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The second episode of The Walking Dead Season 10, the Greg Nicotero-directed “We Are the End of the World,” was all about the Whisperers. It flashed back to when Alpha (Samantha Morton) met Beta (Ryan Hurst), a real meet-cute if there ever was one, and by “cute” I of course mean “bloody and disturbing.” In the show’s present timeline, it showed Alpha emotionally struggling with her estrangement from her daughter Lydia (Cassady McClincy) and introduced Gamma (Thora Birch), whose devotion to Alpha may cause a rift between Alpha and Beta. It was a much better Whisperer flashback episode than last season’s “Omega,” which was only OK. Pretty cool that The Walking Dead is at a point where it can do an entire episode with characters who have been on the show a half-season at most and have it be good.
The flashback parts of the episode were set seven years earlier and started with a very gruesome scene of younger Lydia (Havana Blum) and pre-Alpha Alpha — her only name at this point was “Mama,” and she didn’t even want Lydia to call her that anymore — doing an early version of their patented walk among the dead. They didn’t have masks yet, but they were covered in blood and walking among the herd. They came upon a woman as she got ripped apart by walkers — a death that included one of the franchise’s signature gross-out moves, which is a zombie biting someone’s nose off — which caused Lydia to scream and draw the walkers toward them. They took shelter in a drug and alcohol rehab facility called Second Lives (get it?), which was empty except for a huge guy looming silent and still like Michael Myers in the hallway. He was wearing a ski mask and holding a machete, and Mama told him that if he was going to kill her, he would have to kill her daughter, too, because she wasn’t leaving this Earth without her. This was after Mama scolded Lydia for almost getting them killed again. Mother of the year, right? The man allowed them to stay in the rehab facility for the night. Lydia asked her mother if the man was a monster. “We’re all monsters now,” she answered.
After giving Lydia a bath in a way that showed she still had some tenderness left in her, Mama wandered the halls humming to herself. The man heard her and told her to stop singing and never do it again. He said he likes the sound the dead make. “I like it. It’s the only song I never want to end.” This is an important clue to Beta’s pre-apocalypse identity. WARNING: THIS IS MAYBE A SPOILER SO IF YOU DON’T WANT TO LEARN BETA’S MAYBE TRUE IDENTITY SKIP TO THE NEXT PARAGRAPH BUT HONESTLY THIS IS PRETTY COOL SO YOU SHOULD KEEP READING. In the comics, Beta used to be a famous basketball player. On the show, it seems like he used to be a famous musician. Uproxx noticed that Fear the Walking Dead featured an Easter egg in which Salazar (Rubén Blades) found a vinyl record with a man who looks a lot like Ryan Hurst on the cover. Beta didn’t want to hear singing because he wanted to completely abandon his old life. Obviously, becoming Alpha’s right-hand man allowed him to do that. He went from being a rock star to a guy running around the woods in a skin mask.
That night, Lydia stayed in a padded room and told her mother that she doesn’t want to sleep with her stuffed bunny anymore. She wants to be more like her mother, who’s not scared of anything. “I’ve waited so long to hear that, and I hope that you will, because if you can’t, I have no choice but to leave you behind,” Mama said. “Please, mama, don’t ever leave me,” Lydia pleaded. “I love you, mama.”
“Stop calling me that,” she hissed. Poor Lydia. She’s come so far in the present, considering the abuse she came from.
Mama went exploring again and found a room with graffiti the man had scrawled all over the walls, not unlike what Morgan (Lennie James) did in “Clear.” She was attacked by walkers, and he saved her, and they cleared the room together. “I like killing with you,” she said. New best friend! She cut into a dead one’s belly to take out the entrails to cover herself in, and the man helped her crack open the ribcage. “Hold on, big man,” she said.
“Big man?” he said.
“I thought we didn’t have names,” he said, calling back to an earlier moment when she said she didn’t have one anymore.
“It’s not a name,” she said. “It’s a letter.”
“So if I’m B,” he said. “What does that make you?”
“A.” And thus a cult was born. Their ideology was to live as close to being dead as possible, and exist in a state of feeling nothing. She tried to take his ski mask off, and he angrily stopped her and told her to leave in the morning and not come back. But before she did that, she went into his room while looking for Lydia, who had wandered off. She saw a photo of two men with their faces scratched out. A walker popped out and she killed it, and B went “NOOOOO!” because it was the other man in the photo, whose identity we don’t know but was obviously someone important to him. Maybe his sponsor. He started destroying his room and trying to kill A, but he stopped when Lydia came in and screamed, “She’s trying to save you!”
As he knelt and mourned his fallen friend, A told him that the world was showing them a new path. “Walk with me in the darkness,” she said. “Walk with me and you will never be alone, my B.”
“I am the end of the world,” he started chanting. “We are the end of the world,” she corrected him. She lifted his mask up — his face was angled away from the camera — and she registered some delight and surprise on her face at what she saw. He said he couldn’t leave his friend. She gave him the knife and said he didn’t have to. He started to peel his face off.
And that was how Alpha and Beta became Alpha and Beta.
In the present, Alpha and Beta were having a problem with a member of their pack. Frances (Juliet Brett) was depressed and detached because Alpha had made her abandon her baby. While she and Beta and her sister Mary (Birch) were in the middle of the herd they were trying to redirect, Frances started to cry while thinking of her son. Her sobs drew the walkers’ attention, and they barely made it out. “You will pay,” Beta growled. Back at the Whisperer camp, Beta was about to have her killed when Alpha stopped them. Alpha took Frances into a cave called “the deeper place” and had her take off her mask and kneel before her. But instead of killing her, Alpha embraced her, because she knew the pain of losing a child.
But the moment of mercy was short lived. While they were out in another herd, the satellite made its descent, which agitated the walkers. In the chaos, Frances saw a walker with an empty papoose, which reminded her of her son to such an extent that she attacked Alpha. Her own sister tore her off Alpha and threw her to the walkers.
“Do you regret what you did?” Alpha asked Mary back at the camp. “She was uncommitted,” Mary answered.
“She no longer belonged with us. I had to protect the Alpha.”
“What you did was your destiny,” Alpha said. “The lion who smothers her wailing cub. We’re strongest when we kill our own blood. It is the purest, most honest way to bring order to chaos. Your purity will never be forgotten.” Later, Alpha made the sororicidal true believer a full member of the pack, bestowing the name “Gamma” upon her. She led the Whisperers in a chant of “To Gamma,” in which Beta did not join. He was concerned that something was wrong with Alpha. He was starting to worry that she was going soft, showing mercy to someone who didn’t deserve it and not maintaining the proper level of fear in the Alexandrians. He had seen her sneaking out of camp at night, and so he followed her the next time she went. He found she had built a nest for Lydia and was holding her daughter’s stuffed bunny. She wasn’t empty of all feeling after all. She still cared about her daughter, who she admitted was still alive. “She’s my daughter,” she said. “She’s my baby. I could not kill her.”
Beta agreed to keep her secret from the rest of the group, and they decided to go teach their enemies a lesson for crossing the border to put out the fire. They clasped hands and prayed together.
“We walk in darkness. We are free. We bathe in blood. We are free. We love nothing. We are free. We fear nothing. We are free. We need no words. We are free. We embrace all death. We are free. This is the end of the world. Now is the end of the world. We are the end of the world.”
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.