Potential spoilers for The Walking Dead and major spoilers for The Walking Dead comics ahead
The Walking Dead may masquerade as a zombie comic, but those of us who actually read the book recognize it as so much more. At its core, Robert Kirkman’s series is tale of survival. What happens when life as we know it ends? What do we become? How do we subsist when all seems lost?
The series has always taken an honest look at these questions, because realistically, not everyone survives. However, there are worse fates than death. Surprisingly, it’s not the dead that are truly monstrous, but rather, those still counted among the living.
Ultimately, the zombies have never been more than a catalyst. The real villains of the piece are just men. Our favorite survivors have met countless monsters in men’s clothing along their journey. The governor was a truly terrifying – if one-dimensional – antagonist. After that, there was Negan; an entirely new kind of menace. The series’ most recent Big Bad is the Whisperers. Although it is unknown when exactly they will make their onscreen debut, it is safe to speculate that it can’t be too far off.
Here are 15 Things You Need To Know About The Whisperers.
15 Their initial reveal made it seem as though the dead had begun to talk
By the time the Whisperers appeared in The Walking Dead #130, the comic’s rules about the undead had already been firmly established. They were mindless drones with a yen for human flesh. However, the Whisperers initially seemed to completely upset the status quo.
An exhausted Ken and Marco were struggling to make it back to the Hilltop alive. They wound up having to hide out in order to avoid being spotted by a herd of zombies. The two men waited anxiously for the horde to pass, but something incredible happened: the dead were whispering! They were actually communicating with one another. The comic did what it has become known for, ending the issue with one crazy cliffhanger.
At this point in the series, making that big of a change to the mythology was a risky proposition. Luckily, TWD excels in subverting expectations and that wasn’t the direction Robert Kirkman planned on going in. It wasn’t even close.
14 They do not fight the Walkers, but live among them
After Marco left an injured Ken to die, a search party was sent to look for him. Marco warned his fellow survivors about the talking dead, but no one took him seriously. That search party ran straight into a herd of roamers. Dante was so busy fighting for his life that he failed to notice that the dead were acting differently. For one thing, rather than tear his friends apart, the zombies were stabbing them with knives. Dante winds up the sole survivor of his group and the first among them to see what they are actually dealing with.
The Whisperers walk freely among the dead. They clean and dry out the flesh, making leather out of it for them to wear. The flesh masks their scent and they whisper so as not to alert the living dead to their presence. Rather than fight the Walkers, the Whisperers simply move freely among the herd.
13 Their leader goes by Alpha, her second in command, Beta
It remains unknown how Alpha came to be the leader of her pack, although she has mentioned having to fight for the position multiple times. What is known is that Alpha is as cruel and remorseless as she is cunning and resourceful. By her estimation, emotions are a weakness that her people simply cannot afford. Her savagery even extends to her own daughter, but more on that later. Although Alpha seems to think that she no longer suffers from the defect of having feelings, this is later proven to be false.
Beta is Alpha’s second in command and he is fiercely loyal to her. He appears to have no desire to usurp her throne and after her death, while he does become the group’s de facto leader, he is adamant that there will never be another Alpha. Although he didn’t have plans to take over as leader, once he does, he picks up right where she left off.
12 They believe that they are truly free
When Rick and Alpha have their first heart-to-heart, she cruelly mocks the life he has worked so hard to build for himself and his family. Alpha likens him and his fellow survivors to children playing make-believe. She truly feels that his people are living in a fantasy world and that the way that the Whisperers live is far more honest. However, to Rick, they live like animals. Alpha tells him, “We are animals who always pretended we were not.”
Alpha is unashamed of their pack mentality. The Whisperers have shrugged off most of the constraints that humans are bound by and they make no apologies. In Alpha’s opinion, this world hasn’t destroyed humanity, but rather has given them a precious gift: freedom. To her, the Whisperers are living the way that man was meant to. When Rick points out that they are all basically just enslaved to Alpha, she merely responds by telling him that “animals need a leader.” Rick is horrified when he realizes that this is more than a power trip and that Alpha believes every word.
11 Beta doesn’t want anyone to see his face
There have been a couple of examples so far of how desperately Beta wants to keep his identity a secret and fan theories are running rampant. There are any number of explanations for why Beta is so serious about keeping his second face on at all times. In the letter column of issue #161, Kirkman did say, “We will soon know why Beta likes to hide his face.” Until then, let the speculation begin!
