[Warning: The following contains potentially MAJOR spoilers for the upcoming Season 9B of The Walking Dead, taken from the comic books.]
If the Whisperer-heavy marketing for the next eight episodes of The Walking Dead is giving you nightmares, you might want to sleep with the light on for the rest of the season.
Truth be told, the humans walking among the undead are terrifying on a number of levels — not just their appearance and the way they talk. If you thought The Governor and Negan were scary, these guys have taken it to a whole new level. Here’s why they could be considered the scariest human antagonists our group has faced, to date.
No Moral Code
Some of this storyline might be changed for the show, considering there are aspects that wouldn’t play well on television in 2019. But at least in the comics, Alpha and her group don’t operate by much of a moral code. They allow behaviors that would be abhorrent to even the worst of TWD’s previous antagonists. Remember how Negan killed one of his men for attempting to rape Sasha? The Whisperers don’t work like that.
The Whisperers are largely animalistic and operate under a pack hierarchy system similar to that of wolves, with Alpha at the top, then Beta, then on downward to the rest of the group. Because they don’t use a system of typical laws, the Whisperers have especially abhorrent views on sexual violence; they believe it’s up to a woman to fight off any attacker and don’t see rape as a crime.
They Wear Dead People’s Skins
The Whisperers might also be the scariest villains by virtue of appearance alone. Other than walker herds, most of TWD’s antagonists have at least appeared human, which made them a little bit easier to watch. While they were certainly bad, they were familiar; even with the “W” carved into their foreheads, the Wolves looked like people, the Terminus baddies were people, The Governor was a person, Negan was (and still is) a person.
The Whisperers are human underneath their masks, but they don’t make a habit of appearing without them — and without them, these guys are definitely nightmare fuel. They’re the first villains to be truly chilling based not solely on their threat to the group, but on the way they look, too.
Sky-High Body Count
There has already been one major Whisperer-related loss this season (RIP Jesus), so it’s clear Alpha and her group aren’t afraid to use deadly force to get what they want or to protect their territory. That means more deaths are coming — perhaps more than any other antagonist the show has seen so far.
Assuming the show follows the comics in 9B, we’ll soon see a pretty major culling of characters by Alpha’s hand. Ezekiel’s fair might be meant to bring communities together, but it’ll end up being deadly for some of the main cast… maybe even in double-digit numbers. The comics saw characters like Rosita and Ezekiel meet their ends after being lured away and beheaded by Alpha at the fair, who then put their heads on pikes to mark the Whisperers’ territory. It’s not certain whether those same characters will perish by the end of the season, but one thing is certain: not everyone from “the group” will be making it out of this one alive.
Connected to the Group
Alpha and her followers are also connected to our protagonists in a different way than what we’ve seen in the past. While The Governor was perhaps linked to the group through Andrea (though admittedly, that might be a stretch), part of the Whisperers’ conflict with our good guys revolves around Lydia, Alpha’s daughter. When Michonne takes her captive, Alpha, who is also Lydia’s mother, demands her release. There’s just one complicating factor: Lydia doesn’t want to go back to the Whisperers.
Complicating this complication is the fact that Lydia and Carl (on the show, likely Lydia and Henry) have started to develop feelings for each other. It’s a strange, pseudo-Romeo-and-Juliet situation that leads Carl to go to some pretty incredible lengths to protect Lydia, and with how impulsive Henry has already been shown to be, it’s not unlikely he’d do the same. But their connection provides motivation to fight on both sides, showing a different side of conflict than we’ve seen so far.
A Terrifying Weapon
Fans already know this, but the Whisperers are the only TWD villain to (effectively) weaponize what is probably the biggest and most efficient weapon in the show’s post-apocalyptic universe: the undead. While we’ve seen other groups use walkers as a method of attack, the Whisperers are the first to exercise real control over them, which makes them dangerous in a way previous foes hadn’t been.
Since the Whisperers control and live among the dead, it’s easy for them to put together attacks like the one fans saw in the midseason finale and earlier in Season 9. Whether another attack is coming will remain to be seen, but the potential is there… and the potential is pretty frightening.
No Laughing Matter
While certainly all of TWD’s villains haven’t been funny — in fact, fewer are laughable than not — the fact is that the Whisperers don’t have the same comedic value that Negan, the show’s last real big bad, had. Don’t expect to giggle at anything Alpha or her underlings say, unless it’s an isolated throwaway line. There will be no “beach-ball sized lady nuts” or “little pig, little pig, let me in!” in 9B.
For that reason, all the atrocities Alpha and her followers commit might be harder to shrug off than Negan’s misdeeds.
The Walking Dead, Season 9 Returns, Sunday, February 10, 9/8c, AMC