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Spoilers below for the most recent episode of The Walking Dead, so readers should be sure to watch before reading on.
The Walking Dead's most recent episode spent half of its narrative on a music-filled side trek involving Ezekiel's quest for a functioning movie projector light bulb. While this storyline didn't necessary advance the overall narrative, it did introduce a mysterious new symbol that is almost definitely tied to The Whisperers. The episode left the symbol a total enigma, but I'm almost certain there's only one answer for what the symbol could be: a headless stick figure.
For some backstory: as Carol and Ezekiel's group was heading back to the Kingdom after their movie theater adventure, the passed a sign with that specific symbol – a horizontal line with an inverted V beneath it – spray-painted on its rear side. None of the protagonists appeared to see it, though, or a discussion might have been sparked.
Take a fresh peek at the symbol below before we dive into comic spoilers about why we think it represents a decapitated person.
The Whisperers' main mode of inuring others thus far has been with bladed weapons. Remember that Jesus was stabbed to death in the midseason finale, and that most other Whisperers have brandished knives upon making their presence known to unwitting survivors. Alpha may have pulled a shotgun out, but she knows better than to use such a noisy weapon unless it's absolutely necessary.
The groups' affinity for blades will assumedly become brutally apparent quite soon, as evidenced by The Whisperers' most heinous and deadly act in the source material. Without going into details about exactly WHO is involved, suffice to say the group gets their idealogical revenge by decapitating a large number of characters and showing off their efforts with a line of heads on stakes. Not the most positive-minded yard decorations.
Beheadings obviously aren't an easy way for impulsive and short-sighted villains to murder others. A certain amount of dedication and skill is needed to get through the process, especially when more than a small handful of characters are involved. The Whisperers are not messing around when it comes to respecting boundaries, and there are no small penalties to pay for breaking that already fragmented trust.
Which properly brings us back to that symbol. Sure it COULD stand for something else besides a headless stick figure, but it's really hard to lose that imagery once it's in place. Plus, there aren't any immediately obvious answers for it otherwise, so my confidence is fairly steady on this.
That said, it is somewhat difficult to fully justify The Whisperers using such a specific and clue-heavy symbol to mark their territory, considering they're supposed to be a primal group that doesn't have a fixed settlement that would require semi-permanent boundaries or spray paint. Why wouldn't Alpha would use a more plain marking, and why is she even using one at all?
Even without the comic books to go by, Samantha Morton's Alpha has already made it abundantly clear that The Whisperers are not afraid of taking on the Hilltop residents, or anyone else for that matter. She went to Hilltop and demanded the return of her daughter Lydia, while making damned sure to convey that she is the reason why no conflict will spawn from the respective character captures. This is not a villain who needs any actual proof of trespassing to make accusations.
Alpha made it clear that she will pull no punches at any point when she is forced to make fists. This was perhaps best/worst evidenced by her demands for a mother to leave her crying infant on the ground to be a walker sacrifice. It was a weird move to make for a character attempting to get her daughter back from perceived threats, and it was similarly strange for Alpha to slap the shit out of Lydia immediately upon taking her back.
For all her animalistic and morally unbound behavior, Alpha will perhaps come to be best known for baiting other human beings, and her varying levels of antagonizing persuasion were on full display outside of the Hilltop. Though most of her words and actions before Hilltop's elite were subdued on paper, a menacing undercurrent ran throughout it all.
She came unmasked, presenting it as a sign of trustworthiness, even though Daryl & Co. wouldn't have given a shit what Alpha looked like. She mentions a lack of conflict several times, putting it in everyone's minds while making herself out to be the peaceful one. When Daryl made loud and vocal threats, her counter was silently revealing dozens of other Whisperers who were hiding just out of sight, with the promise of others to come. Still under the guise of being a peacekeeper, the crafty dame.
But then it's with the same calm demeanor that Alpha shows off her unwavering heinousness, and how quickly and willingly the Whisperers respond to it. It's understood that Alpha going unmasked allowed everyone at Hilltop a full display of her focus and intensity, just in case anyone would have second-guessed the intentions of a more anonymous leader.
So Alpha definitely sounds like the kind of person who will make some heads roll quite literally, even if she doesn't immediately strike me as the "mark our territory with clever drawings" sort. Of course, it could always just be someone's failed attempt to draw the symbol for pi...on the back of a street sign.
Now, I think there are a lot of viewers out there besides myself that would be all for Alpha choosing to clone Henry a dozen times and just beheading all of them. Unfortunately, Henry is currently presumed to be taking over much of Carl's comic narrative arcs, so he likely won't be losing his head, metaphorically or literally, in any upcoming episodes. Which just means we'll be mourning others in his place. Sigh.
The Walking Dead airs Sunday nights on AMC at 9:00 p.m. ET. Let us know below if you think this idea is heading in the right direction or not.