Perhaps Beta is someone we have seen before. He could be a long-forgotten character who everyone thinks is dead or he could even be a cast-out member of the Saviors, hiding Negan’s trademark iron scar underneath the skin of the dead. Another interesting theory is that he is a celebrity who is intent on keeping his anonymity. The only truly distinguishing characteristic we have to go on is that he is incredibly tall.
Maybe none of these ideas have merit and Beta is just some dude we’ve never met with some sort of embarrassing skin condition. Either way, we shouldn’t have to wait too much longer to find out.
10 Alpha’s daughter Lydia was taken hostage
When Jesus and his group initially tangled with a group of Whisperers, it didn’t go very well. However, when the fight turned Jesus’s way, the last Whisperer standing pleaded for her life and he took her back to the Hilltop as a hostage. However, this prisoner wasn’t exactly who or what they thought she would be: she was a sixteen-year-old girl. Jesus questioned her and uncovered certain truths about her incredibly bleak existence. Lydia wasn’t the only person locked up in those cells, though. Carl was her next-door neighbor.
The story there is that Carl had been a bit overzealous when fighting some bullies – although, trust us, they had it coming – and was placed in a holding cell, while Hilltop boss Maggie figured out how to proceed. Lydia was alone and scared, so Carl attempted to comfort her. It didn’t take long for these two to realize that they had quite a bit in common.
9 Alpha isn't as cold as she seems
When Alpha discovered that her daughter had been captured, she offered Maggie a trade: Ken and Dante in exchange for Lydia. Maggie agreed, although Carl was against it. He knew what Lydia would be returning to. Her place in the herd led to her continual rape and abuse, – although it is not considered to be such by the Whisperers – and her mother does nothing to help her. So, when Lydia was returned to her group, Carl followed close behind.
When Rick showed up looking for Carl, Alpha insisted on some one-on-one time. This conversation is the first time that we see her hard veneer crack – although it won’t be the last. Alpha spends a lot of time philosophizing about how rape is a man-made construct and how the Whisperers are simply acting the way that man was meant to act. However, she must want better for her daughter, because in the end, she turns Lydia over to Rick.
8 Carl fell in love with Lydia
Rick's son has had to grow up far too fast, which is an unfortunate circumstance that Lydia can relate to. Lydia is not even allowed to refer to her mom as mother, because the woman prefers that her own daughter call her Alpha.
Carl never had a childhood. He has also never had a romantic relationship. He and Lydia quickly bonded, although understandably, her loyalties remained in question by the rest of the survivors.
As Carl and Lydia grew closer, she began to realize that the way she had been treated by her pack is not only wrong, but that life doesn’t have to be that way. In an uncivilized world, the people of Alexandria (most of them anyway) have found a way to hold on to their humanity. This epiphany, in addition to her feelings for Carl, caused Lydia to turn on her people. When the Whisperers led a full-on assault on Alexandria, she stood with the other survivors.
7 They take their borders very seriously
Rick Grimes pretty much always has a plan. His community depends on this fact. However, his altercation with Alpha completely upended that faith. She made it abundantly clear that his people were not to cross over into the Whisperers’ territory. Alpha left Rick feeling more powerless than he’d felt in a long time.
To make sure that Rick understood the gravity of the situation, the Whisperers murdered members from all of their communities. Their heads were then mounted on pikes in order to mark the line that was no longer to be crossed. Notably, Ezekiel and Rosita were among the dead. It was obviously a huge blow to all four communities and everyone was waiting on Rick for their next step. However, Rick had seen what none of them had: Alpha had a horde of Walkers at her disposal and it was far bigger than anything the survivors had ever encountered.
6 Negan pretended to join them, only to kill their leader
When Rick chose to imprison Negan, rather than kill him, we all knew that this action would come back to bite him. Sure enough, Negan escaped eventually, set free by some jerk who was unhappy with Rick’s leadership skills and wanted to fan the flames between Alexandria and the Whisperers in an effort to take Rick down. However, Negan is nobody’s puppet, as evidenced by the fact that he murdered Brandon, the guy who set him free, and continued on alone.
Negan did flee to Whisperer territory and attempted to join them. He managed to charm his way into becoming Alpha’s confidant, although Beta didn't trust him. The big man was right, because pretty much as soon as Alpha let down her guard, Negan slit her throat. Interestingly, the purpose of this was actually get himself into Rick’s good graces. It turns out that Negan never intended to betray him in the first place.
