The mid-season premiere of The Walking Dead season 7 mainly consisted of Rick Grimes and his Alexandrians on a recruitment drive for their upcoming battle against Negan and the Saviors - with little success. Both Gregory at the Hilltop and Ezekiel of the Kingdom refused Rick's call to arms, and although a few Hilltop residents volunteered themselves for the fight, our protagonists remained severely outnumbered in comparison to the multitude of men Negan seemingly has at his disposal.
Enter the Junkyard Community. The dying moments of the episode featured a gang of Alexandrians led by Rick in search of Father Gabriel, who had gone AWOL with a chunk of the group's supplies. During the search, the group wandered into another community's territory and were swiftly surrounded by a large number of well-armed people, prompting a wry smile to creep across Rick's face.
Given that the group have only just made their debut in the show - and that there is no corresponding group within The Walking Dead's comic series - the Junkyard Community represent one of the show's biggest unknown quantities. But from what we know so far from latest episode "Rock In The Road," and the trailer for next week's offering 'New Best Friends', what can be concluded about this brand new set of potential friends or foes Rick has come face to face with?
A huge talking point after last year's mid-season finale - 'Hearts Still Beating' - was the identity of a mysterious character in boots who was seen stalking Rick and Aaron during a supply run and later appeared outside the gates of Alexandria. Whilst the identity of this figure is still officially unconfirmed, a strong case can be made that it belonged to a member of this new Junkyard group, as the mystery footwear initially appeared in an area very close to where the new community live.
It is also known that this shady figure was skulking around Alexandria at likely the same time Gabriel abandoned his watch, grabbed some supplies and drove off into the darkness. Although there are plenty of pieces still missing in the jigsaw, it seems highly plausible that some form of contact was made between Gabriel and this new figure, with the priest possibly using Alexandria's supplies as a bargaining chip to get these potential new allies on side. Eagle-eyed viewers would have also noticed that in the scene where Gabriel leaves, another person can be seen in the passenger seat.
As Rick points out, Gabriel had no way of knowing about the boat he and Aaron raided for supplies - the only other person that knew was the stalker in the boots. It stands to reason, then, that Gabriel may have taken off on a recruiting trip of his own, rather than abandoning the group as many suspected. Whether the Junkyard Community responded positively to Gabriel's offering is still unknown, and given how Rick's group is greeted at the end of the episode, there certainly seems to be at least some skepticism remaining. Of course, it's also possible that rather than taking off voluntarily, Gabriel was coerced into leaving with the figure and handing over the supplies, but it's unlikely that even the regularly cowardly priest would yield quite that easily to a single enemy.
Relationships With Other Communities
Appropriately enough given his name, Jesus seems to be a friend to everybody in The Walking Dead - with the exception of the Saviors, of course - and is well established and trusted in Alexandria, the Kingdom and the Hilltop. It would seem that if any protagonist had knowledge of the Junkyard Community, it would be him. If this were the case, however, it's highly unlikely that the long-haired ass-kicker would've kept this information from Rick. Jesus was willing to risk the wrath of Ezekiel by breaking his trust in an attempt to help build the anti-Savior forces and there's no reason he wouldn't have done the same with the Junkyard lot, had he known about them. The most likely scenario is that nobody from the three primary communities had any knowledge of the Junkyard group prior to "Rock In The Road."
But does this anonymity extend to Negan and his Saviors? Negan's group are easily the largest and best equipped group on the map right now, and they have a vested interested in regularly finding new groups to torment and pillage from. Considering the amount of weapons this new group possesses however, it seems highly unlikely that they would've struck a deal with the Saviors as Negan often makes a point of confiscating weaponry during his preliminary visit. It can be concluded then that either the Saviors are unaware that the Junkyard Community exists, or they do know about it but are too afraid of the group's large numbers and weapons to approach them.
If the Junkyard Community has thus far remained completely off the radar of every other group on The Walking Dead's map, then this must be attributed to their enviable location. Unlike Alexandria being on a main road or the Hilltop being visible for miles around, the Junkyard appears well-fortified and difficult to find without being led there by something or someone. Even Rick and Aaron failed to find the place despite being nearby, and only stumbled onto the group's land after following a set of footprints. A sneak peek of next week's episode - "New Best Friends" - shows the location in a little more detail and the community has smartly utilized the cars and scrap material available to them to build a solid perimeter that is perhaps less conspicuous than traditional walls and gates would be.
With that said, no community in The Walking Dead has everything they need to survive. The Junkyard Community may have a prime piece of real estate and weapons to spare, but more than a few among their ranks look somewhat gaunt. It's a definite possibility that despite having access to guns and raw materials, the group are severely lacking in food supplies. Furthermore, given the community's proximity to the boat Rick and Aaron raided, it's possible that they rarely venture outside of their own land and, as such, Alexandria's ability to feed the Junkyard's people may be a key factor in getting the group to play ball when it comes to Negan.
In terms of members, a casting call came to light in August last year concerning a "poker-faced and educated leader," and judging by the trailer for next week's episode, it seems that character - referred to as Brion - could be the leader of this new Junkyard community. The woman seems firm but fair at first glance and willing to at least speak to Rick before blowing his brains out, which basically counts as friendship in the world of The Walking Dead.
Friend or Foe?
Rick's smile after encountering the Junkyard group seemed to imply that the character knew he'd found the army he needed. After spending the episode failing to get a coward and a Shakespeare enthusiast to fight alongside him, a large and well-armed bunch fell serendipitously into the ex-cop's lap. The fact that the show's next episode is titled "New Best Friends" also seems to suggest that Alexandria and the Junkyard Community will find common ground sooner rather than later. In the preview for that episode, the Junkyard leader asks Rick whether he wants to "buy back" his group's lives after being captured and the footage seems to suggest he'll be competing Gladiator style against a spiky armored Walker in order to prove himself. If he succeeds, perhaps that will be enough to convince the group to follow his lead.
But what would this group be fighting for? If the Junkyard Community have no dealings with the Saviors - and it certainly appears they don't - what possible reason would they have to risk their lives to help a group they've just met? The most likely option is a lack of food or another resource Rick can get hold of. However, it's also possible that although the Junkyard don't deal with Negan, they are aware of him thanks to their booted scout and subsequently they may know that it's only a matter of time before Trevor from GTA5 is banging on their gates too. Rick's comment in the trailer for 'New Best Friends' - "they will come looking" - seems to imply that this will be his line of reasoning when dealing with the Junkyard group.
The Walking Dead continues with 'New Best Friends' on February 19th on AMC.