Following a cliffhanger ending in The Walking Dead’s season 10 premiere, episode 2, “We Are the End of the World,” slows things down considerably to take a deep dive into the backstory of the Whisperers’ leader Alpha and provide context for the pending conflict.
I enjoy when shows take the time to develop their villains, and The Walking Dead has previously done this well with characters like the Governor and Negan. The writers gave those characters real motivations for their actions and explored the societies they’ve built in the new world.
“We Are the End of the World” spends the entire episode with Alpha (Samantha Morton) and Beta (Ryan Hurst), exploring the very beginning of their relationship and providing some undeniably creepy answers about how the Whisperers’ group came about. By the end of the episode, it’s still unclear how the group’s dynamics formed, but writer Nicole Mirante-Matthews does a good job showing the building blocks of the bond between Alpha and Beta.
The flashbacks also flesh out the strained relationship between Alpha and her daughter, Lydia (Cassady McClincy). We’ve gotten flashbacks of Alpha before, but this episode really shows Alpha as a twisted mother trying to teach her child to survive in this cold and heartless world. Alpha wanted Lydia to be just like her, but as much as Lydia tried, she never gained the approval she wanted.
Morton puts on an excellent performance every time she’s on the screen. She can be cold and calculating in one scene and a distraught mother worried about her daughter’s safety in the very next scene. That unpredictability makes her scenes particularly unsettling.
The episode also provides a look at where Beta started out before he became Alpha’s second in command. It in turn delivers the origin of his gruely mask, which is unsettling even by The Walking Dead’s standards.
I think Alpha and Beta are The Walking Dead’s most compelling villains yet, even though they haven’t had much screen time yet. Beta’s absolute devotion to protecting Alpha has set up a dynamic that I’m looking forward to seeing tested as the season progresses.
Not much happens in the half of the episode that’s set in the present day. Alpha let her daughter stay with the Kingdom, one of the communities on the “good” side of the border, in season 9 and banished her from the Whisperers pack, symbolically leaving what was left of her humanity behind. But she’s also lying to the rest of her group by leading them to believe Lydia is dead so that they won’t question her power.
However, Alpha wants her daughter back and is willing to take great lengths to replace her with someone else who fits her ideals of a perfect child. That’s where the newly appointed Gamma (Thora Birch) comes in following a gruesome scene where she literally throws her own distraught sister, who was unable to cope with losing her baby back in season 9, to the walkers following an altercation with Alpha.
Beta sees Gamma as a threat to the stability of the pack, particularly given that Alpha’s control is already in danger should the secret about her daughter come out.
Gamma will undoubtedly be one of the main drivers of tension between Alpha and Beta’s relationship as the season progresses, but for right now it doesn’t stand out from the rest of the show’s huge cast. She has no defining traits besides being ruthless enough to murder her own sister to advance in the pack.
I’m looking forward to learning more about how the Whisperers operate and their power dynamics as The Walking Dead progresses this season. The secret of Lydia still being alive is a ticking time bomb for Alpha, and we’ve already seen what she will do when her power within the group is tested as she will not hesitate to murder those that challenge her. Her desire to get her daughter back also has the potential to test the bonds between Carol and Daryl should Carol decide to use Alpha’s daughter as leverage in the ensuing war.