'Walking Dead' Season 10: Who Are The New Villains?

The Hollywood Reporter investigates the suspects as the AMC zombie drama's tenth season heightens the cold war tensions.
Courtesy of AMC

[This story contains spoilers for the season ten premiere of AMC's The Walking Dead, "Lines We Cross," as well as spoilers from the comic books on which the show is based.]

As a young ghost-battling warrior once warned: "They're back."

After spending several months away, Alpha (Samantha Morton) and the Whisperers have returned to the Alexandria Safe-Zone. The appearance of a Whisperer mask catalyzes the events of the Walking Dead season ten premiere, "Lines We Cross," including a border-crossing firefighting sequence that will surely be seen as an act of war — assuming Alpha and her minions witnessed the act.

Of course, there's good reason to assume Alpha knows exactly what Michonne (Danai Gurira), Daryl (Norman Reedus) and the others have done during the Whisperers' time away. Just because she and her people live feral lifestyles alongside and among the walkers doesn't mean they aren't still keeping tabs on the men and women still trying to uphold some measure of civilization. But how would Alpha know what the Alexandrians have been up to in her time away? Look no further than her own actions in season nine for the answer.

In season nine's "The Calm Before," Alpha infiltrated the Kingdom during the sprawling fair, hiding in plain sight thanks to a dress and head of hair she literally ripped off of a young woman. Showrunner Angela Kang, who wrote "Lines We Cross," spoke with The Hollywood Reporter and pointed to that scene as an example of how season ten's Whisperer War will feel different than other Walking Dead conflicts from the past.

"One of the things that struck me the most was this idea of 'silence the Whisperers,'" she said, "and the kind of propaganda and paranoia aspects that run through it. Even the idea of a group that called themselves the Whisperers — a whisper, like a whisper campaign you think about in politics … there's something about it that's so insidious and sneaky and underhanded that I thought was really interesting, and felt true to who this group was. It's so brazen that Alpha walked through a festival just wearing a dead woman's scalp as a wig, and a flowery dress, and then she murdered a bunch of people, kind of in plain sight. There was something about that that felt like she was like a spy that kind of landed among our people and wreaked havoc."

Given how much Alpha's direct infiltration operation resonated with Kang, it's reasonable to wonder if the operation is ongoing. Are there Whisperers still walking amongst the Alexandrians? The season ten premiere offered up a few clues on that front, including border-beheading survivor Siddiq (Avi Nash) suffering from PTSD and focusing on the mouth of new doctor Dante (Juan Javier Cardenas). "Kiss me," Dante jokes. It's not just a tense reflection of Siddiq's mental state, but a reflection of the greater community at large — the Whisperers wear masks, so focusing on any facial feature that may or may not recognizably belong to one of these monsters is a worthy endeavor at the moment. 

Additionally, the Siddiq scene specifically plays with some expectations from the comics. Dante is a fairly significant character from late stage Walking Dead, appearing after the initial time jump after "All Out War." For a time, some fans theorized Dante was actually an undercover Beta, given their similar mouths and Beta's outright refusal to ever remove his mask. In the end, Beta was someone else completely, and for the television series' version of events, there's clearly no possible way for Dante and Beta to be the same man. But could the TV adaptation's Dante belong to the Whisperers? Absolutely on the table.

There's another new character who stands out as a prime Whisperer suspect ... 

... Jules (Alex Sgambati), the young woman who openly flirts with Dan Fogler's Luke early on in the premiere. Unless The Walking Dead is introducing an unexpected love story for Luke out of nowhere, the likelier bet is we're laying eyes on our first undercover Whisperer. In the comics — and this is a big spoiler from Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard's run, at least as far as it pertains to the television series — Luke does not survive for very long after he runs into the Alexandrians. The Luke of the television series is much more fleshed-out and lived-in than the Luke of the comics, without a doubt. Will that continue, or are we only being asked to invest in Fogler's interpretation of the character because he's going to die a horrible death at the hands of Jules, a secret Whisperer? That's where my money's landing.

Of course, it could just be the paranoia brought on by the Whisperers and their potential as undercover agents of post-apocalyptic chaos. If so, bravo to Kang and company for hyping up a crew of villains worthy of such fear.

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