This post contains spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 10, Episode 12, “Walk with Us.”
At long last, The Walking Dead has pulled the trigger on killing off its most recent big bad, Alpha. Or should we say it pulled a knife?
Alpha first appeared in Season 9—a monster whose group wears zombies’ faces as both a disguise and a lifestyle. Fresh off the war against Negan and his Saviors, Alpha made our now-reformed big bad look like a sweet kitten—but like most Walking Dead baddies, she had begun to overstay her welcome by the time the show finally gave her the boot. Season 10’s premiere even teased Sunday’s exact outcome. Calling back to the original comic series, Negan—who has spent the season pretending to be in league with Alpha—tricked her into thinking he was reuniting her with her daughter, Lydia, so he could kill her.
Sunday’s installment began by jumping back into the Battle of Hilltop—which is basically just a pile of rubble, a busted radio, and a broken dream now. Amid the chaos, Ezekiel rushed the children to safety—except Judith, who never misses an opportunity to leap into harm’s way. The town’s trusty blacksmith, Earl, eventually led Judith to join the other kids—but only after she’d traumatized herself by killing her first human being by accident. Then came the really bad news: Turns out Earl got bitten by a walker. He killed himself by slamming his head onto a table, which he’d affixed with a giant spike.
With only four episodes remaining this season, we’ve hit the stretch where the payoffs (read: major deaths) tend to drop. Earl fell on the wrong side of that equation this week, but on the bright side: Magna, who got trapped in a cave thanks to Carol during the premiere, is all right! She wandered onto the Hilltop battlefield among the Whisperers’ horde. But this being Walking Dead, there is, of course, also more bad news: Connie, who had been trapped with Magna, lost her grip on her hand as they walked in the horde together. That said, we haven’t seen her corpse—so, as always, assume she’s somehow miraculously alive until further notice.
But Alpha’s demise was the reason for the season this week. Her death was as quiet as it was unnerving: Negan led Alpha to an empty cabin, and when she turned around he slit her throat—and later rolled her severed head across the ground to a bemused Carol, who apparently planned all of this with him from the beginning. Her only comment? “Took you long enough.”
Show-runner Angela Kang attributed’s Negan’s heroic streak, in part, to a soft spot for children.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Kang pointed out that the character had been a teacher in the original comics. “[T]he 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,” Kang said. “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.”
The dynamic between Negan and Alpha—and her eventual murder—are an “iconic storyline” from the comics, Kang told The Hollywood Reporter. “But we needed to have our own twist on it, which is why we have Carol. The emotional aspect of that story is so strong, the idea that they were in it together in this very particular way, but Negan takes his own path toward getting there.”
Carol’s vendetta against Alpha goes back to Season 8, when the Whisperers leader infiltrated a festival and murdered several community members, including her adopted son Henry. This week’s twist ending finally gave Carol the revenge she’s so desperately craved—a Carol Victory Moment that feels worthy of sitting on a shelf beside her other triumphs, like burning Terminus to the ground in Season 5.
But in her fury, Carol has also become extremely bad at basically everything this season—from keeping her friends—[cough] Daryl—to thinking before she runs into a zombie-filled cave, getting them all trapped inside with her. In the weeks to come, she’ll probably still have some fences to mend, even if she saved the day.
“There are some very cool scenes coming up for Negan with our big characters, which I’m really excited for people to see,” Kang told THR. “And now Carol has gotten her revenge—but revenge is complicated. It’s obviously going to be something that plays out for her. Did it satisfy that itch, or is there something else at the end of this road?”
This week’s episode hinted at that tension when Carol confided in Eugene. (Why Eugene? Because it was either him or a twice-killed walker.) Carol had just fought with a party member who was (rightfully) angry at her callous single-mindedness. “Do you know what it feels like to want something so bad—and to go after it with everything that you have?” Carol asked Eugene. “Piss off everyone, literally everyone, maybe get people killed, and still you have nothing to show for it?” Before they parted ways, Eugene told her, “I sincerely hope you get what it is that you want.”
Now that Carol has Alpha’s head, one could say she’s gotten precisely what she wanted—but it’s cost her dearly in friends and allies. This certainly is nothing new for Carol—who, lest we forget, got kicked out of the group entirely back in Season 4 when she took it upon herself to torch some flu victims. (If only they’d heard of social distancing!) Still, it will be fascinating to see how she handles that loss of goodwill going forward—and how much forgiveness Alpha’s death can buy her.
At this point, the Whisperer War will end in a pyrrhic victory regardless of who its victor is. The Whisperers have lost their leader, and the allied communities have lost yet another safe haven, after The Kingdom last season. A lot of people are dead on both sides, and while both will recuperate, their losses are both undeniable and growing. Only four episodes remain this season, including Danai Gurira’s exit as Michonne next week. So things seem bound to get even bloodier from here.