5 The Whisperer War united Rick and Negan
Negan butchering Alpha didn't exactly work out the way that he'd hoped, but it was a start. Although hesitant to trust him – and who wouldn't be – Rick agreed to eventually let Negan out of his cell, but also to keep him out of their community. However, these freedoms would have to be earned by Negan's loyalty during the looming war.
Negan tells Rick that he is inspired by him, by the way that they are living in Alexandria, and that he wants to fight on his side. This seemed like it might be a ploy of some sort, but thus far Negan has kept his word. Let's be real though, there's no coming back from murdering Glenn.
Negan was not only denied a gun to face off against the Whisperers, but he was also not allowed access to his favorite weapon, Lucille. The bat had been in Dwight's possession since his imprisonment. In the heat of battle though, Dwight acquiesced and tossed Lucille to Negan. However, it was to be her final fight.
4 The battle led to the death of Lucille
Negan has had a strong and weirdly sexual attachment to his barbed wire-wrapped bat, Lucille, since the moment he was introduced. Initially, it seemed to be one of the character's quirks, but it was recently revealed to be more than that. Although we haven't learned much about Negan's origins in The Walking Dead, his backstory is being spooled out 4 pages at a time in Image Plus.
The bat is named for Negan's wife, who tragically died of cancer. Unsurprisingly, Negan wasn't a great husband and was in the midst of an affair when his wife was diagnosed. He did break off the tryst in an effort to truly be with Lucille, who died just in time to turn into a zombie at the onset of the outbreak. Unable to put her down, Negan enlisted the help of a stranger. In the most recent issue of TWD, Negan opened up to Rick about the intense guilt that he still has over abandoning her.
3 The Whisperer War left Alexandria wide open for attack
Sure, thus far Rick and Co. have managed to beat back the ridiculously large horde of zombies led to their doorstep by the Whisperers. Alpha is dead and Beta is on the run - although we've no doubt not seen the last of him. For the moment, it would seem that our heroes are victorious. Wait a minute, though, this is The Walking Dead we're talking about! A major story arc with the word "War" in the title and not a single character we care about has died in the last six issues? That can't be right.
The worst must be yet to come for our favorite characters. We can always count on that. It turns out that the Saviors, Negan's original gang, are planning a coup. They've been biding their time, well aware of the unbelievable odds that their fellow survivors are facing. Seemingly without Dwight knowing about it - although we can't be certain he doesn't - these guys are just waiting for the members of Alexandria to crash and burn, so that they can swoop in and pick up the pieces, taking the community for themselves!
2 They may show up on The Walking Dead sooner than you think
Although fans have been speculating about the Whisperers' imminent arrival for quite some time, many believe it's far too soon for them to make an appearance. The “Whisperer War” arc only just wrapped in the comic and introducing them in season 7 seems too soon. The show would rapidly be catching up to the comic and while much changes from page to screen, often the larger brush strokes of the series remain the same.
That being said, the Whisperers were introduced in issue #130 of TWD. The most recent issue is #164. That's quite a bit of story to tell before the show catches up to the comic. The Whisperers existed on the periphery for a bit before things ramped up to the aforementioned most recent arc. In order to properly build the tension between groups, bringing them even as early as next season makes perfect sense.
Thanks to the heads seen on pikes in ads for season 7, many fans believed that this most recent group introduced on TWD could, in fact, be the Whisperers. However, Jadis and her Scavengers appear to have no roots in the comic at all. Only time will tell if they turn out to be something more familiar.
1 They could appear on Fear the Walking Dead first
It is possible TWD won't be the first place that Alpha and her herd rear their heads. Robert Kirkman is known for jokes and misdirection, but something he teased during TWD panel at NYCC back in October made a lot of sense. When asked where the the whole "wearing flesh" thing came from, Kirkman stated, "I feel like it's something that probably evolved over time. Maybe they were putting blood all over their faces and were walking around in Mexico and went, 'Oh, it would probably be better if we just used skin."
On Fear the Walking Dead, Nick has often used this trick of smearing blood and guts all over himself, in order to walk freely among the roamers - and he's not the only character on the show who has done so. Perhaps these survivors or others who adopt this tactic of living with the dead eventually take it too far.
We could be watching their origin story unfold on Fear The Walking Dead before they ever set foot on its parent show. There would also be excellent crossover potential. Alas, it most likely won't happen, as the shows take place on opposite coasts, but it is possible.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9PM EST on AMC.