The following contains significant spoilers for the most recent episode ofÂ The Walking DeadFor folks who don’t read The Walking Dead comics but do watch the show, this last episode ended in a shocking moment. Zombies are talking! Has a new path of evolution been set in motion that will give the walkers intelligence and make them far more formidable?The immediate answer is no. However, our heroes are about to face one of the deadliest threats they’ve ever encountered in the form of the Whisperers, the next big bads to pose a recurring challenge on the show. These survivors don’t just walk among packs of the dead disguised as them, but also maintain herds of same that they can unleash and walk with, safely camouflaged and protected from any human who is not similarly dressed. And Greg Nicotero has promised they will be bringing scares back to the show. They also seem to be in pursuit of Magna’s group, meaning that Judith Grimes’ compassion will, as Negan suggested it might, have dire consequences for Alexandria.In the world of The Walking Dead, the survivors we’ve seen have encountered gangs, despots, cannibals, and cults of personality, but the Whisperers are something new. Rather than try and maintain control over a post-apocalyptic landscape, they embrace it as a chance to revert to what they see as humankind’s natural animal state. As such, the leader only goes by the designation of Alpha; her right-hand man, who is never seen without his zombie mask, is Beta. They’ll be played by Samantha Morton and Ryan Hurst, respectively. Describing the look of their all-practical makeup, Nicotero told the UK’s Daily Express, “We built the brow just far enough down the mask that it makes a shadow over the eyes and when they stand there they look creepy.”But while the actors are new, the characters might have been in the timeline already. Due to their ability to blend in, Nicotero has teased that they might have been spying on Alexandria for a while, especially during the period between time jumps. He said, “Itâ€™s something we will get a chance to see; you donâ€™t know when and you donâ€™t know which herd will be populated by Whisperers or not.” As for how they wear rotting skin without being infected, Robert Kirkman has explained: “the Whisperers… clean the skin of the dead, zombie or otherwise. It’s essentially human leather at that point…The skin is processed. It masks their smell, and makes them smell a little dead, which allows them to move among the dead, but the inside of it… very clean and safe.”If the storyline unfolds anything like the comics, heads will literally roll and be put on stakes (a toy review we did a while back of comics-based figures suggests who might be on the chopping block). Negan will be recruited to help Alexandria against them, and his loyalties will come into question. And in the comics, Alpha’s daughter Lydia struck up a relationship with Carl; that obviously can’t happen on the show, and Judith would seem a bit young to fill that role. Ezekiel and Carol’s adopted son Henry could fit that position, though events yet to unfold are sure to complicate that potential somewhat.One thing we know for sure: Rick was key to the Whisperer storyline in print, so there are definitely going to be some changes and unexpected turns. What do you hope to see from the Whisperer war? Speak your thoughts out loud in comments!
Images: Image Comics, AMC