The Walking Dead showrunner shares intel on that epic bloodbath
Warning: This article contains spoilers about Sunday’s episode The Walking Dead titled “Walk With Us.”
Did anyone make it out alive on the latest Walking Dead episode? Sunday’s “Walk With Us” installment saw big losses on both sides. Beta once again tracked down former Whisperer Gamma and promised she would walk with them again as a guardian. He followed through on the first part of that promise by stabbing her to death. She indeed turned into a zombie, but Alden shot her through the head with an arrow to put an end to Gamma’s post-life misery. The Hilltop’s blacksmith, Earl, also met his end. After getting bit, he brought the children to safety and then intentionally impaled himself before Judith finished the job.
But the show saved the biggest death for last. After capturing Lydia, Negan made Alpha think he was bringing the leader to finally be reunited with her daughter — whom Alpha said she planned to kill. But it was all a ruse. After opening the cabin door to find it empty, Alpha turned around and had her throat slit by Negan, who later delivered the zombified head to Carol.
We spoke to showrunner Angela Kang to get all the inside scoop on the trio of big deaths, an answer as to Beta’s real identity, and what to expect next. (Also make sure to check out our episode Q&A with Samantha Morton, who plays Alpha.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So let’s talk about the demise of Alpha. You killed off the Whisperers leader. Obviously, there are some similarities here with how Negan kills her in the comic, but also some differences. Tell me how you came upon this method of Negan making Alpha believe he was bringing her to Lydia and instead slicing her throat.
ANGELA KANG: 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.
So what happens if she doesn't fail that test? And I guess it goes back to asking about the original plan that Negan had. Was his intent to originally join the Whisperers, or was he always working as an undercover agent, or was he sort of like, "Let me see how this goes. It could go either way"?
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.
So did he and Carol make some plans while he was still in Alexandria in that cell, or did they come across each other out in the wild, or how did that work?
Well, that will be revealed. I won't say anything about it now.
Where was Lydia? We see Alpha walking towards that cabin house. We see Lydia struggling. She opens the door. But she’s somewhere else. Where is she?
Lydia? She was just somewhere else and presumably once she got out, tried to get back to her people. So we'll pick up with all of our folks at a later point as well.
You have your plan, you map it out, and this sort of mirrors the arc of around where Alpha gets hers in the comic book. But was there ever the temptation to keep that character around for longer just because Samantha Morton’s screen presence was just so electric?
Oh, yeah. I mean, of course. She's amazing. But I think, at the same time, as we were kind of laying out the story, we really wanted to keep the driving pace to the events of the war. We flirted with many versions of when anything happens, and ultimately this is the version that fell in the part of the season the right way without us having to tread water at all. And so we wanted to be true to where the story was taking us. But I think that every moment that Samantha was on the screen, she's amazing. We really enjoyed having this amazing actress play this role for us all season.
Alpha's not the only person you killed off. You also took down another Whisperer, or at least a reformed Whisperer in Gamma who had dropped her mask and gone and joined up with the Alexandrians. She saves Alden and then meets her end at the hands of Beta. Why do this to poor Gamma?
I know. And 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.
And, by the way, Thora Birch, excellent zombie work on her part, right? I mean that was really impressive.
But we only got to see it for a few seconds because then Alden puts her out of her misery, which is a nice gesture. But I have to ask: Shouldn’t he have shot that first arrow at Beta instead of Gamma?
Here's what I'll say: I think that he was at a place where he was just trying to make a shot and I think he had a better shot at Gamma. And so it's put out of her misery, but Beta moves pretty quick the second that he feels that something's happening there. So that was the intention anyway.
Speaking of Beta, we see him talking and then another Whisperer comes up and says he thought he recognized the voice. So can we now confirm that he in fact was some sort of very popular singer that we saw on that album cover on Fear the Walking Dead?
I think that that's a pretty good guess.
Will we delve any more into his backstory at all?
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.
All right, so as if killing the main villain was not enough, and if killing poor Gamma was not enough, you also took out the blacksmith. You take out Earl. Why Earl, and why are you such a cold-blooded murderer, Angela?
I mean, we love her 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.
It was amazing work and an absolutely brutal way to go. Speaking of having to go, before we go, what can you tell us about what's coming up next on The Walking Dead?
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.
AMC's zombie thriller, based on the classic comic book serial created by Robert Kirkman.