Major spoilers below for the midseason premiere of The Walking Dead Season 9, so be sure to watch it entirely before reading on. Comic book connections will also be discussed.
For the first half of Season 9, The Walking Dead largely refrained from introducing major big bads, which got completely upended for the Whisperer-introducing winter finale. (R.I.P. Jesus.) In the midseason premiere, titled "Adaptation," the skin-clad villains made an even bigger impact on our heroes, and fans finally got our first in-episode look at Samantha Morton's deadly leader Alpha! And perhaps our last living looks at two other characters.
Comic book readers, and TV fans who haven't shied away from reading about later comic arcs, are aware that The Whisperers' biggest moment in the source material is truly one of the most vicious and shocking moments of Robert Kirkman's entire series. It involves the deaths of quite a few protagonists, both those beloved and barely introduced, and the midseason premiere seems to have seriously doomed Callan McAuliffe's Alden and Dan Fogler's Luke.
The episode kicked off right where the midseason finale ended, and the recently killed-off Jesus was soon taken back to Hilltop, all while being followed and threatened by the hard-to-recognize Whisperers. Out of worry, it was decided by Hilltop's revised leadership that a small search party was warranted, and Luke energetically volunteered to be involved. Silly man.
Almost frustratingly, Luke and Alden's trek was mutually exclusive from anything happening with Michonne and Daryl's larger and far more formidable group. The latter headed back to Hilltop, armed with the depressing news of Jesus' death, and a tentative hostage in the young female Whisperer Lydia, who just so happens to be Alpha's daughter. Michonne & Co. didn't need anyone endangering themselves looking for them, so whatever happens to Alden and Luke will likely be for nothing.
While on their bonding mini-mission, Luke and Alden assumed they were being led to their friends by a trail of Yumiko's arrows, only to discover it was a trap. The unwitting duo was drawn directly to the Whisperers' head honcho, Alpha, and a group of her gross and spooky AF followers. Alpha barely spoke, but a threat such as this doesn't need further extrapolation.
The trail ends here.
Effectively chilling, largely because of how underplayed it was, and obviously because of the looming shotgun. That moment was very close to how Alpha's shocking introduction went down in the comics, though not with these characters, and not following these preceding events. And she actually said, "Don't move," on the page. But close enough, right?
Now let's go over what could happen with these two characters as Season 9 continues.
Someone Is Going To Die
Not a whole lot of surprises wrapped up in this choice, right? How often are two side characters (whose actors only recently hit "regular" status) the first people to meet a new villain, only for them to breezily live to tell the tale to other survivors? It happens, sure, but not so often in general, and less so in horror projects like this. Especially not when the characters make future plans to start a band together.
Without getting too into the spoiler-ridden details, Comic Alpha and the rest of her group show territoriality in a particularly brutal fashion that involves heads and stakes. It's more than likely that TV Alpha will follow very similar behavior, too. As such, nearly everyone beyond Daryl and Michonne are potential victims, since Danai Gurira and Norman Reedus are reportedly presumed to stay on into Season 10 and possibly other entry-points in the Walking Dead's expanding franchising.
Things are playing out somewhat similarly on TV with how they went in the comics, but with obvious changes, considering Rick and Carl are no longer around. Comic Luke ma-a-aybe doesn't survive beyond the Whisperer War, though, and only a miracle could get him out of this. Not to mention star Dan Fogler will eventually be extremely busy with production for the next Fantastic Beasts sequel, which reportedly got delayed because the film will be "bigger than the first two combined."
Alden doesn't have a direct comic book counterpart, but he was likely intended to be a stand-in for the source material's Dante, whose comic survival isn't a hard blueprint to go by for the TV version. His introduction coincided with Alpha's, meaning his death wouldn't have meant as much at the time. Dante also becomes a love interest for Maggie, but she's now absent from the show. His courtship with Enid is possibly meant to reflect that, but it felt more like a last stab at emotional relevance.
So as it stands, I'm right around 100% certain that one of these characters is going to be dead in the next episode that viewers see them in. And I'm around 60% sure it'll be both of them. But The Walking Dead might just fool me with this one.
They're Both Going To Live
Technically, at least one possibility or two exists in which The Walking Dead would allow both Alden and Luke to successfully make it back to the Hilltop, or to Alexandria, or to any place where they can change their assumedly soiled pants. One key detail that hasn't been determined yet is if Alpha realizes that Lydia has been taken captive.
If Alpha does know of Lydia's current situation, then she may use either Luke or Alden as collateral while the other goes to set up an exchange for the villainous leader's daughter. She might just put take one of them down on the spot as a visceral warning, which I would not put past her.
The thing is, it would be a lot easier to speculate about Luke and Alden's safety if the Whisperers hadn't already killed Jesus and then tried to kill the others. It's not really a "warning shot" when you aim directly for their head, after all, so there's no real reason to think the Whisperers are capable of holding back from their more primitive instincts. Especially when it looks like former big bad Negan is all conscience-driven and shit.
Intelligent readers, what do you all think will happen with Alden and Luke? Do they have what it takes to keep their heads atop their bodies for at least a few more episodes, or is their two-man band destined to remain unformed? Let us know below!