Warning: SPOILERS ahead for The Walking Dead season 9 episode 6
Read the latest developments here: Walking Dead Midseason Finale: [Spoiler]'s Death & NEW Villains Explained
The very end of tonight's Walking Dead introduces a huge twist - walkers that talk! Well, not exactly. These "talking" walkers are not really what they appear to be, and are actually the new season 9 villains - a group of people who live among the walkers called the Whisperers.
Tonight's episode of The Walking Dead not only teases the upcoming villains, it also properly introduce the new future setting teased by the appearance of a much older Judith Grimes at the end of last week's episode. Since Rick's exit from the AMC series, The Walking Dead has undergone a six year time-jump during which many things have changed. Michonne has grown more cautious and perhaps a bit paranoid in her role as Alexandria's head of security, Carol has married Ezekiel and become the Kingdom's "Queen", and Daryl has completely isolated himself, living in the woods alone. The fate of Hilltop remains a mystery, but Lauren Cohan also left the series following last week's episode, so at the very least, someone besides Maggie must now be in charge.
The introduction of the Whisperers, however, might just be the biggest change The Walking Dead will undergo this season. They are truly unlike any threat the survivors have faced before, and will bring whole new challenges for them to overcome. They are also perhaps the most anticipated villains since Negan, and the buzz surrounding their arrival has been building ever since the major roles of Alpha (Samantha Morton) and Beta (Ryan Hurst) were cast. But why are the Whisperers such a big deal? We'll explain.
As mentioned above, the Whisperers live in close proximity to the dead, blending in among them. They mask their distinctly alive smell by wearing the skins of the walkers they kill, cleaning and tanning them like leather so they won't catch diseases. They make a point of only speaking in whispers when near the walkers (hence the name) and move at the same slow, lumbering pace, which further helps them to go unnoticed by the dead. However, unlike when the other survivors cover themselves in walker guts as a disguise, the Whisperers take this transformation way more seriously.
The Whisperers are people who have regressed to a more primitive state, abandoning their humanity in order to survive in this harsh world ruled by the dead. They are very territorial, acting more like a pack of animals than people. They do not keep their names or participate in the same family or friend relationships as most people. Violence is also common, with many having a survival of the fittest mentality. There is, however, a hierarchy of sorts within the group. The leader of the Whisperers is woman simply referred to as Alpha and she strictly adheres to this primal way of living. Her second-in-command is Beta, a man of intense loyalty who follows Alpha's every command and kills without question.
Having removed themselves so far from normal human society, the Whisperers are a threat not just to the survivors' well-being but their very way of life. When Eugene and Rosita venture out to place that radio relay, they trespass on Whisperer land - something which Alpha will consider an act of war.
The Walking Dead season 9 continues next Sunday, November 18th with "Stradivarius" at 9:00pm/8c on AMC.