“We Are the End of the World” was a strong, character-focused episode that fleshed out (sorry) the Whisperers and explained how Alpha and Beta met.
This recap of The Walking Dead Season 10, Episode 2, “We Are the End of the World”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
With viewership still tragically and inexplicably plummeting, the Angela Kang Era continues to reinvigorate The Walking Dead, which is as good now as it has been in years. “We Are the End of the World” showed that off by focusing entirely on the villainous Whisperers, exploring not just the meet-cute of Alpha (Samatha Morton) and Beta (Ryan Hurst), but also promoting a demented new character into the group’s feral leadership.
The Walking Dead Season 10, Episode 2 could easily have been one or the other; the origin stories of the wacky Whisperer first and second, or a present-day catch-up in the aftermath of Lydia’s (Cassady McClincy) face turn. But it was so effortlessly both that you can’t help but admire the show’s newfound storytelling ability, and lament how thoroughly incompetent it became at its worst. This was exactly the right way to give a macabre coterie of villains some real depth, intrigue, and menace, while also simply entertaining on its own terms, with genuinely eerie undertones and admirably complex, low-key characterization.
In other words: What a shame it got so bad when it could have always been this good.
Anyway, much of “We Are the End of the World” is given over to flashback sequences in which Alpha and a young Lydia (Havana Blum) take shelter in what is later revealed to be a rehab facility, where they meet the hulking Beta, his face covered by a balaclava. This demented meet-cute is almost a competition between Alpha and Beta to see who can say and do the most genuinely disturbing things. Both are already beyond the point of salvation, morally speaking; with their mutual fondness for the sounds of the shambling undead, their butchering of the same, and the loving fondling of their entrails, they really do seem perfect for each other.
We get a little backstory on Beta, though not much. We can surmise he was possibly a musician, and almost certainly an addict. In rehab, he presumably met someone whom he became very fond of, and who he has kept around ever since, as a kind of necrotizing pet. His insistence on not leaving this friend of his behind, even after Alpha kills him, is the genesis of the Whisperers’ unusual fashion sense. What better way to keep someone with you than to cut off their face and wear them?
In the present-day, shortly before the satellite crash we witnessed in the previous episode, The Walking Dead Season 10, Episode 2 concerns itself with Alpha’s mourning for Lydia — she has built her a creepy shrine in the woods, which she later smashes up — as well as her adoption of Gamma (Thora Birch) as a surrogate. Gamma’s sister is clearly suffering from PTSD after being forced to abandon her baby last season and is becoming a liability to the group, constantly acting out and sending the walkers wild. For a while, “We Are the End of the World” toys with the idea that Alpha, in her grief, has developed a conscience, sparing the girl despite her missteps, much to the annoyance of Beta. But that’d be much too upbeat for this show.
Eventually, Gamma’s sister flips out and tries to kill Alpha, at which point she’s dragged to the ground by Gamma and torn to pieces. To feed your own sister to a zombie horde is as pure a display of insanity as you can imagine, which Alpha obviously respects. A promotion swiftly follows. I’m not entirely sure how the Whisperer command structure works, but anyone with a name seems to have dominion over anyone without one, which puts Gamma third only to Alpha and Beta. It’s a nutcase triumvirate that spells awful things for the good guys.
Luckily, though, that likely means great television for us. Swings and roundabouts.