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Over on The Walking Dead, things are getting heated up for the show's return to AMC for Season 9. We've already spent a while getting excited about the big time jump and the mystery behind Rick's impending exit, but our anticipation was revitalized by the news of Sons of Anarchy vet Ryan Hurst's casting as the villainous Beta. And amusingly enough, Hurst has wasted little time before going after star Jeffrey Dean Morgan and his ruthlessly charming character Negan, whose relationship with Beta in the comics is fairly tense, to say the least. Check it out!
To be sure, the newest Walking Dead recruit isn't genuinely taking Jeffrey Dean Morgan or Negan to task for anything. Hurst is clearly having a little fun with his new costar, which is fitting, since Morgan seemed over the moon about the casting news. But anyone who is unfamiliar with this portion of the comic book narrative might not grasp why the Casablanca image Hurst shared is so great. Mild spoiler warning for those who don't want to know about the corresponding comic book arc.
In Robert Kirkman's source material, Beta is introduced as the second-in-command of the uniquely dressed Whisperers group, making him one of the bigger villains yet to be seen in the TV show. Like the rest, he follows group leader Alpha, to be played by Samantha Morton. When these new villains enter the narrative fray in truly fucked up ways, Negan is being held in a makeshift prison, similar to how things were seen in the first Season 9 trailer. But he doesn't exactly stay there forever, and the first thing Negan does with his newfound freedom is track down the Whisperers.
I'm sure it will surprise no one to learn that Negan and Beta don't exactly get along, with the latter villain showcasing all of Negan's brute anger and violent tendencies, but with none of the lowbrow humor or perverse sense of justice. As well, the Whisperers don't exactly embrace nonconformity where their few rules are concerned, and Negan doesn't exactly embrace rules. Assuming the show doesn't change things up too much for TV, Ryan Hurst's Beta is going to get the biggest headache of his life when he first runs into Negan in Season 9.
To bring it back around to the image, Ryan Hurst shared a shot from the final moments of Casablanca, in which Humphrey Bogart's Rick Blaine remarks to Claude Rains' Louis, "Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship." For one, Negan and Beta are definitely not friends on the page, and nothing about their acquaintanceship is beautiful. As well, that still frame is from the end of the film, after the conflict had been solved and the characters could be free to go on their merry ways. Over on The Walking Dead, the All Out War may be over, but there are no happily ever after feelings happening here. This is just the beginning of a rueful antagonism, if anything.
Unfortunately, it's extremely doubtful that Rick will meet Alpha or Beta, so fans will probably never get to see those confrontations in live-action. Rick is supposed to be meeting his maker (or not) in the first chunk of the season, which may not show very much of the Whisperers, so the two leaders' paths likely won't cross. At least not while both are still breathing.
The Walking Dead will return to AMC for Season 9 on Sunday, October 7, at 9:00 p.m. ET. To see what new and returning shows will be on the way at that point, head to our fall TV premiere schedule.