more mouths to feed, more people to protect, etc. I’m sure the show runners will want to whittle things down before season six gets underway. The question is: who will be the next to go?

There are a few different categories right now: disposable members and integral members. The core of Rick’s group are integral to the show, as we’ve been with them on their journey for the longest; this includes Rick, Carl, Daryl, Glenn, Maggie, Carol, Judith (?), and I’d probably throw Michonne, Tyreese and Sasha in there. But characters like Abraham, Eugene, Rosita, Tara and Father Gabriel are all disposable. Viewers aren’t particularly attached to them, which means they’re easily replaceable.

So which category will lose a member first? Beth, who you can lump into the “integral” cast, was already disposed of, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see someone else from the main cast die before the season is over. It would be hugely impactful to lose someone like Daryl or Carol, but I suspect it’ll be someone like Maggie, Glenn or Sasha.

The show hasn’t stuck too closely to the comics, so anything can happen. It would be a surprise to see one of the more integral group members taken out by a walker, which means the introduction of the next set of survivors will be very crucial to the story and survival of all the members. As The Walking Dead has shown, other humans are typically the biggest threat.

How Will Morgan Factor In?

Morgan is the wild card here. He was teased briefly in the very first episode of season five, and again in “Coda” (episode 8), when he appeared to be hot on the heels of Rick and his crew. He encountered the Hunters’ camp, and also came across the church, so he’s close. Very close, and it seems only a matter of time before he catches up. But how will he be received, and how will he react to Rick this time?

From what we’ve seen, the new nomad Morgan seems like someone who is more at peace with his situation. He wasn’t stable the first two times we encountered him, so it’s not exactly clear what his mental state is. But he definitely appears more aware; if so, Morgan can definitely contribute to the group in the long run. He has no agenda (that we know of), and he’s proven himself to be very clever. Since he’s an acquaintance of Rick’s, he might be joining the group sooner rather than later.

Eight Episodes Left

With 8, hour-long episodes left, a lot can happen. The latest teaser only really gives us a look at the immediate after-math following Grady Memorial, so the second half of season five is wide open. It’ll be a dramatic lead up to season six, where we’ll likely see the survivors settle in at Alexandria. But before then, expect to see one or two major deaths, and maybe even some zombies or two.

The Walking Dead is set to return tonight on AMC.