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A Longtime Walking Dead Mystery May Finally Get Explained In Rick And Michonne's The Ones Who Live Finale

 Michonne holding assault rifle in The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live.
Michonne holding assault rifle in The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live.

Spoilers below for the fifth episode of The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live, so be warned if you haven’t yet watched on AMC or with an AMC+ subscription.

With the penultimate episode of what may be its only season, The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live not only shocked audiences with Father Gabriel’s return, but also delivered the first major franchise death in a long while by killing off Pollyanna McIntosh’s Jadis. It was a somewhat shocking turn of events, but likely a necessary one in order to give Rick and Michonne a better shot at actually taking down the CRM. (#CoupleGoals.) A bigger shock, however, came during the preview for the impending finale, where a quick visual potentially set up a callback to one of TWD’s biggest mysteries: what happened to Heath?

Though former Walking Dead co-star Corey Hawkins didn’t actually appear in the new footage — which I can’t imagine anyone would have expected — one snippet features Lesley-Ann Brandt’s Thorne in front of a markerboard where a variety of different things are written. Most of the content either doesn’t show up well enough or is too generic to make sense of, but then there’s the oh-so-mysterious “PPP” abbreviation that hearkens back to “Swear,” the Season 7 episode in which Heath disappeared. Check out a zoomed-in look at the moment below.

Markerboard with
Markerboard with

For Walking Dead fans who maybe don’t remember, “Swear” followed Heath and Alanna Masterson’s Tara as they were out on an extended supply run. After being separated, Tara ends up connecting with the Oceanside community, while Heath…well, it’s not exactly clear. He presumably survived whatever walker attack happened, but the only evidence left behind was a keycard containing the ever-mysterious “PPP” marking.

Myriad theories about what those letters could mean surfaced in the months and years after Heath disappeared, without any real indication of what they meant coming either from the narrative or from the creatives. Former showrunner-turned-franchise overseer Scott Gimple told fans that Heath would be back somehow, and that his time within this universe was not complete, though that was years ago.

Heath in The Walking Dead.
Heath in The Walking Dead.

The next big update came when fellow former showrunner Angela Kang confirmed in 2022 that Heath was taken by the CRM, and that the writers had planted those seeds with the hopes that Hawkins would return to The Walking Dead at some point. Unfortunately for viewers, if not for the actor himself, Hawkins started landing big role after big role, and seemingly hasn’t put much direct effort into closing out Heath’s story.

But with Episode 5 surprisingly bringing Seth Gilliam back as Father Gabriel, it’s certainly not impossible to consider the idea that Heath could actually appear in the Ones Who Live finale. Not that I’d have a surefire idea for how he’d factor into things, and I still don’t have any clue what “PPP” stands for.

If there were more readily identifiable words and phrases on the board, that might help, although I’d gather most of it is just random set design, with the in-focus bits being the only important thing. Of all the P words I can think that would be applicable, “Portland” and “Protection” seem in line, and possibly “Program” or “Procedure.” I could keep those guesses going all day, really. But even if we knew what it meant, it’s a whole other thing to then speculate on what it means to be a PPP exception.

The only other time the mysterious keycard has appeared was in the Tales of the Walking Dead episode “Davon,” in which Jesse T. Usher’s titular character is also seen to be in possession of one of the keycards. That said, zero info is given about it otherwise.

Does anyone else think we might get to see Heath one last time in the Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live finale? Be sure to tune in when it hits AMC on Sunday, March 31, at 9:00 p.m. ET. Head to our 2024 TV premiere schedule to see what else is hitting the small screen soon.