WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for this week's episode of The Walking Dead, "The Lost and the Plunderers," which premiered Sunday night on AMC.
Even if you're not a fan of The Walking Dead comics, if you've researched them at all, you've likely heard of The Whisperers. They're survivors who have abandoned all humanity and live as animals among the walkers. They protect themselves from attack by wearing suits made of rotting human flesh and never speaking above a whisper. They believe society should try to return to its former state, and instead sublimate all emotion and try to live only by the laws of nature. Their leader is the Alpha, a position that belongs to whomever can hold onto it. They're the next major villain Rick and the communities encounter two years after everyone emerges from "All Out War," and the Alpha he meets is a vicious opponent that puts Negan to shame.
Of course, the producers of AMC's The Walking Dead have been tight-lipped about whether they'll attempt to adapt the Whisperer arc for the hit drama, but there's speculation that the storyline is not only confirmed, but that we've been staring at one of its key players for the past season and a half.
Since her introduction in Season 7, Jadis (played by Pollyanna McIntosh) has been the subject of fan theories that she might one day become Alpha, or some version of her. Both lack the desire to recreate the world as it was before, both seek isolation, both adopted alternate speech and both erred on the side of extreme self-interest. But while Jadis has proved cunning and untrustworthy, at no point has she approached Alpha's capacity for cruelty or disdain for any civilization -- until now?
In this week's episode, "The Lost and the Plunderers," Simon (Steven Ogg) murders Jadis’ entire community in front of her in retaliation for her double-cross with Rick Grimes. It's a shocking and disappointing move that reminds us how dangerous a loose cannon like Simon really is. Jadis survives and is later discovered by Rick and Michonne, who come to seek her assistance once more only to find themselves trapped in the Heaps with a herd of new walkers.
Dazed from the tragedy, Jadis tells Rick and Michonne what happened, and finally reveals her backstory, reverting to normal speech for the first time. She talks about the creation of the Heaps as a refuge for people who wanted to live outside humanity before the epidemic hit in the first place.
When the walkers start approaching all three of them, she begs Rick to help her get out with them, but he refuses, even after Michonne asks him to reconsider. They leave Jadis with the remains of her people, and she winds up leading them to what's essentially a giant meat grinder, where she dizzily watches them turned into human soup. The sequence is as tragic as it is sickening, and McIntosh looks as if she's actually losing her mind before our eyes. Adding to the horror is that Jadis is largely responsible for the murder of her entire group. Simon may have executed them, but it was Jadis’ fickle strategy that put them in his cross hairs.
Given the weight of her experience, it could be we’ve just seen an Alpha origin story. If anything were going to inspire you to shutdown emotionally and convince you to abandon any form of civilization, it’s what just happened to Jadis. It’s almost too easy to imagine her disappearing for a long while (the length of a two-year time jump, perhaps?) and reappearing as a vicious and bitter leader bent on some kind of demented revenge. Fingers crossed!
Airing Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on AMC, The Walking Dead stars Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes, Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon, Lauren Cohan as Maggie Rhee, Danai Gurira as Michonne, Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier, Lennie James as Morgan Jones, Alanna Masterson as Tara Chambler, Josh McDermitt as Eugene Porter, Christian Serratos as Rosita Espinosa and Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan.