Last nights episode of The Walking Dead featured perhaps one of the most brutal sequences Ive ever seen in the series. Something that was as eye-popping as when Negan beat down Glenn in the woods, though it did happen to a character we care nothing about. But still.
Im talking about a scene where Alpha discovers that two Whisperers are plotting against her, questioning her judgement for going back for her daughter, even if she claims it was just to extract intel from her. Alpha challenges them to fight her, some sort of ritual of the Whisperer pack for dominance. When they refuse, Alpha takes out some piano wire, cuts the head off the offending woman, hands her boyfriend her head, then stabs him to death as well. And she does all this as Henry looks on in horror and Lydia has a face that says oh mom not again.
This episode we also met Beta, played by Sons of Anarchy veteran and all-around Giant Mountain Man Ryan Hurst. Hes easily the most physically imposing villain weve seen on the show to date, and in previews weve already seen him tossing Daryl around like hes nothing.
I am enjoying season 9 and the Whisperers arc because Alpha and Beta dont feel like mere villains to me, they feel like end-game video game bosses.
The Walking Dead has always toyed with the idea for redemption for certain villains, be they the brief road to recovery for the Governor, and now even a potential path back to the light for Negan, the Glenn/Abraham executioner and keeper of sex slaves (ew). But The Walking Dead is playing no such games with Alpha and Beta. The can be saved character is Lydia, who already seems to have turned a corner thanks to Henry and Daryl, but Alpha and Beta are nothing but pure evil, through and through. Alpha started murdering carefreely almost as soon as the apocalypse started, and remains an abusive sociopath to this day. Beta, we just met, but he does not strike me as the kind of character The Walking Dead will slowly walk back from the brink. Hes a monster. Hes going to kill a lot of stuff.
To me, the Whisperers represent the perfect foils for The Walking Dead at this stage in the lifecycle of the series. If I were designing this show, I would make them the final villains before closing up shop. Why? Because they represent the polar opposite of what Ricks community is trying to build. Alexandria, the Hilltop and the Kingdom are trying to rebuild civilization, to slowly crawl back to the way things were with farming, trade, safe havens and cooperation.
The Whisperers are the inverse. They have gone the other direction, fleeing from the trappings of the old world to be come a literal roaming pack of animals living among the dead, raising children in the woods, murdering each other over power grabs, lashing out at enemies who invade their territory. They are humanity reduced to its most primal, base instincts, only one step higher than the walkers themselves, and they represent everything Ricks group is trying to avoid becoming.
Its easy to see how things could have bone another way. Ricks group, once upon a time, was roaming around in the woods all the time living in a similar fashion. Michonne was actually traveling among the dead with two walkers on chains, almost exactly what the Whisperers do, minus a skin mask. But while Alpha and her growing pack went one way, Ricks group, under his direction, went another. And now those two paths are re-converging in this conflict.
This is why I like this season more than others. Its not just two rival groups of humans butting heads. Its the entire future of the world at stake, played out through the actions of these two small groups. Two philosophies of survival that are far more than just autocracy versus democracy like with Negan and The Governor. This conflict is what the struggle with the Wolves was meant to be, but taken to an entirely new level.
All of the stakes here, and how formidable Alpha and Beta are, is why I would potentially make this conflict the series finale, because it puts such a fantastic bow on the point of the entire series. But I think we know thats not going to happen, and the next comic storyline to be adapted, the Commonwealth, will introduce Ricks group to a community even more civilized than them, though obviously with their own dark secrets and problems.
This is a great, well thought-out conflict adapted fantastically for the screen. Credit to everyone involved for this season, and I cant wait to see how it ends.
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Reviewed and Recommended by Erik Baquero