Warning: SPOILERS ahead for The Walking Dead season 7, episode 8 and the Walking Dead comics
Last night, The Walking Dead's season 7 midseason finale managed to bring together most of its plot lines into a satisfying arc, reuniting much of its sprawling cast in the final act. After weeks and weeks of disconnected storytelling, Rick is about to embark on some serious coalition building. It's exactly the sort of forward momentum The Walking Dead needs right now, rewarding those viewers whose stuck with it and perhaps luring those back who just plain gave up.
As an added tease, 'Hearts Still Beating' also made sure to include something of a cliffhanger with its post-credit scene. After the dramatics of the day and presumably after Rick and co. took off for the Hilltop, Gabriel is seen walking the walls of Alexandria - by someone spying on him with binoculars! First, there's the point-of-view of the mysterious person peering at Gabriel, then a shot of said person, hooded and hidden in the shadows. They then jump to the ground where their boots are given a nice closeup shot, revealing them to be the exact same pair of boots worn by whoever was stalking Rick and Aaron earlier in the episode.
Presumably, we're meant to understand that whoever had seen Rick and Aaron cross the lake and ransack the houseboat, then followed them back home to Alexandria and is now scouting the location. Who they are and why they're spying on Alexandria isn't clear, but Walking Dead creator and exec producer Robert Kirkman revealed on The Talking Dead aftershow that this mystery person is "a big part of what we're dealing with when we come back next half of the season, so we'll be revealing that soon."
So this mystery character won't be a mystery for long, but we still have nine weeks before The Walking Dead returns. And in the meantime, here are our theories for just who is rocking those sweet boots:
Dwight Turned Traitor
The Walking Dead comics and television show are different entities, and events and characters can be quite different between the two. However, season 7 more than most has begun adhering rather closely to the comics' storyline, especially with regards to Negan. Following along with that line of thinking, since Dwight eventually betrays Negan in the comics, coming to Rick and offering his services as their man on the inside, it seems only likely the same will happen on the TV show. After all, though Dwight was Daryl's jailer and has mostly followed Negan's orders, he's also been growing dissatisfied with his life at the Sanctuary (in particular with his wife, Sherry being a member of Negan's harem).
If the back half of season 7 will focus on Rick gathering allies, then having a spy in Negan's camp would be essential. Like Kirkman says, this mystery person is a "big part" of where the season goes next. Plus, Dwight was absent from the midseason finale, raising questions about what he was up to, neither appearing at Alexandria or the Sanctuary. Was he tailing Rick, trying to decide on the right moment to approach him? As for the boots, the series has never given such a detailed shot of anyone's shoes, but they do appear similar to the combat-style boots Dwight wears. The decal and wire might just be new accessories.
Cyndie of Oceanside
Our other candidate is the plucky Cyndie from the Oceanside community. She helped Tara escape in 'Swear', sniping walkers on the bridge as Tara made her way across. And unlike most of the women of Oceanside, Cyndie wasn't as keen with their isolationist outlook and shoot first policy. If anyone was going to either convince Oceanside to seek out Tara's group, or just leave and find them herself, it'd be Cyndie.
And while it's possible Dwight would be spying on Alexandria from afar, he doesn't have as much reason to as Cyndie. He's at least familiar with the community and its residents, Cyndie is not, and it'd be a wise move on her part to observe them from afar before approaching. Tara may have been nice to her, but there's no guarantee everyone else would be. Plus, whether she's arriving as an emissary from Oceanside or reaching out on her own, Cyndie trying to create some sort of alliance between Oceanside and Alexandria would be extremely beneficial in the coming war with the Saviors. Remember how stocked up they are with guns and ammo?
As for those boots though, they are not the same pair Cyndie is shown wearing in 'Swear'. Again, they're a similar combat-style but there's no pattern across the toe or wire around the ankle. Of course, anyone could change their boots and that fancy decal does seem like something a teenage girl would place on their shoes rather than an adult man.
A Totally New Character
There are certainly other characters it could be behind those binoculars, like Heath or maybe even Carol, but besides Dwight or Cyndie the other most probable explanation is that they are a totally new character. The Walking Dead loves nothing more than to tease its audience and what better way to tease us about what happens next than dropping a whole new variable into the mix.
This new character could be tied to a whole new community (maybe even The Whisperers) or is just another loner who will undoubtedly be met with great suspicion. Maybe whoever lived on that houseboat wasn't dead and is mighty upset with Rick and Aaron for taking all their stuff. There was that note which implied that even though they had reached the stockpile of supplies, they were still losers. Maybe the whole thing was a trap, and now some new enemy is coming to attack Alexandria.
With only a pair of boots to go on, the identity of the mystery character in The Walking Dead season 7 midseason finale's post-credit scene is a real puzzle. They may be a character we've known for some time or someone completely new, and only the next block of episodes will tell us for sure.
The Walking Dead will return with its midseason premiere on February 12, 2017 at 9pm on AMC.