The Walking Dead showrunner explains that huge twist
Warning: This article contains spoilers about Sunday’s episode of The Walking Dead titled “Open Your Eyes.”
All season on The Walking Dead, Siddiq has been having traumatic flashbacks to that harrowing night when he had to watch 10 other people killed and beheaded by Alpha and the Whisperers. And on Sunday’s “Open Your Eyes” episode, it was one of those flashbacks that allowed him to realize there was an enemy in their midst — but it was too late.
Siddiq was being comforted by his medical partner and friend Dante, when he realized that a masked Dante was actually one of the Whisperers at the beheadings, had now infiltrated Alexandria as a double agent, and was sabotaging the community. A scuffle ensued, which ended with Dante strangling Siddiq to death.
We went to showrunner Angela Kang to get the inside scoop on the huge twist, having to say goodbye to Avi Nash (who played Siddiq) and everything else that went down in the episode. Read on for intel and insight.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Why don’t you start off by telling us how and why you came up with this idea for Dante to be a Whisperer double agent and have him ultimately kill Siddiq?
ANGELA KANG: As we were breaking the season, we were talking about what is the nature of the Whisperer war and what are the feelings from the comic books that are interesting? And I’ve been talking about how we started thinking about it in terms of a cold war, and then we were like, “What really makes a cold war, a cold war?” And a lot of it had to do with that feeling of not being certain who to trust, the paranoia, and a lot of that came from what [comic book creator] Robert Kirkman set up in the idea of Silence the Whisperers. All of that idea of propaganda and stuff is in the books. And then we were like, “Well, it’s also about spies, and there’s a spy aspect to it.” And we haven’t really done that in that way other than Dwight had his own kind of turncoat thing, but this is a different way into it.
And so, we really started from the idea of it’d be interesting if there are attempts to gather information on both sides, and then as we got into the story, of how it would be interesting if Siddiq, as a result of his PTSD, had gaps in his memory and can’t trust himself. And as things are going wrong, he’s not sure what’s going on. We started creating this character of a spy, and then the problem was like, “Well, how do you even embed a spy when our people are so smart and they’re so savvy about things? And also our audience is savvy.”
We just talked about the fact that a lot of times sociopaths can be very high functioning individuals that hide in plain sight because they’re accomplished. And so, we were like, “Well, people just tend to trust doctors. They just do. And it’s something they need, and it connects to Siddiq.” And we were wanting to introduce Dante as a character, and we just decided to meld them together and see if we could play a story where like, “Here’s this person who, on the one hand, is incredibly charming and could be a friend and he legitimately actually likes Siddiq, but he’s also got a deeper agenda.” So, that’s how the genesis of the melding of Dante and this spy character came about
So when you had Siddiq survive last season’s beheadings, did you know then it would lead all the way to this, or did that story break later once you had that situation with him?
That broke later as we had the situation. We knew that we wanted to play definitely a traumatic aftermath and that that would be part of the story, but it just organically flowed that he told a very partial story of that night. But then, as is often the case with horrific trauma, it’s like he’s almost like a soldier who survived something awful and came back and told the story of how brave everybody on his team was. But, of course, the reality of any situation like that is that there’s awful things that came about. But we came to the idea that somebody there might have had a deeper role in the story relatively early on.
You just mentioned that Dante did consider Siddiq a friend, and so I guess just expanding upon that, I’m just curious about Dante’s big, boisterous, lively personality? How much of that is an act by him, and how much of that aspect is real? What’s his psyche going through this situation?
I do think that there’s probably an aspect of him that’s like boisterous and goofy, but as is true in life, a lot of times that can hide darkness, that’s its own mask. And we thought that that was an interesting thing to explore. And there were little things that we were trying to lay in, like Siddiq just being annoyed by him. And Dante, while being very funny and charming and could be really sweet at times, but just in small ways would test boundaries. There’s such a fine line between like, “Oh, he’s just this really fun guy,” and crossing the boundary.
There’s a tiny moment where he’s poking at Siddiq’s baby and Siddiq’s like, “Hey, man.” And it’s all played off like, “This is fine,” but we were trying to lay in that sometimes somebody can seem like such a nice person, and yet they may have these tendencies that even when they’re trying to hold it back, just these little tiny slips come through. Which is a real small thing, but sometimes that’s how people start to reveal themselves. And he’s just good at wearing his mask.
And he’s basically been sabotaging the water, so they’re all drinking unfiltered water. Is that what’s going on?
Yeah, he’s been sabotaging water. He’s been doing some little things about the community to poke and prod at their problems, and we’ll find out a bit more about that in the next episode as well.
So, did the Whisperer prisoner recognize Dante when he came in to treat him? Did he know he was undercover? What was the situation there?
