WARNING: Possible spoilers ahead for The Walking Dead TV and comic series. Proceed with caution.
The mid-season premier of [The Walking Dead](series:201193) on Sunday was a triumphant return to TV. The show was brilliant written by Scott Gimple, as well as directed by Greg Nicotero. Throughout the show we were strapped in for a roller-coaster journey as Noah's family were found dead, Tyreese was killed and the group realized they had no where to go but onwards into the unknown. But aside from all of that there was a new question that we need answers to: who exactly are the 'Wolves'?
You may not have caught it, and I don't blame you because it was only on screen for a brief second, but in episode 9 we saw the graffiti'd tag 'Wolves not far' appear on a wall soon after the group entered Shirewilt Estate:
And just incase you're thinking it might have been a neighborhood kid with an old can of spray paint causing trouble, there was another spray painted sign saying the exact same thing, except it was shown earlier in the episode, as the group drove toward Shirewilt:
Yeah, I didn't spot that one either, but some very keen eyed commenters drew my attention to it in my '5 Things You Might Have Missed' article (yes, I'm aware of the irony).
So what does it mean?
Firstly let's get one theory out of the way: some people believe the signs are referring to literal wolves, which has been spurred on by an episode 10 promo trailer which actually shows 'wolves' in it:
As I wrote over here, these are actually wild dogs and unfortunately for them, they end up roasting over a fire shortly after we first see them.
So we know the sign does not refer to literal wolves, and unfortunately that's probably not great news for the group.
I think we can all agree that Shirewilt Estate was definitely not overrun by walkers accidentally. The houses looked to be intentionally set alight, bodies had been dragged onto the grass, the fence was broken down, and people had been killed by things other than walker bites, like Noah's mom with her bashed in skull.
We also saw some very weirdly dismembered limbs and later the heads and torsos that those bodies belonged to, which has all been marked with carved 'W's' on them. I strongly believe those 'W's' stand for the Wolves, and it was the Wolves attacked Shirewilt estate and left their graffiti tags everywhere, probably marking out their territory - much like animal wolves do.
So who is this group?
I believe there are three possibilities from the comic series for who the Wolves could be, but only one that makes total sense. Here are the three possible candidates:
They are a group of survivors who disguise themselves with walker skin to blend in and remain unnoticed. Their are two reasons why people assume it's them, the first is because of the 'W' carved on the heads, and also that 'wolves' starts with the same letter. The second reason is that they wear walker skin, and back in Season 3 when Rick ran into Morgan there was an exchange when Rick said “Do you know who I am? Do you see who I am?” Morgan replied “People wearing dead people’s faces. No I don’t know you.”
There is debate about whether or not Morgan was referring to a real group of people who wear dead peoples faces, or whether he was talking about walkers - animated skeletons with the faces of dead people. Or perhaps that he believed Rick to be dead, and was shocked when he reappeared.
Personally I do not believe the Wolves are the Whisperers, mostly because the group don't enter in the comic series until much later on, and also because there are far better candidates, such as:
The Scavengers are a group that appear from issue 75 to issue 78 of the comic series. Their storyline is pretty brief and they end up dead but there are couple reasons why it makes sense for them to be the Wolves. Firstly in the comic panel above, Derek, the leader of the Scavengers uses the phrase 'we're not far,' just like the graffiti says. Granted this isn't the strongest lead, but The Walking Dead writers may have mimicked this as a way to point out who the Wolves were to comic readers. Secondly was another line from the comic series, when Derek called to those inside the Alexandria Safe-Zone, a gated community "little pig, little pig....Let me in."
Is Derek the Big Bad Wolf? I certainly think it's possible, and that it would be cool for The Walking Dead to expand the story of this group a little more outside of the comic series. But there is one more possibility:
Negan and the Saviors
I wrote earlier, over here, about how Negan has been hinted at over and over again in episode 10, but it's also possible that the spray painted wolves signs were the work of his group, who are in the comic called the Saviors.
Just like Derek from the Scavengers, Negan also uses the same "little pig, little pig....Let me in" line when he's trying to get into the walled-community at the Alexandria Safe-Zone. Could the TV series have renamed Negan's Saviors to become the Wolves? Negan does have a record of branding or marking people with 'marks of shame' similar to the walker torso and heads we saw spill on the car in episode 9. Maybe they were the work of Negan and the Wolves?
I'm not sure whether I prefer this idea over the theory that the Wolves are the Scavengers, but you got to admit, both have some pretty good points on their side. With that in mind: