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Spoilers below for anyone who hasn't yet watched The Walking Dead's latest episode, titled "Omega."
It feels like just yesterday when The Walking Dead's protagonists were just starting to hear whispers about a mysterious man named Negan, and viewers are already getting to know the Whisperers' disturbing head honcho Alpha, as well as her daughter Lydia. Of course, the AMC series' cast is now missing quite a few faces familiar from those pre-Negan days, which also further distances it from Robert Kirkman's original comic book narratives.
For those reasons and more, "Omega" delivered a deeper look at Alpha that wasn't entirely present in the source material, and also provided TV Lydia with a largely necessary change-up from how Comic Lycia's story was initially laid out. Below, we'll go into those differences in a slightly more straightforward manner than the way in which Alpha's post-outbreak story was introduced.
Frankly, The Walking Dead's creative team didn't face strenuous efforts in switching up Alpha's backstory for the live-action series. Why? Because the Whisperers' leader wasn't given mountains of development whenever the skin-sewing villains first claimed their territory on the page. Much could be presumed and speculated upon thanks to context clues, but next to nothing about Comic Alpha's life prior to the Whisperers' formation is known.
The TV show, however, made efforts to give Alpha more dimensions, which is clearly the smart way to go with someone as awesome as Samantha Morton in the role. Interestingly, the episode started off as seen through the eyes of an unreliable narrator, which disingenuously set Alpha up as a stress-worn mother driven to the brink by an impossibly desperate situation. Whatever the truth of her distant path is, Alpha was almost definitely a dark-minded and domineering individual long before the walkers got to shambling.
Lydia was at first eking useful information from Henry to try and barter her way back into the Whisperers' ranks. She tried faux-relating to Henry, saying she had an asshole dad (Steve Kazee's Frank) who was intent on screwing up the largely safe, if largely hopeless, situation they were in during the first waves of outbreak panic and chaos. Lydia said Frank was the parent who made a big, dramatic shave in the name of not giving a fuck, and that he was an egotistical and easily bothered patriarch.
However, Lydia's hole-ridden story started breaking down after she came to realize that Henry and others within Hilltop – even the ladle-lording Daryl – weren't complete morons for attempting to rebuild society, and that there were indeed riches to be found when aspects of modern civilization can be reclaimed. At this point, her true thoughts and memories of her mother rose non-gingerly to the surface.
It turns out Papa Frank wasn't such a bad guy at all. Assuming Lydia's later admissions were legitimate, her father was as much a ghost in Alpha's shadow as the majority of her followers were/are. Granted, no one's stress level was ideal, but Alpha straight-up murdered Frank after he threatened to take Lydia away from their then-home. And she has clearly continued to abuse Lydia over the years in various ways.
Though The Walking Dead has yet to showcase Alpha's über-maliciousness in the most current timeline, this episode seemed intent on driving home the idea that Alpha no longer conforms to anyone's standards but her own in the post-apocalypse. It's likely that not even Lydia was able to predict her mother would show up at Hilltop's front gate, sans Whisperer get-up, saying:
I am Alpha! And we only want one thing from you: my daughter.
A similar situation did indeed happen in the comics, with Alpha trading over the lives of captives Ken and Dante in exchange for Lydia .In the case of the TV show, Lydia would likely be traded for Luke and Alden, who were the duo captured at the end of the previous episode, "Adaptation." That said, I still have my suspicions that those two will actually survive the remainder of the season.
So that was Alpha. Now, let's talk about her second banana. No, not Beta, but her daughter.
Much of Lydia's live-action story in "Omega" fell right along the same lines as things did it n the comic book, just with vastly different elements in place. The circumstances behind her capture were different, but in negligible ways. The biggest change affecting Lydia's comic-to-TV transition is the all-around lack of Carl Grimes on the AMC series.
Matt Lintz's Henry is clearly set to get friendly (and possibly more) with Cassady McClincy's Lydia as Season 9 goes on, but considering this comic through-line revolved around Carl and his particular place within this universe, it's not hard to imagine showrunner Angela Kang and the writing staff finding ways to expand Lydia's story beyond just atypical post-apocalyptic teen romance stuff.
An instant advantage for TV Lydia is that she doesn't have to ever be known as "the girl that licked Carl's empty eye socket," as the comic iteration did, though she does have to own sucking down dirty worms straight from the earth, apropos of nothing but the soil's presence. (No way TV Carl would have eaten a worm like Henry did, because Chandler Riggs' Carl developed a real sense of pride by the end.)
Things hastened understandably between Lydia and Henry and Daryl – with the latter as the live-action stand-in for the comics' Maggie, who kept a close eye on Lydia and Carl's burgeoning relationship. Henry moronically trusted Lydia quickly enough to grant her a moonlit constitution, which is when it became abundantly clear that the psychological traumas seared into Lydia's brain and body can never be fully smoothed away by any rebellious and/or threat-heavy facade.
Lydia's scars and bruises have been made fully apparent, but The Walking Dead hasn't yet approached the topic of sex within the neo-primal Whisperers clan. The topic is pretty sensitive in the comics, considering the group's animalistic nature catalogues consent as an afterthought at best. Even without those additional horrors, Alpha and Lydia's dynamic already feels like something of a 180 from the source material.
Without getting too into comic spoilers, Alpha is set up to be the emotion-free link between humanity and the undead, but key moments crop up where readers realized the Whisperers' leader sometimes suffered lapses in her inhumanity. However, the flashback situation in "Omega" starts TV Alpha off on a truly unsympathetic foot, and fans now know how relatively little it took for her to crack in years past. Could Samantha Morton's Alpha actually still be harboring or producing empathy somewhere inside?
On the flip side, Comic Lydia very quickly came across as a teen whose PTSD had already been in place for a while, giving her a quirky and uneasy edge that rested somewhere outside domesticity. TV Lydia, meanwhile, is still in a zone where she's just starting to come to terms with how backwards her victimization has been. As such, she earns more sympathy and by the end, it doesn't seem like she'd have a lot of good reasons to follow Alpha back to such a nomadic lifestyle.
As The Walking Dead gets closer and closer to Season 9's unpredictable conclusion(s), the AMC drama will hopefully at last draw reference to those X-scars on Daryl and Michonne's backs soon. Fans can find it airing on AMC every Sunday night at 9:00 p.m. ET. Thankfully, we don't have to worry about the show's future, since it already got a renewals in 2019, as have many other big shows.