Warning: Spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 9!
Viewers of AMC’s The Walking Dead who are unacquainted with the show’s comic book source material might dismiss the current group of antagonists, the skin-mask-wearing Whisperers, as yet another freaky result of savage, post-apocalyptic societal devolution who will inevitably get their asses handed to them by the show’s vigilant survivor communities of Alexandria, Hilltop and the Kingdom. However, those viewers are going to be surprised by this week’s episode, “The Calm Before,” which is the penultimate chapter of Season 9.
Indeed, The Walking Dead‘s official Twitter account– evoking imagery from Game of Thrones’ infamously iconic main character massacre, “The Red Wedding” – just affirmed the notion that the show is in store for a monumental moment that’s likely to leave an overwhelming body count consisting of characters we’ve come to know over the years. The moment we’re talking about was originally depicted in The Walking Dead #144, dated July 8, 2015, in which twelve, that’s right, TWELVE characters (name characters, not just Red Shirts,) were killed in an infiltrative attack on the long-hyped community fair by the Whisperers and their leader, Alpha, who subsequently left their severed (and already zombified,) heads on stakes for the survivors to look upon in dread.
The comic casualties consisted of Olivia, Oscar, Carson, Tammy, Josh, Luke, Erin, Larry, Ken, Amber and, most notably, A-listers (both in the comic and TV show,) Rosita and Ezekiel. It’s a proverbial Pearl Harbor moment, serving as the catalyst for the escalating conflagration that will come to be known as “The Whisperer War;” one that’s been consistently foreshadowed on the series with the long-planned community fair. Moreover, the official synopsis for the March 31 season finale, “The Storm,” reveals that the episode picks up after a major catastrophe, stating:
“In the aftermath of an overwhelming loss, the communities must brave a ferocious blizzard; as one group deals with an enemy from within, another is forced to make a life or death decision.”
The prospect of losing Rosita (Christian Serratos) – a veteran of the series since Season 4 – and Ezekiel (Khary Payton) – the Kingdom’s regal ruler, Carol’s beau and an integral ally in the good fight since Season 7 – would be a moment almost as transformative for the dynamic of the series as the controversial (some would say goodwill-eroding) Season 6-7 cliffhanger sequence, in which Negan brandished barbed-wire bat Lucille to brutally execute Abraham and Glenn. – Unlike that incident, at least we won’t have to wait over six months to find out who got killed!
Yet, with recent major cast exits like that of star Andrew Lincoln (and the upcoming exit of Danai Gurira,) forcing the series to veer into different timeline territory, the TV show’s take on the signature moment will obviously play out differently, though the sacrificial stakes will remain analogous to the comic. Pertinently, Olivia (Ann Mahoney) and Erin (Tiffany Morgan) are already long-dead by this point on the TV series, and most of the names don’t seem to have show counterparts. However, Tammy (played by former Grace Under Fire star Brett Butler) – with husband Earl (John Finn) – just took on the duty of raising an abandoned Whisperer baby, and Oscar (Anthony Lopez) has been a loyal ally to Rick and company and a survivor of the Saviors conflict. Thus, there’s plenty of prospective devastation to go around.
Of course, you’ll have to tune in to The Walking Dead on AMC this Sunday night, 9/8c, to see how this ultimately plays out.