The Whisperers are only the latest enemy to threaten the survivors on The Walking Dead, but they are also the most unlike any enemy they’ve faced before. Now in its ninth season, AMC’s hit zombie show has featured its fair share of baddies – from the Governor to the cannibals of Terminus to most recently Negan – but the Whisperers represent a whole new kind of danger.
The Walking Dead season 9 has been something a soft reboot for the series. Major characters like Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Maggie (Lauren Cohen) have left, moving the focus on to lesser-known and completely new characters. The story has undergone a six year time jump, flashing forward to a future where children like Judith and Henry are older and the communities are more established (though less trusting of each other). Yet by far, the biggest change coming to The Walking Dead this season are the Whisperers – an enemy that threatens not only the survivors’ lives, but their very way of life.
While visiting the set of The Walking Dead last fall, Screen Rant had the opportunity to talk with showrunner Angela Kang and executive producer Greg Nicotero about the new season and, in particular, the unique threat posed by the Whisperers – a group who live among the walkers, disguising themselves with the skins of the dead. Kang, who took over as showrunner from Scott Gimple in season 9, considers the Whisperer arc in the comics to be one her favorites, adding that the story’s resolution “was so much more strange and rewarding than I thought it would be.”
Kang hopes audiences will have a similar reaction when they watch the Whisperers arc play out on The Walking Dead this season, saying:
“I’m really excited for the people who don’t know the story to hopefully see the twists unfold. I’m really excited about the cast we have, Samantha Morton and Ryan Hurst as Alpha and Beta. I just think they’ve brought so much energy and intensity already to the process, like, in such a great way. We get to tell a bit of a story that’s sort of a mystery, and I think in many ways they’re the most formidable group we’ve come across because they have the power of zombies behind them.”
It’s this “power of zombies” that makes the Whisperers such a unique threat and one that will be tricky to combat. As we saw during the climactic final minutes of the mid-season finale when they kill Jesus, the Whisperers use the dead skins to remain hidden within herds of walkers, waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike. They use the walkers as camouflage, making it tough to tell who are the Whisperers and who are mere walkers, as well as a defense mechanism, forcing their foes to fight through a herd just to reach them. For Nicotero, this zombie element makes them super interesting, because the Whisperers aren’t just another group of people “firing guns.”
Even more than their close, almost symbiotic relationship with the walkers, it’s the Whisperers’ worldview that is most disturbing, as Nicotero explains:
“I think the threat really is they’ve abandoned the way of life that we all believe in. It’s interesting when you think about Walking Dead and you think about the fact that they’re fighting desperately to preserve society. And at some point it’s like, that society that we knew probably will never exist again. What is the next order? And the Whisperers have a very unique perspective.”
The Walking Dead season 9 put an greater significance on preserving society, driving home the point that surviving the apocalypse is more manageable when people are working together and not constantly fighting. The Whisperers, however, don’t play by those rules. They don’t hold out any hope for civilization returning and have instead chosen a new world order – one where the world is ruled by the dead and in order to survive, humans must learn to live and move among them.