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Spoiler warning for anyone who isn't yet caught up on The Walking Dead's latest episode, titled "Chokepoint."
Having won over many TV fans' hearts as Sons of Anarchy's tragedy-stricken Opie, Ryan Hurst is now a completely different kind of hairy outsider as The Walking Dead's Beta. The behemoth Whisperer isn't shooting for sympathy, either, having targeted Norman Reedus' fan-favorite Daryl for a testosterone-sopped rumble in just his second appearance. The two tussled eventually in "Chokepoint," which was already an episode full of odd encounters. (WTF are The Highwaymen, for real?)
By Walking Dead-fight standards, Daryl and Beta's brawl was pretty decent and made good use of the setting where it was shot. And as the punches were thrown and bodies were dropped during the Whisperers' attempted ambush, my mind shifted fully to reactionary mode. So let's go over what those impulse thoughts were, shall we?
1. Daryl's Dog sorta made more noise than the humans did, and I'm here for that in a fight sequence. So often in The Walking Dead, action beats are punctuated by loud gunfire, explosions or the ever-present grunts, screams and threats from all the humans involved. Both the Whisperers and Connie have allowed for some interesting uses of silence within intense scenes, and this was a nice follow-up to Connie's frantic cornfield escape. Especially with Dog there going all Shiva on people.
2. Beta is way too super-confident about bursting through walls as a successful attack tactic. If I tried crashing through a wall like that, even an unfinished one, my defeat would be instantly guaranteed. My face/arms/torso would probably get impaled by the awkwardly split plywood, with splinters and drywall specks entering all my uncovered orifices at once. Blinded, I'd then miss my target completely. And the building materials would also all somehow be carrying Ebola and other deadly pathogens.
3. Beta is the one Walking Dead character who should be a WWE superstar. I'll admit that Bladed-Arm Attachment Merle in Season 3 Merle was tailor-made for no-holds-barred backyard wrestling matches. But Beta is primed for primetime WWE action; he's got the unique gimmick, the signature costume, the looming presence and the physical prowess to just toss people around willy nilly. Get this guy some foam finger merch. (Spoilers: another WWE reference may appear below.)
4. Wait, now I'm actually worried about Daryl. Not worried that he'd actually die in this episode, since Beta isn't about to get that privilege this early in his Walking Dead sojourn. Rather, I'm curious about Daryl's mindset during and after all this. Daryl came into the fight as confident as the sun is hot, but quickly realized he was outmanned in many ways, with his fear as present as it's ever been. What's he going to think after Beta returns?
5. That blade didn't even touch Daryl's face. Beta somewhat effortlessly hefted Daryl into the air several times, yet that brute strength wavered just enough when he could have done some permanent damage to Daryl's face. Sure, he wanted to know where Lydia was, and Daryl found the miracle survivor strength to fight back, but why have that three-second blade threat there at all if nobody is going to get cut with it?
6. Beta is either jacked up on PCP, or wearing some magical knife-proof vest, or parts of his chest are made of stiffened cheeses. When Henry's leg got stabbed, he looked as if his guardian angel had just put in his resignation. When Beta's chest got stabbed, Daryl's knife might as well have been crafted from Vienna sausages. Beta just ripped that sucker right out of there, too, which was almost more bothersome than the stabbing. Daryl should just throw that knife away now, though.
7. Did Beta lose this fight to Daryl, or to his ignorance of the building's layout? I kind of love that the animalistic Beta, in the middle of his spiel about not caring about Daryl's people and his world, is ultimately doomed by not recognizing that he was standing in front of the all-too-human convenience of an elevator shaft. Alpha would have called his speech too wordy, also.
8. At least this fight didn't end with both of the fighters falling into a giant hole in the ground. It's technically been a bunch of in-narrative years since Daryl and Rick's ill-timed fisticuffs landed them at the bottom of a deep chasm in the earth. For TV viewers, however, that fight only happened back in October. So even though Beta did fall down a hole, it was a manmade one, and he was the only one that fell in.
9. WTF, are you kidding me with this shit where Beta is not only alive, but is able to just stand up and crack some bones and suddenly falling down an elevator shaft isn't all that dangerous anymore in this universe? As much as I absolutely wanted to see Beta live through this episode, those final moments were plum ridiculous on lots of levels. HOWEVER, that back-from-the-dead move was straight out of The Undertaker's playbook, further proving my point that Beta is destined for WWE championships. So I'm into it.
10. Hmm, is Beta actually Jason Voorhees, and is the Whisperers' storyline actually a stealth Friday the 13th crossover? We know Greg Nicotero loves bringing horror movie references into The Walking Dead, and we know that the Whisperers' masks were inspired in different ways by both Halloween's killer Michael Meyers and Texas Chain Saw Massacre's cannibalistic Leatherface. So after seeing Beta's apparent ability to ignore pain and death during this episode, I now posit that his "true" identity will be revealed to be Jason Voorhees. Maybe no relation.
I'm also still reeling from Carol's amazing approach to winning those highway pirates over by the promise of watching a movie again. Combined with that musical adventure to get the projector bulb, I think the Kingdom's film-related advancements are becoming my favorite element of Season 9. Now I want to know what Jerry would think about Beta rising up from his injuries like that.
Find out what happens next when The Walking Dead airs every Sunday night on AMC at 9:00 p.m. ET.