When The Walking Dead returns to AMC for the back half of Season 9, viewers will continue to hear the Whisperers' disturbing voices wafting from giant walker herds. Thankfully, we'll get to actually meet some of the effed-up characters behind those noises, such as Samantha Morton's leader Alpha and Ryan Hurst's Beta. Less than two months away from the midseason premiere, AMC has released new key art that offers up our first full look at Alpha.

the whisperers alpha the walking dead season 9

Are you guys thinking the same thing I am? Right, that Alpha looks like a demon-spawn librarian from an elementary student's nightmares. I am successfully bothered by several elements from this winningly decrepit first look.

First, let's talk about the gross-out juxtaposition of the normal (if filthy) hand and the time-worn skin-turned-leather. It's just unsettling to seeing a healthy body part calmly situated near something that looks undead, rather than it being a life-threatening situation. Ever since first reading the Whisperers arc in the Walking Dead comics, I've had a reverse fascination with the villains being fine with old walker skin touching their lips on a constant basis. Seeing it in live-action does not help.

Second, seeing a walker's color-filled eyes behind the dead skin creates a similarly conflicted emotion. It's also unnerving for those to be so locked and focused, which played a big part in making the Walking Dead's midseason finale so damned freaky. Why does Alpha want to know what my soul's core looks like? And if she doesn't, then why is she looking directly at it?

The Walking Dead released a couple of other Whisperer-geared images as well. Check out another one below.

Again with the shushing! It seems to me like The Whisperers would want other survivors to be as loud as possible, allowing the nomadic group to run rampant through others' homes and communities.

Of course, these images are actually reflecting the dialogue-lite way of life that The Whisperers practice, as opposed to how they get others to follow their wishes. They just murder anyone who doesn't, and then sometimes, they'll later use that person's back skin to make a pair of gloves. They're not a group that likes to deliberate things through council meetings like Alexandria is doing these days.

The Whisperers prefer to live the way humans might have lived had we retained our more animal instincts, instead of adopting new technologies. That's why they shed their former identities and adopted rankings like Alpha and Beta. That's presumably also why they're perfectly fine with having dead people's skin touching their lips, the heathens.

The third piece of key art for Season 9's back half is mostly generic, but we do get to see multiple Whisperers at once. Also, spoilers are below for the midseason finale, so be warned if you still aren't caught up.

the walking dead whisperers

For The Walking Dead's midseason finale, viewers got the first direct look at one of The Whisperers in live-action, which led to one of the show's most intense sequences. The episode's fog-covered cliffhanger was a 1-2 punch of shocks, first with the unnamed Whisperer's sudden sentience, and then when Jesus took a lethal knife to his side. It was quite the noteworthy entrance, as depressing as it may have been for Jesus' biggest fans.

Actor Tom Payne is okay with having been killed off the show, though. When he talked with CinemaBlend ahead of the episode's airing, Payne both agreed with my thoughts about his character's relationship with Aaron, and also said this about why Jesus' death wasn't the worst thing to deal with.

They were kind of aware that I was a bit tired of it. Because, you know, I kind of felt like Jesus for the last couple of years was just kind of holed up at the hilltop and not really getting to do anything effective. Like I had that great fight with Lenny, but being a comic book reader as well, I was like, 'Well, when's the fight with Negan? And when's the catching the grenade and throwing it back, and when's all this cool stuff?' And none of the cool stuff actually happened. So, I was like, 'Oh, okay.' I mean, I had some cool stuff, but nothing that cool. So when Angela told me, I was pretty laid back and cool. I was like, 'Okay, great, awesome. Just just make it cool. Make it a good exit.'

Thankfully, it's looking like fans will get to see a bit more from Tom Payne whenever The Walking Dead returns. Since the show has yet to pay off on its X-scars mystery, the narrative will likely be dipping back into the past to lay out what happened to spin Alexandria away from the other communities. So expect to see more Jesus scenes in flashbacks.

For those wondering what we might get from The Whisperers upon Season 9's continuation, here's what showrunner Angela Kang told me when I spoke with her ahead of the finale.

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? 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.

With The Whisperers set to break out the red carpet for their temporary visit -- red with blood, of course -- The Walking Dead will return to AMC for the back half of Season 9 on Sunday, February 10, at 9:00 p.m. ET. There are lots of other great shows hitting primetime this fall and in the 2019 midseason, so be sure to keep an eye out.

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