Greg Nicotero promised The Walking Dead was going to get scary again, and some newly released images from the show’s upcoming mid-season premiere (set for Sunday, February 9 at 9PM) look like a big step in that direction. We’ve become so accustomed to zombies with whiteout contact lenses that to suddenly see them with intelligent human eyes is incongruous and unsettling, as the opening scene from the midseason finale demonstrated.The Whisperers revealed themselves in that same episode to be hostile humans wearing walker masks and outfits, warning our main characters they should not be where they don’t belong, right before fatally stabbing Jesus through the chest. As comics readers know, the Whisperers also share a belief that mankind is most natural in an animalistic state, and have welcomed the zombie apocalypse as a means to revert to that. Like any carnivorous pack, they are led by an alpha, who goes only by that descriptor rather than a name. Played by Samantha Morton, she has now been revealed at last:On the page, she’s bald underneath the mask, something Morton has experience with from Minority Report, though it’s not clear yet if her on-camera pate will be absolutely faithful to that. Naturally, Negan will declare that he is in love with her (if the comic storyline holds), though his sincerity, as usual, is hard to gauge.Alpha’s second-in-command, Beta, never removes his mask. This would appear to be our first look at him:Alpha also has a daughter who served as a love interest for Carl; obviously that’s going to be different on the show. Carol and Ezekiel’s son Henry would seem to be the natural substitute, but we’ll see.Here’s the official synopsis for the rest of the season:
The second half of â€œThe Walking Deadâ€ Season 9 finds our groups of survivors, both old and new, continuing to deal with the impact of events that took place during the six years that have passed. Since the disappearance of Rick, many of these characters have become strangers to each other, and in some ways, strangers to themselves. What they do know is that they are in undeniable danger. They will soon realize the world just beyond does not operate as they thought. The groupâ€™s rules and ways of survival no longer guarantee their safety. A whole new threat has crossed their paths, and they soon discover itâ€™s unlike any threat they have encountered or endured before. The group will start to question what they think they see. What may appear to be normal in this post-apocalyptic world could actually be more disturbing and terrifying than when the apocalypse first broke out. All that is certain is the stakes are high and numerous.
That last line is actually a nasty pun, given the Whisperer’s penchant for putting adversaries’ heads on actual stakes. Kudos, AMC copy writer.