The Ones Who Live’ Finally Puts a Huge Theory To Rest

Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live

The Big Picture

  • The CRM labels As as test subjects and Bs as workers, but As are actually regarded as leaders that threaten the CRM’s structure.
  • Politics play a significant role in
    The Walking Dead
    spinoff, revealing the CRM’s tyranny and secrets.
  • Rick’s integration into the CRM is impacted by being labeled an A, leading to opportunities to change the political structure.

Many plot holes and mysteries in The Walking Dead franchise have been temporarily filled in with fan theories, but the new slew of spinoffs has been slowly remedying this. The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon reveals the horrific events of ground zero in Paris, while The Walking Dead: Dead City finally illuminates Oceanside’s fate after the flagship show ended. Now, the premiere of The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live, exposes the true meaning behind the mysterious “A” and “B” designations that have been briefly mentioned in the original show and The Walking Dead: World Beyond.

The Walking Dead The Ones Who Live TV Show Poster

The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live

The love story between Rick and Michonne. Changed by a world that is constantly changing, will they find themselves in a war against the living or will they discover that they too are The Walking Dead?

Release Date
February 25, 2024

Main Genre


The Walking Dead

Production Company
American Movie Classics (AMC)

Jadis Introduced Us to the CRM’s Labels

These elusive labels arrived with the introduction of the avant-garde leader of the trash-residing Scavengers: Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh). We witnessed her make almost ritualistic offerings of other apocalypse survivors that had been designated as either A or B to an anonymous helicopter. In World Beyond we discover that the helicopter was owned by the Civic Republic Military (CRM) and that A-labeled offerings became human test subjects in walker experiments while B-labeled prisoners became low-status workers at the CRM compounds.

However, The Ones Who Live reveals the real reason why As become test subjects: they are fierce leaders and independent thinkers that threaten the fascist-like structure of the CRM. While the A and B labels seemed harmless enough in the beginning, their significance increased tenfold during Andrew Lincoln‘s dramatic exit from the show. These labels catalyzed Rick Grimes’ survival and disappearance after the bridge explosion, and Michonne’s (Danai Gurira) own exit from the show, indicating that they are not done with these characters yet in The Ones Who Live.

Jadis Saves Rick’s Life

Pollyanna Mcintosh as Jadis holding a gun to Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes' head in The Walking Dead.
Image via AMC 

Ever since Jadis entered the franchise as the Scavenger’s leader in Season 7, the elusive designations of A and B on people she would offer up to a helicopter incited questions and theories for a while. Throughout the show, we see her imprison and try to offer Rick, Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) as As to the CRM in exchange for “extraction,” but each attempt failed. Showrunner Angela Kang revealed that Heath (Corey Hawkins) was actually the first victim of Jadis’ trade, partially resolving this character’s mysterious disappearance from the show.

While Jadis’ activities at the time were intriguing, it was in Season 9 that the urgency of figuring out the significance behind the labels increased ten-fold. During Lincoln’s exit from the flagship show, the labels re-surfaced as Jadis bundled his weakened, post-bridge-explosion body away into a CRM helicopter. Initially, she had promised them an A, which would have solidified her extraction, but at the last minute she switched Rick’s label to a B. As she calls him a “friend,” we instinctively realize that she saved his life, not only through the medical help this unknown helicopter could probably provide, but also by redacting the more ominous sounding A label.

The most long-running theory behind the labels, that was essentially confirmed by World Beyond Season 2, was that the CRM used A people as test subjects in walker experiments and B became workers of the lowest rung in the CRM compounds. As such, this confirms that Jadis had in fact saved Rick’s life, although we never truly know the full extent of his position in the CRM, especially as she claims she had given the CRM “something valuable.” Although this theory encapsulates the gist of the meaning behind the two designations, The Ones Who Live reveals that there is a further political element to it.

‘The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live’ Reveals the Truth

While it is true that As become test subjects and Bs become workers, The Ones Who Live reveals that As are actually leaders that just become test subjects because the CRM disposes of them. In the original show, the As we had seen were Negan, Gabriel, and Rick, so it was logical to believe that it was their shared traits of tenacity and resilience that made them suitable candidates for walker experiments. Their strong-willed personalities could have potentially complemented the procedures or medications used in the trials to resist the virus. However, now we know that these traits, alongside their independence and critical thinking skills, were actually seen as leadership qualities. Thus, their involvement in the CRM would become detrimental to the group’s totalitarian structure. From the CRM’s perspective, they must be eliminated, and why waste a bullet when they can become perfectly good lab mice?


‘The Walking Dead’ Really Ended When Rick Left the Show

Rick Grimes is back in ‘The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live,’ though the original series was never the same after the bridge explosion.

Episode 1 of The Ones Who Live has already established how influential politics will be in this spinoff as Rick repetitively chants about “secrets” upon “secrets” embedded into each layer of this society. The CRM is depicted as the antagonist of the spinoff as they entrap their B workers into their compound and force them to continue providing the inner city with labor until they earn their spot as a citizen. Additionally, the higher officers and governors keep secrets from their own citizens and from their associated communities in Portland and Omaha. The precarious nature of the tightly wound web of secrets the CRM has woven could legitimately be threatened by someone as determined as an A. So, it makes sense that they aim to eliminate them, and since Okafor (Craig Tate) wants to change how things are run, it also makes sense he decided to keep Rick and Thorne (Lesley-Ann Brandt) around.

What’s Next for Rick and the CRM?

Andrew Lincoln's Rick Grimes as a CRM soldier in The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live 
Image via AMC

Rick’s slow and unwilling integration into the CRM is profoundly impacted by the A and B designations. Although the CRM officials, namely General Beale (Terry O’Quinn), can confidently identify him as an A, especially after his 4 escape attempts over 5 years. His B designation given to him by Jadis and maintained by the efforts of Okafor is the reason he is still alive. According to Okafor, Rick is the first prisoner that is persistent in his attempts to escape — relentless enough to chop his own hand off (Walking Dead fan-service to say the least). Despite these attempts, Rick is continuously given the opportunity to become a soldier and serve the ranks of the CRM.

He finally takes this opportunity only after he is approached by Okafor, something that wouldn’t have happened if Rick wasn’t really an A. We discover that, alongside Rick, Thorne is also an A, and they are both given an opportunity to help change the CRM’s political structure. During Okafor’s briefing, they are told about their potential increasing growth in the ranks and how they will gradually gain access to more of the community’s secrets. Rick initially brushes this off and continues to fight to return to his family, but after another year of working and Thorne constantly reining him in, it seems as if he has almost fully assimilated into the CRM… or at least the rebellion from within.

When Rick finally reunites with Michonne in the premiere’s finale, it’s hard to tell what his reaction will be. They meet directly after Rick abruptly loses his companion in a vertigo-inducing helicopter crash sequence which was set off by presumably Michonne herself. Has Rick’s priorities been divided after 6 years apart, just as Daryl’s (Norman Reedus) were at the end of his own spinoff? Whether Rick runs off with Michonne or stays to continue Okafor’s work, we know that he is not done dealing with the CRM yet, nor is the CRM done with one of their most valuable soldiers.

The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live is available to watch on AMC and AMC+ in the U.S.


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