Warning! Major spoilers below for The Walking Dead's midseason finale, so be sure to watch before reading our exclusive info from Angela Kang.
To mark the midway point in its time-jumping ninth season, The Walking Dead capped its winter finale off by putting the protagonists up close and personal with the newest villain group, The Whisperers. (Perhaps it was a little too up close for one character.) Those final fog-cloaked minutes ushered in some of The Walking Dead's freakiest moments in years, and still only gave fans a mere glimpse of The Whisperers themselves. So what's next?
CinemaBlend spoke with The Walking Dead's showrunner Angela Kang ahead of the midseason finale's airing, and she told me how the show will dig into The Whisperers' story in the back half of the season, following that wild cliffhanger.
I think it's really just a fascinating group. They're unlike any group that our people have encountered before, and their philosophy is so specific and so strange. So that's a big part of the story going forward is we will just kind of peel the layers of that onion and you'll just learn more and more about who they are and what they believe. But also in the way that they apply that, you know?
Without getting too far into comic-based details, The Whisperers operate under the general belief that human beings have gone too far astray from our animalistic roots. They're as lo-fi a pack of villains as there can be, even in a world where technology has been all but vanquished outside of phonographs. It's obviously unclear if Angela Kang's creative team will be adhering to all of the Whisperers' comic elements, but one would expect the broad strokes to remain intact in the adaptation.
It almost goes without saying that The Whisperers are a deadly group that doesn't believe in bringing the judge and jury to the party alongside the executioner. Fans probably shouldn't expect these creepsters to change those habits when their story gets...fleshed out. (Pun absolutely intended.) According to Angela Kang:
They're not really a group that just kind of talks about a thing and doesn't do stuff. They do what they believe, you know, and what they believe can be brutal.
The Whisperers' bestial nature makes them a more feral and unpredictable threat than Negan was. As deadly as the leather-clad leader and his Saviors were, Negan did maintain a loose sense of justice during his reign. If people did the shit he asked for, and didn't gun down a bunch of his minions, then he was pretty good about letting them live. He didn't, you know, wear a well-crafted walker suit in order to stab someone in the dark.
I'm anxious to see how the show will inform viewers of all of The Whisperers' ideals and behavior choices. Its members speak aloud sparingly, and Rick isn't around anymore to serve as their humanist antithesis. It's assumed that we'll get to hear some much-welcomed exposition about the group's intentions whenever viewers are formally introduced to its leader, Alpha.
The cold and calculating Alpha is set to be played by Samantha Morton, who has most recently been winning over fans and critics on Hulu's Harlots, while Sons of Anarchy and Bates Motel vet Ryan Hurst will portray the domineering Beta. The two big bads have some very interesting moments with Negan in the comics, along with other characters, so we'll just have to wait and see if Negan's new lease on freedom will take him their way soon.
"Evolution" was more or less an expansion of Issues #131 and 132 of the Walking Dead comic book. Except the TV show wisely used Daryl, Jesus, Eugene and Aaron here, as opposed to lower-tiered characters. In the comics, Dante escapes the Whisperers' barn attack, while two random guards get killed off. Meanwhile, Jesus had indeed been attacked by the Whisperers on the page, even taking one of them captive, but did not die in the process.
I asked Angela Kang about adapting The Whisperers for television after all of the other popular antagonists that have been brought to the show. Saying how big of a fan she was even before a Walking Dead writers job was in the cards, the showrunner continued:
I think Kirkman does an amazing job plotting out these comics. They're page-turners. And every villain, I'm like, 'Okay, well this is the best storyline. Can't be beat.' Then he'll come up with something new, and you go, 'Okay, that was pretty great.' Then when we got to The Whisperers -- you know, we were reading the Whisperers comics while we were making one of the seasons of the show, and just literally going, 'What? What's happening?! What's he doing?' And so like, that's really the feeling that we wanted to try to capture within the show itself. That was really the spirit with which we went at it. It's trying to capture that sense of delight and the feeling of being intrigued and scared. And so that was sort of our philosophy in how to tell the story. Fingers crossed, we succeeded a little bit.
While I obviously can't speak for all fans, I've been extremely pleased by the way The Walking Dead has teased out the Whisperers' story so far. Especially since viewers didn't have to wait a month between each of the last three episodes like comic fans did. (Although comic fans never have to deal with winter hiatuses.) Plus, all of the light touches made that final reveal all the more effectively jarring. As a comic fan who knew exactly what to expect, I still gasped.
How will The Whisperers cause more havoc in the lives of Team Alexandria, Team Hilltop and the rest? Will the fight against The Whisperers be what brings all of the communities back together again for something resembling harmony? Or will the newest villains actually end up destroying whatever connections remain?
The Walking Dead is now finished with the first half of Season 9, and won't be back in front of our faces on AMC until Sunday, February 10, 2019. While waiting to hear when it'll return, let us know how you felt about the Whisperers' dramatic reveal in tonight's episode. There's also lots of good fall TV premieres to catch up with while getting pumped for everything else hitting primetime in the midseason.