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Warning! Spoilers below for The Walking Dead's latest episode, titled 'A Certain Doom.'
Considering The Walking Dead's Episode 1016 was originally supposed to serve as Season 10's finale, it seemed clear that the installment would usher in the end of the big Whisperers War, and that Ryan Hurst's deadly villain Beta probably wouldn't survive through the end credits. Though he did successfully guide his hungry horde to the hospital where most of the protagonists were holed up, Beta's growing insanity didn't exactly help him make it through the process with a clear head, and he was unexpectedly caught off-guard by Norman Reedus' Daryl, who slammed two knives down into Beta's eye-holes and sent him into a bonkers state of nirvana.
Playing out quite differently from the rather subdued way the character was killed off in the comics, Beta's death was shockingly sudden, and was made all the more meaningful by the montage calling back to his twisted relationship with Samantha Morton's Alpha. When CinemaBlend spoke with Ryan Hurst about the episode and Beta's fate, I'd asked him about how much personal input went into developing the character, and along with sharing his general thoughts about the scene, the actor revealed that he was the one who pitched Beta's weirdly calm reaction to his impending death.
As it relates to Beta's death, I had this idea. Being an enormous fan of the show, I wanted to present something a little differently. Just that, you know, we've seen Glenn get a bat to the head, we've seen so many people get ripped apart and screaming, and I was like, 'What if it plays out like a Buddhist monk setting himself on fire?' That he would be totally content with being absolved and sort of surrendering to death in a very peaceful way. And I pitched out this organic feeling, and they were like, 'Yeah, that's good, but we also want to stab him in the face.' [Laughs.] I was like, 'Alright, so let's do that, let's stab him in the face.' But in his final moment, I feel like, in that last little montage homage to Beta and his whole trajectory, it's sort of like this flickering flame of his humanity going out, and once that was gone, he genuinely welcomed the life that he had built for himself.
For a character that largely comes across as a towering, murderous threat, Beta definitely boasted an interesting backstory and nuanced character traits that kept him from falling into dull stereotypes. Ryan Hurst's all-in performance was obviously also a major factor there, and his influence definitely made Beta's non-screaming demise stand out from the many, many deaths that have been spread throughout The Walking Dead's ten seasons so far. How many lives could have been saved had other characters been able to stay totally silent after being stabbed, shot, and/or bitten?
Not that Beta's instant acceptance was the only surprising element of Beta's death. Contrary to Beta's more drawn-out confrontations with Jeffrey Dean Morgan's Negan and Daryl in the past, "A Certain Doom" delivered an unpredictably truncated fight scene that had barely begun when Daryl suddenly swooped in and got all eye-stabby. I asked Ryan Hurst if there was an alternate version of his final interactions with Negan and Daryl, but it turns out Norman Reedus was the one who suggested keeping the sequence short and sweet. (Well not sweet, but you know.) Here's how Hurst explained it:
No, that's literally what it was! When I first read it, I was a big proponent for like, 'There should be another big knife fight! Or there should be a real big fight with Negan, and we really feel like he's gonna die, and then Daryl shows up, and Beta and him get into it again.' And then Norman was the one who really pushed through. He was just like, 'What if I just stabbed you in the face?' I was like, 'What do you mean? That's it?' And he's like, 'Yeah, that's it. Like, I just kind of walk up and stab you in the face.' I was like, 'I guess.' He goes, 'Nobody will see it coming,' and I was like, 'Ah, there's something to that.' You know, you've been following this character, he is the antagonist for the second half of Season 10. We know that he's going to die at some point, so it works better if you really sort of pull the rug out from under, if he's just there on top of Negan, he's gonna take his revenge and then turn around and it's over. I fought it at first. I was just kinda like, 'No, they gotta have a big duel!' And Norman was like, 'Nah, I really think I gotta just stab you in the face.'
While I wouldn't have been put off by another big fight scene playing out in the middle of a walker herd, there's certainly merit to be found in Norman Reedus' thoughts there. I mean, if Ryan Hurst expected a big brawl to precede Beta's death, then it's likely that the majority of fans did as well. So in that respect, Beta's insta-death was arguably the biggest shock of the entire episode. As well, the quick, violent and unexpected nature of that particular expiry was a suitable opposite bookend for Alpha's death, which also played out in a rather sudden and non-hectic way, even though it was far more faithful to the source material.
In the end, you have to wonder why Daryl and other characters haven't used "stabbing in the face" as a means to bring an end to plenty of other antagonists over the years, even if we're just talking about putting walkers down. In the Walking Dead's VR video games, my first instinct is always to stab all walkers in the face, and it works quite well. So maybe Daryl can hype up that technique when guiding his fellow survivors in the future.
So what say ye, Walking Dead viewers? Were you surprised by how Beta's death played out? Did you think he should have gotten off a couple of eye-gouges on Negan before Daryl stepped up? Do you think Negan had some of Beta's country music albums?
The Walking Dead is gearing up to go into production for the final six episodes of Season 10 that will set up the extended final season, so stay tuned to CinemaBlend for more on when those new installments are closer to airing. In the meantime, keep an eye out for more TWD exclusives, and head to our Fall TV 2020 premiere schedule to see what new and returning shows are on the way.