“The Walking Dead” upped its body count in a big way in the most recent episode and showrunner Angela Kang broke everything down afterwards…
SPOILERS AHEAD IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE LATEST EPISODE OF “THE WALKING DEAD”
“The Walking Dead” has long been recognized as a show where no one is safe — not even the lead characters — but the latest episode definitely upped the body count in shocking and unexpected ways.
Following an attack by the Whisperers and their horde of zombies that left Hilltop in ruins, the remaining survivors scattered out into the woods trying to find shelter away from the mayhem. The fallout led to bloody results with numerous deaths taking place throughout the episode, but none more shocking than the final scene that saw Negan slit Alpha’s throat and return her zombified head to Carol.
For the past few episodes after Negan escaped Alexandria, he met up with the Whisperers and became very close to Alpha as she plotted her attack against the different communities. In the end, Alpha’s desire to kill her own daughter ended up as her undoing as Negan rescued Lydia and then put her mother down with one swipe of his blade.
In the aftermath of the episode, “The Walking Dead” showrunner Angela Kang explained Negan’s story arc this season that eventually led him to killing Alpha in such brutal fashion.
“So first of all this pairing in the comic of Alpha and Negan, it’s one of my favorites parts of the comic and we knew that we wanted to do this story of Negan as the one that ultimately kills Alpha. And so how do we do that in the show where it still has that surprising element that we had in the books? How can we service all the emotional elements that are there, and Carol’s part in it. We really liked the idea of doing this partway through the back half [of the season], not in the finale. It felt like Alpha for her side had this kind of epic emotional story with her daughter. And so we wanted to get to a place with the story where we understood that Alpha was ready to kill her own daughter. And that seemed to make sense. It tracked via the rejecting her once and for all.
And then from Negan’s side, we asked ourselves: What is Negan’s red line? And we know that Negan really genuinely seems to care about children. In the books, he was a teacher before the apocalypse began, and we showed him develop this relationship to Lydia. And just the fact that Alpha has this go in and kill everybody, who cares, burn it all down, I’ll kill my own child philosophy — that really feels like for Negan that’s the red line that he can’t cross. There’s a lot about Alpha that I think would be appealing to him. He obviously is really drawn to the strong, but we felt that to get the most satisfying version of that, that it had to be complicated for Negan too.
And so that’s how we worked about just constructing all of that. And then we really wanted to demonstrate that conflict in real time. And so it felt like if she’s there ready to kill her daughter, it’s almost like a test for him, and she fails, and so he has to do it in that moment.”
Kang went onto explain that all of this was obviously orchestrated by Negan and Carol but it will take episodes still to come this season to explain how they ended up working together.
“From the fact that Carol comes in, they clearly had a plan, and we’ll explore this in episodes to come, but Negan being Negan, how do you really kind of control where he’s at? And it’s always important for me with that character to be true to Negan. Negan has a selfishness problem at the end of the day. I think he is somebody who has been trying to redeem himself, but there is that edge, and he’s so interesting to me in the fact that he sometimes lives in that gray area.
Is he a hero? Is he an antihero? Does he go back and forth? Negan still has road to travel, even in his own attempts to redeem himself. And so there are ways in which the respect that Alpha showed him for somebody who was trapped in a jail cell and picking tomatoes and wanting to be something more — there’s something really seductive about that to somebody like Negan. And so we always wanted to play that complicated layer with all of it.”
In addition to Alpha’s unexpected death, Gamma also met her demise after helping to save Alden, Kelly and her nephew Adam when a pack of walkers were surrounding them. After drawing the zombies away from the baby, Gamma was ambushed by Beta, who stabbed her twice before waiting for her to turn.
“Thora Birch was amazing in the role of Gamma. We always knew from the start with this character that we wanted to tell a story of basically a double agent in a game of espionage. And I think in telling that story, we also knew from the beginning that this would be a limited arc for this character because in any kind of war there are casualties in many different arenas and being that person that’s playing two sides, she was in a uniquely dangerous position.
She played the role with such nuance and it does make it tragic. You kind of find yourself rooting for somebody like that to be able to switch over to the hero side entirely. But, also, Beta is a really formidable adversary, and if you cross him there are consequences. And I think that’s an important part of the story too. So all angles this character was just being closed in upon by both sides at various points.”
That particular scene also gave a hint about Beta’s real identity after part of his mask was ripped off and one of the Whisperers recognized him. In the comics, Beta was actually a famous basketball player but in “The Walking Dead” it appears that he was a famous musician prior to the zombie apocalypse.
During an episode of “Fear the Walking Dead” this past season, Beta (played by actor Ryan Hurst) appeared on the cover of a random vinyl record that was being carried by one of the survivors. While Kang didn’t give too many details, she did confirm that was part of Beta’s origin story that’s still to come.
“I think that that’s a pretty good guess [about the album cover]. We will learn more about his backstory. It may not be in the form that people expect, but yes, that’s part of the story going forward.”
One more death that rocked the episode was Earl, who got bitten while saving the children of Hilltop during the Whisperer attack. Ultimately it was Judith who was forced to put him down after Earl transformed into one of the walking dead.
“I mean, we love Earl. John Finn, also an amazing actor that we’ve been really fortunate to have with us. And I think that we felt that there was a way to a really beautiful story with Earl. And this is a man with such honor who has lost so much after losing his wife, Tammy. He’s one of the people who has worked the hardest to unify the Hilltop, and also really wants revenge too. And he’s brave and people like that are also the types of people that sometimes you lose in a war.
We wanted to be true to the feeling that this was a Goliath type of a battle and the Hilltop also has losses. He played it really beautifully, but it’s just the idea of somebody who has gotten to a certain point in his life where he’s not afraid to lay down his life to help other people and to get the children to safety. He really has a soldier’s mentality of first and foremost, I’ve got to make sure these kids are safe, and then I’m going to do everything I can to keep these children safe. He did a beautiful job with it.”
With only a few episodes remaining in “The Walking Dead” season 10, Kang teased what’s still to come including Sunday night’s installment, which explains what happened to Michonne after she left with a stranger named Virgil in search of supplies to help the survivors in the fight against the Whisperers.
“We’re down to our last handful of episodes for the season, and there just these huge things still coming. We’ve got to deal with Michonme and where she’s been since she went off in a boat with this guy Virgil, and there’s going to be some cool story to play there. Obviously, both sides in this war have suffered massive losses — a massive loss of home and some people that were important to them, and for the Whisperers they’re without their Alpha.
And Negan finds himself kind of in between these two communities. There’s just a lot of fallout that’s going to happen from that episode as they kind of all march towards a final confrontation. And lots of action. I hope people enjoy how the season plays out.”
“The Walking Dead” returns with a brand new episode on Sunday night at 9 p.m. ET on AMC with a full recap to follow on Nerdcore Movement!