I think the Whisperer prisoner recognized Dante, and they have just this look that passes between them. And I think Dante says something like, “Don’t speak.” And the guy says, “Never.” And you just think it’s like, “Oh, the prisoner’s scared.” But yeah, certainly he sees something’s going on. But in our minds, Dante being sent off to spy on this community, I don’t think it’s a widely known thing amongst the Whisperers. Certainly, there are secrets that Alpha keeps as we find when they realized that the Whisperer that’s being held does not know that Lydia is alive, which is a big thing for them.
Let’s play my favorite game of “Walking Dead What If?” Because we see that scene where Daryl’s threatening to cut off the Whisperer’s fingers and then keep cutting if he doesn’t tell them what they need to know. Like you mentioned, that all comes to a stop once it’s revealed that this guy thinks Lydia is dead. But let’s say that moment doesn’t happen. Does Daryl go through with it and start cutting?
I think Daryl starts cutting.
Well, I don’t know. Maybe not. I think that Daryl is not much for empty threats in general, but certainly not these days with the Whisperers. I think he’s pretty pissed off. But I think that Daryl could have broken him, maybe, before it gets to cutting off fingers, but I think Daryl’s willing to do it.
So, what was it like having to say goodbye to both the character of Siddiq and obviously the man playing him in Avi Nash?
It was really sad. I think Avi has been a wonderful member of the cast, and everybody just really loved him — the cast and crew and the writers. He’s just such a good guy. It’s never a personal thing. We really enjoyed his time on the show, and he did a really great job with this final arc. He did a ton of research into what people with PTSD go through, and he really was invested in playing the reality of the difficulties there and I think he did a great job. We’ve been in touch since he’s left, and I look forward to seeing what else he does beyond the show, as with everybody who’s an alum of the show. He was wonderful to have.
Okay, “Walking Dead What If? Part II.” Here we go. If Siddiq is okay and Rosita gets healthy, were those two getting back together? Because we had a moment where we saw some sparks there.
No, I don’t think so. I mean, they made a baby, so there clearly is was something between them that was worthwhile. I think like they would have just continued to have a fun, sparky friendship maybe, which maybe there’s a little romantic tension underlying that. But I actually don’t think the two of them were ever in love with each other. I think they had fun together and they really like each other and they’re attracted to each other, and that probably lingers. It wasn’t that long ago that they were some sort of a couple, but I don’t think they would’ve gotten together.
I want to get into some of the Lydia stuff here. First off, in respect to Gamma, because Gamma’s trying to be strong, but she definitely seems pretty fragile. So at that end there, what is seeing Lydia alive and the knowledge that Alpha lied to her, what is this going to do to Gamma moving forward?
This is a huge moment for Gamma, and it certainly is going to turn her story in a way. For somebody who was such a true believer — who went so far as killing her sister to save her leader — she now realizes that everything she believes is wrong. We talked a lot in the writers room about people who don’t bend-break. And there’s a couple of us that word for Shawn Ryan, and I think that there was a conversation that he had with an actor, that we talk about sometimes, about characters who don’t bend–break.
And we feel that, for Gamma, was the moment where she realized, “My leader who I thought was pure and that stood by her principles, and we have to stand by these principles, and that’s the only way to survive, is just a hypocrite and a liar, like every other person. And look at what I’ve lost and what I’ve done.” That’s going to have a big impact going forward. I can’t get into specifics because it’s too spoiler-y, but I think Thora did an amazing job playing her heartbreak in the moment. It’s not just anger or shock, there’s real heartbreak there.
What do you think? Was that kind of a dick move by Carol to bring Lydia out there as a tool or not?
Kind of a dick move, yeah. That was her state of wanting revenge, and sometimes a revenge journey takes a dark path. We’ll see how it pays off or doesn’t and what happens next. But yeah, I think Carol’s a little more reckless than usual in this pursuit to kill Alpha. She’s always so strategic and is thinking multiple steps ahead, but in the moment, I really think she was like, “Oh, I got to do this,” and she just did it.
I don’t know if she did her usual gaming it out multiple steps. She might have thought about one angle, and I don’t think she thought about the human angle of Lydia, who’s like her pawn in the moment, which is very unlike her. But I think that can be interesting, and certainly, Melissa is doing a great job with all the different twists and turns of the story for Carol.
Does Lydia have a plan at this point or is she just running off?
I think, in the moment, she’s just so sick of being pulled between the two things: between her mother who is abusive and horrible, but is the only parent and family she knew, and these people who she had come to trust and love and think of as family and being betrayed in what she feels like is a similar way. And so, in the moment, she just needs to clear her head and figure out what is next for her.
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