As far as villains on “The Walking Dead” are concerned, it’s pretty safe to say that none will ever make as memorable and horrifying an entrance as Negan did back in Season 6, brutally bashing in the brains of two beloved characters. But while Negan grows increasingly soft from his time spent behind bars at Alexandria, a new villain is giving him a run for his money.
Introduced a few episodes back, Oscar-winner Samantha Morton plays Alpha on “The Walking Dead,” the leader of the creepy group known as the Whisperers. Essentially, they shamble around undetected in the zombie-filled post-apocalypse by literally wearing zombie skins over their own faces, and last night’s ‘Guardians’ finally took us into their campgrounds.
Not surprisingly, the Whisperers don’t quite live the sophisticated lives that our heroes do, but rather they roam from place to place and set up makeshift camps along the way. ‘Guardians’ took us behind those enemy lines, so to speak, with Alpha bringing her reluctant daughter Lydia back home… along with an equally reluctant Henry, kidnapped while trying to save her.
Perhaps the biggest happening in ‘Guardians’ was that it introduced Beta (played by “Sons of Anarchy” star Ryan Hurst), the second-in-command to Morton’s Alpha. The imposing Beta, it would seem, is the muscle of the operation, doing as Alpha says and making sure that her orders are carried out by every single member of the clan. If not, well, they don’t last very long.
Showing us just how much of a ruthless leader Alpha really is – then again, she was totally cool with zombies feasting on one of the group’s own babies last week, so perhaps we already gathered such things – she gruesomely cut the head off of a young Whisperer woman who, along with her boyfriend, called her leadership into question. As it turns out, any member of the group can at any time “challenge” Alpha or Beta to become the next Alpha or Beta, but if this particular challenge was any indication, it’s hardly a fair fight to go after that title.
Incensed by the mere suggestion that she’s not a great leader, Alpha pulled some razor sharp piano wire out of her pocket and sliced the young detractor’s head clean off, making her boyfriend hold onto the severed head before stabbing him to death(!). Mind you, the moment hardly held the same weight as Negan bashing in Glenn’s head – after all, we had spent a long time with Glenn prior to that horrifying moment, but had only just met the girl who Alpha dispatched last night – but nevertheless it exposed the true horror of Alpha’s dominance.
Without a shred of humanity to spare, the soft-spoken Alpha – chillingly played by Morton – may be the most truly nightmarish, wholly irredeemable villain in the show’s history.
As a whole, the Whisperers are the scariest opposing faction to date, and ‘Guardians’ gave us a nice glimpse into what life is like for them out in the woods. Of particular note, we were shown precisely how they go about making their masks, which are indeed freshly removed from the skinned heads of zombies. Granted, this was already pretty clear, but actually seeing Beta skin the face off of a zombie and hang it out to dry was quite terrifying all the same. With their humanity so far gone, the Whisperers are at this point more monster than man.
Mostly, ‘Guardians’ set the stage for the fair at the Kingdom, with Michonne finally agreeing to send delegates on behalf of Alexandria. As readers of Robert Kirkman’s comics are aware, the fair is the setting for some pretty extreme horror, and the show is clearly building to that point for what is likely to be Season 9’s finale. Our heroes are unknowingly marching towards a terrible fate in the very near future, and the show has thus far done an incredibly good job at making the Whisperers a nightmarish threat the likes of which they’ve never quite seen.
What I’m saying is, “The Walking Dead” is pretty goddamn good again.