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Spoilers below for The Walking Dead TV show and comic book, so be warned.
The Walking Dead's "We Are the End of the World" detailed the first time Samantha Morton's Alpha and Ryan Hurst's Beta met, but weeks earlier, Fear the Walking Dead appeared to (literally) drop a major clue hinting about pre-Beta's musical past, a big change from the comics. That small easter egg seemingly got confirmed both in the latest TWD episode and during an interview CinemaBlend had with Morton ahead of the episode's airing.
Let's quickly go over how Beta's past was addressed across both Walking Dead TV series and the corresponding arc in the comic book series, and how fun this probable connection is within this universe. Let's kick things off with the Fear the Walking Dead background info.
How Beta Showed Up In Fear The Walking Dead
Before dropping a mega-cliffhanger on viewers with its season finale, Fear the Walking Dead delivered Season 5's "Today and Tomorrow," in which Daniel nabbed some vinyl albums for Charlie listen to, such as the Traveling Wilburys. When Daniel and Grace are inevitably overrun by zombies, the albums are the biggest victim, as the walkers shamble all over them. One might have immediately looked to the great Tom Petty's name for familiarity purposes, but the cover next to it stood out to some fans the most.
While not the clearest image, the album cover is almost definitely a shot of Ryan Hurst in full bearded form, indicating that Beta's life before the Whisperers was that of a famous musician. For the most part, only bigger acts are considered worthy of their albums getting vinyl pressings, outside of super-limited runs, so this would seem to imply that pre-Beta was fairly successful.
What The Walking Dead TV Show Revealed About Beta's Past
When Lydia and pre-Alpha first arrived at the medical facility serving as pre-Beta's home, there purposefully wasn't much of a personal touch to the interior design. And when Ryan Hurst's villain first shows himself in this environment, he's just as heavily disguised as he would later be as a Whisperer.
That could have just been a sign of other identity issues the character might have had, sure. But pre-Alpha's reaction when she takes his mask off later seemed to prove that she was well aware of who he was before the outbreak occurred. And not from being next-door neighbors or anything like that.
Later, when the mother and daughter went beyond Beta's stated boundaries – ironic, no? – they discovered the walls were covered in repetitive writing. In a certain context, they might appear to be song lyrics, and something of a precursor to the mission statement mantra that Alpha and Beta later say together.
The biggest Fear the Walking Dead connector was also a visual reference. Pre-Alpha found a glass case on the wall that, beyond confirming that area of the facility was dedicated to addiction treatment, housed a photograph of pre-Beta and a friend, both with their faces scratched out. The key detail here is the cowboy hat on top of pre-Beta's head, further connecting him with Fear's album cover.
Pre-Beta's friend was wearing the smiley face T-shirt that Beta currently wears, and in the episode's final flashback moments, pre-Alpha offers the advice that basically sets up the Whisperers visual motif. After she'd unadvisedly put down the undead version of the friend, she told pre-Beta that he didn't have to leave his friend completely behind, leading to him removing said friend's face skin and partially balding scalp, which Beta is never seen without in the present.
What Samanta Morton Revealed To Us About Beta
During the episode, pre-Alpha is heard singing and humming, which pre-Beta specifically tells her to stop doing at one point, opining that "the sound of the dead" is the only song that he doesn't want to ever end. (Spoken like a true lyricist.)
When I had the chance to talk with Samantha Morton recently, I asked her about the importance of music with the characters, and here's how she answered:
I think that, you know, you've heard her saying a few times, certainly to Lydia: music is solid and sound is solid. And the Whisperers, they love silence, but if you've ever been in the woods at any point, you'll know how noisy either forest or rainforest woods can be. The sounds of the insects, the sounds of the wind rushing through the leaves. The sound of silence is quite heavy, actually, and that all plays into when she meets Beta, you know, the fact that he was a musician. They just have this, I don't know, this synchronicity and almost a rhythm that they naturally move to together. It's very beautiful, I think.
Beyond delivering an eloquent and meaningful answer, Samantha Morton also confirmed beyond any reason of a doubt that Beta was a musician in his pre-apocalypse life. She didn't necessarily say how famous he was, or that his hairy mug graced album covers across the country, but she didn't have to, really.
Even though two different shows were used to connect the dots for Beta's past, this somehow still ranks as some of the subtlest storytelling that The Walking Dead has laid out there. It's now inevitable that fans (including myself) to call for the writers to make Daniel and Beta meet face to real face, so that the latter is forced to consider something dark about an entertainer he liked. Something that never happens in the real world these days, right?
How The Walking Dead Comics Revealed Beta's Identity
Without getting into the details behind what actually went down in the Walking Dead comic book, as not to potentially spoil where the TV show goes in its long future, I will frankly state that Beta's mask does come off at one point while other characters are around. The oddball reveal occurred after it was made abundantly clear that being seen without his second skin was Beta's ultimate nightmare.
Within the comic book universe, Beta was a famous basketball player before the walker outbreak destroyed organized sports, as well as organized everything-else-in-existence. Jesus and Aaron are shocked to discover it, and though there wasn't a real-world reference made about who it would have been in our universe, it was one of The Walking Dead's only comments on celebrities' fates in the new world.
Fans had been wondering how The Walking Dead TV show would handle that particular comic book reveal, considering Ryan Hurst's publicized casting didn't allow for any mystery reveals on that level. While it would have been interesting to have Beta shown to have been the star of a cable network about biker dramas – a Sons of Anarchy cast vet, Hurst played fan favorite Opie Winston – I quite enjoy the metaphorical groundwork being laid for the character's vocal and public past leading into a largely silent existence with the Whisperers.
Plea to The Walking Dead's creative team: please, please show us a pre-Beta music video at some point.