Spoilers below for anyone who hasn't yet watched the latest episode of The Walking Dead*_.*_
It took seven episodes, but The Walking Dead finally delivered its first major character death in Season 10, with the unfortunate distinction landing at the feet of Avi Nash's PTSD-ridden doctor Siddiq, with his assumed partner and friend Dante as the backstabbing killer. Siddiq managed to survive through the end of Robert Kirkman's comic book series, but given all the changes that were made in bringing Siddiq to live-action, his TV fate was much different. The changes were, in part, also due to how the creative team modified the Whisperers War set-up.
Showrunner Angela Kang has made it no secret that The Walking Dead Season 10 was interested in bringing more of a Cold War tone to the comic book's Whisperers War, as a way to distinguish it from past conflicts. That inspired the idea to bring a community-infiltrating spy into it as a way to expand on the comic storytelling that the show didn't fully invest in for Dwight's double-agent narrative.
Once it was realized that Siddiq's PTSD storyline was a suitable plotline to adorn with Dante's big Whisperer reveal, the writers started putting all the pieces into place. Here's how Angela Kang put it to EW:
We started creating this character of a spy, and then the problem was like, 'Well, how do you even embed a spy when our people are so smart and they’re so savvy about things? And also our audience is savvy.' We just talked about the fact that a lot of times sociopaths can be very high functioning individuals that hide in plain sight because they’re accomplished. And so, we were like, 'Well, people just tend to trust doctors. They just do. And it’s something they need, and it connects to Siddiq.' And we were wanting to introduce Dante as a character, and we just decided to meld them together and see if we could play a story where like, 'Here’s this person who, on the one hand, is incredibly charming and could be a friend and he legitimately actually likes Siddiq, but he’s also got a deeper agenda.' So, that’s how the genesis of the melding of Dante and this spy character came about.
Within the episode "Open Your Eyes," viewers learned more of the discomforting truth about Siddiq's ordeal as the Whisperers' victim. He was apparently forced to watch as Alpha brutally hacked away at the necks of people that he knew and loved, with Enid's murder sticking out the most. One particular skin-wearer was holding Siddiq down and giving the episode's titular advice, and Siddiq was later able to discern it was Dante beneath that Whisperer mask, throwing him for a major loop.
Alas, Siddiq wasn't able to get his revenge, as he was choked to death by Dante, who did genuinely seem remorseful while doing it. So at this point, it's completely unknown if his plan will continue uninterrupted, or if Siddiq's death will raise some red flags.
As shocking as it was to learn that Dante has been a Whisperer spy this whole time – to be fair, it wasn't the most unlikely scenario – it was a sensible character shift from the comic book narrative. In the source material, the breezily charming Dante winds up winning over Maggie for her first post-Glenn romance, but Lauren Cohan's hiatus from The Walking Dead disrupted more direct forms of adaptation on that front. Granted, Cohan's Maggie is returning to the show in Season 11 (and possibly before), but not soon enough to thwart a major murder.
When asked about whether or not Dante's personality was genuine or purposefully crafted, showrunner Angela Kang talked about how she thinks the character is a mixture of legitimate sweetness and duplicitous layering. In her words:
I do think that there’s probably an aspect of him that’s like boisterous and goofy, but as is true in life, a lot of times that can hide darkness, that’s its own mask. And we thought that that was an interesting thing to explore. And there were little things that we were trying to lay in, like Siddiq just being annoyed by him. And Dante, while being very funny and charming and could be really sweet at times, but just in small ways would test boundaries. There’s such a fine line between like, 'Oh, he’s just this really fun guy,' and crossing the boundary. There’s a tiny moment where he’s poking at Siddiq’s baby and Siddiq’s like, 'Hey, man.' And it’s all played off like, 'This is fine,' but we were trying to lay in that sometimes somebody can seem like such a nice person, and yet they may have these tendencies that even when they’re trying to hold it back, just these little tiny slips come through. Which is a real small thing, but sometimes that’s how people start to reveal themselves. And he’s just good at wearing his mask.
The Dante reveal was especially interesting given the scenes involving the captured Whisperer, who shared a moment with Dante that made it seem like he recognized his fellow Alpha follower. However, it's quite unclear just how many Whisperers are in the know about Dante's plot, considering Alpha isn't the most up front or honest person with her group; she lied and told everyone that she killed Lydia. But now that Gamma knows that Lydia is still alive, Alpha might end up targeted by some of her followers, which might throw Dante's situation into even more turmoil.
Carol, Daryl and Gabriel watched as their plan to sway the prisoner with food choices backfired, and Lydia's comment about civilized society being a dangerous idea seemed like bad advice at the time. But Dante's extended presence within Alexandria is certainly proof that even loyal Whisperers can grow accustomed to walls, clothes and resources. But his creepy behavior with Coco, not to mention that whole 'killing Siddiq' thing, is certainly proof that he hasn't lost sight of his overarching mission.
As Siddiq discovered, Dante has been responsible for allowing Alexandrians to drink tainted water, which is what has been causing on the sicknesses in town. And considering no one else knows about it, it's likely more people will get sick before they get better. Angela Kang also shared that more of his sabotaging actions will be revealed in the future, such as giving that one patient hemlock instead of yarrow and the blaming it on Siddiq.
The Walking Dead airs Sunday nights on AMC at 9:00 p.m. ET, and there's just one more episode to go before the midseason finale, so be sure to tune in.