WARNING: This article contains spoiler for The Walking Dead comic series, and potential spoilers for the hit AMC drama.
This weekend as part of Comic-Con International in San Diego, AMC released a trailer for the eighth season of The Walking Dead that set the stage for a massive conflict between the survivors and Negan’s band of Saviors. However, the final moments teased ramifications beyond that, featuring a much older Rick Grimes, and hinting that the hit drama will go even further than the all-out war between factions and jump ahead into the future, just as the comics did.
If The Walking Dead Season 8 is going to go beyond the threat of Negan and into a new territory, that means the survivors need to prepare for a new enemy unlike any they’ve encountered before, because sooner rather than later, The Whisperers are going to appear. The group is one of Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard’s most shocking and dangerous additions to the world of The Walking Dead. And its leader may pose an even greater threat than Negan or The Governor.
Whispers Into Screams
In The Walking Dead comic, the first survivors to encounter The Whisperers are Marco and Ken, who become stranded while on patrol and find themselves surrounded by a herd of walkers. As they hide, they hear the most surprising thing: zombies talking among themselves. Marco is forced to abandon the injured Ken to go find help, and in turn, Maggie sends a search party to rescue him. Led by Dante, that group dispatches the herd but finds themselves faced with four remaining zombies capable not only of speech, but of wielding weapons.
After taking out their attackers, Dante discovers these zombies are actually survivors wearing the skin of the dead as masks to hide in plain sight among the walkers. Eventually, the group is able to capture one of The Whisperers alive, a teenage girl named Lydia. Meanwhile, Carl Grimes gets in hot water himself after a group of boys attack him, and he nearly kills them while defending himself. He's then placed in a cell next door to Lydia, and they became close.
A Boy In Love
Although Carl spends only a short time in his cell, he bonds with Lydia and believes she could be integrated into their society. He continues to visit her and offer stories of his own survival, even sharing his lucky cowboy hat from when he was younger. Eventually, Lydia is released into Carl’s care, in hopes that she'll become more cooperative and divulge where she comes from. Carl learns more about Lydia's society and what she went through, as The Whisperers arrive at the gates.
Maggie meets with The Whisperers and learns that their leader Alpha is Lydia’s mother; they come to propose a trade: Dante and Ken are still alive and will be returned on the understanding that Lydia will be handed over and the survivors will no longer cross into The Whisperer’s territory. Although the trade is completed, Carl tries to argue to keep Lydia safe, and when she's handed back to The Whisperers, he takes off on his own to get her back.
When Carl catches up with The Whisperers, he's invited back to their camp and discovers more about their twisted worldview. Alpha believes the zombie apocalypse was a way to bring mankind back to how it is supposed to live, thus explaining The Whisperers' nomadic lifestyle. They live off the land and value strength above all else; if a person isn’t strong enough to defend himself, then what happens to him is his own fault. There’s no time to mourn those who aren't strong enough to survive and, as the leader, Alpha needs to constantly demonstrate that she is the strongest, or risk being challenged by would-be usurpers.
While most of the clashes Rick and the other survivors have been embroiled in were about two rival groups trying to keep their members alive, Alpha represents a much different threat. She and her group see the world in a way that fundamentally opposes everything the survivors stand for, and the two ideologies are incompatible to the point that conflict is inevitable. Alpha and The Whisperers attempt to draw the line between their territory and that of the survivors, but by doing so with the still-living heads of citizens of Alexandria, they send a message to a group that had only known war for so many years.
The Enemy of My Enemy
The biggest threat posed by Alpha and The Whisperers isn't the group itself, but what its attack does to the survivors in the other communities. The grieving family members of those who were killed want vengeance against The Whisperers, but Rick urges caution against attacking such a large group that could direct herds of zombies their way. This leads to the group questioning Rick’s ability to lead, for the first time in years, and causes him to turn to none other than Negan for help in stopping The Whisperers.
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That’s where things get really interesting, because as cool as it would be to see Alpha and The Whisperers on screen, the real hook is that they’re a threat so big it brings Rick Grimes and Negan together to sort it out. Andrew Lincoln and Jeffrey Dean Morgan play enemies so well that when they’re finally forced to stand side by side against The Whisperers, at least metaphorically, it’s going to make for some fantastic television.
That said, the television series has always played out somewhat differently than the comic and there’s a number of interesting directions season eight could go with or without The Whisperers. The thing is though, they are coming eventually, and there’s no way Rick and his band of survivors are ready for them or what they’re about to go through at the hands of the most vicious villains in Walking Dead history.
Starring Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes, Chandler Riggs as Carl Grimes, Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon, Melissa McBride as Carol Peleteir, Lauren Cohan as Maggie Green, Danai Gurira as Michonne, and many, many more, The Walking Dead will return for its eighth season October 22 on AMC.