by Transmute Jun
Warning: this review contains multiple spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 10, Episode 2.
The Walking Dead’s villains are rarely one-dimensional, and this week’s episode delved into the backgrounds of three characters living as Whisperers: Alpha, Beta, and Gamma. Viewers saw a glimpse of Alpha’s backstory in season 9, as she killed her husband and left ‘civilization’ behind, taking her toddler daughter with her. In this episode we see a slightly older Lydia (although this is still 7 years in the past); a Lydia who understands something of the way the world has changed, but who is still horrified by what she sees. She tells Alpha that she want to be like her mother: strong and capable. Lydia doesn’t want to be afraid, and she tests herself by moving amongst the walkers by herself.
For her part, Alpha loves Lydia, albeit in her own twisted way. She is concerned for her daughter’s welfare, but the manner in which she cares can turn on a dime. Alpha tells (future) Beta that if he kills her, he will have to kill Lydia too, because she and Lydia will stay together. Yet only an hour later, Alpha tells Lydia that if she is not strong, she’ll be abandoned. I didn’t get the sense that Alpha was bluffing in this scene, only that her mindset had changed. These kinds of inconsistencies are likely at the core of Alpha’s mental instability. She is forcing herself to change into something uncivilized, as a way to adapt to a world with walkers. Yet at the same time, these unnatural behaviors are at war with her natural desire to be a mother. This can be seen again when Alpha refuses to kill Gamma’s sister, because she views her as some kind of daughter-substitute, holding her in a fashion similar to how she held Lydia.
As a child, Lydia wanted to emulate Alpha, yet as a near-adult, Lydia has rejected all that her mother represents, and has turned her back on Alpha’s way of life. That rejection obviously hurt Alpha to the core, and I sense that Alpha telling Beta that she had killed Lydia was an attempt to kill off the pain of rejection in her mind. Yet clearly it lingers, as Alpha had hoped that Lydia might return to the old Whisperer camp, and had even left Lydia’s old bunny there for her to find. This crack in Alpha’s psyche might very well be her undoing. She is making inconsistent choices and her pack can see it. Beta can only do so much, as he is clearly subservient to Alpha’s wishes. It may well be this tendency of Alpha to engage in emotional and mental inconsistencies, rather than anything anyone on Team Michonne does, that eventually brings down the Whisperers.
Beta’s backstory is also interesting. He lost his friend, yet wanted to keep him close. We have seen this before, most notably with The Governor, when he kept his daughter Penny in his apartment after she died, caring for her and treating her as if she were still alive. When Walker Penny was killed by Michonne, The Governor went crazy, losing all sense of humanity and civility. Beta looked like he was on the same path, yet Alpha was able to bring him back with her pledge to stay with him, and that they would walk together. That Beta accepted this from his friend’s killer demonstrates the persuasive power Alpha holds over him.
Of course, Beta put on his friend’s face as a mask (and wore his shirt). This is not too far off from what Michonne did early on in the apocalypse, bringing her husband’s and friend’s walker corpses with her as protection while she wandered the world. Yet Michonne was able to dispose of those corpses when she needed to do so, and move on. It feels as if Beta is unable to do this, still clinging to the remnants of his friend.
Yet the big question on everyone’s mind is, what is wrong with Beta’s face? I am wondering if Beta and his friend were burned, perhaps by some kind of acid? Both of their faces were scratched out in the photograph, and the walker face Beta wears has strange pockmarks in it. Presumably Beta’s ‘face reveal’ will come in an episode later this season. In the meantime, I’m morbidly hoping for another glimpse of ‘serial killer’ Beta with his woolen face mask. Even in a world filled with the walking dead, his appearance in the hospital corridor was incredibly creepy. I can see it now: one of the upcoming Walking Dead movies will be ‘Beta Takes Manhattan‘.
The introduction of Gamma (Thora Birch, Ghost World) has possibilities, as this character doesn’t really exist in the Walking Dead comics universe. Gamma is acting both as a substitute daughter for Alpha, and the expansion of a power system within the Whisperer pack. My impression of the character is that she is exactly as she says, without emotion. She didn’t like having her sister around, and regretted taking her when she joined the Whisperers. However, she didn’t have any regrets for the loss of her nephew, and seems to only be playing a role regarding Alpha’s messed-up maternal instincts. Beta is right to feel threatened, because Gamma seems to be cold and calculating. We can’t discern much from her facial expressions, so who really knows what she’s plotting? I wouldn’t be surprised to see Gamma try to betray Beta to take him out, and then attempt to take over from Alpha.
For those who play the AMC Walking Dead mobile games, this week’s Walking Dead: No Man’s Land season mission introduces Alpha as a playable character and shows her searching for Lydia. Walking Dead: Our World introduces Siddiq as a playable character and as the hero of the week.
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