The cemetery at Alexandria comes to embody the fictional community in The Walking Dead. Beside the walls of the settlement, framed by a house and planted evergreens, it grows and defines the community and its boundaries during Season 6. It also marks its losses sequentially as it grows, mirrored by the memorial wall to those lost but not retrieved.
In Season 7 of The Walking Dead we meet the cemetery in Alexandria one further and significant time. The cemetery is deployed in an early act of resistance to Negan’s tyranny over the community. When they claim that Maggie Greene is dead to save her from Negan’s interests, Father Gabriel provides ‘proof’ in the form of a freshly completed but as-yet-unmarked- grave. Maggie’s survival and concealment at the Hilltop colony is thus kept secret.
The combination of Father Gabriel’s religious authority and the physical appearance of the unmarked grave are sufficient material evidence for Negan to be convinced she has died. The grave is deployed as material testimony, and thus as a physical deception. This is a twist on the Alexandria community’s early use of an undead head disguised as Gregory’s, to briefly fool one of the Saviour outputs that the Hilltop’s leader had been slain.
Now the use of a grave as a deception – to hide the absence of a body, a different body, or another cache of items – is a common plot device, from The Third Man to Peaky Blinders. At the zombie apocalypse, with so much death all around, a grave might seem a needless cover to conceal that someone is actually still alive. Yet a ‘walker’ is still a body and testimony to death, so to claim a body is buried is actually a sure way to mount a deception.
Next, we’ll discuss how the graves of the two victims of Lucille become a material focus for Rick’s group’s resistance to the Saviours…