The Whisperers have a lot to answer for in The Walking Dead, as Alpha’s tactics become an increasingly prominent weapon in the protagonists’ repertoire. Since The Walking Dead season 1, Rick Grimes and his fellow survivors have employed a special tactic against the dead. By smothering themselves in zombie guts, The Walking Dead‘s heroes can confuse the undead’s primitive sense of smell and pass themselves off as fellow reanimated corpses. Traditionally used to move through hordes without drawing attention, The Walking Dead‘s zombie guts trick has been recycled time and time again, even as late as season 11 when Daryl’s group rescued April from Sebastian’s death house.
Popular though The Walking Dead‘s zombie guts trick may be, the tactic is being rapidly replaced – all thanks to the Whisperers. Taking the concept several steps further, the Whisperers dressed in full zombie skins, and this strategy was designed not just to evade undead, but to hit enemy communities with surprise attacks. The Whisperers were defeated in The Walking Dead season 10, but their methods remain alive and well. In “Faith,” Lydia calls upon her Whisperer past and is inspired to assault the Commonwealth-occupied Alexandria by mingling among a crowd of dead. Her group makes do with gunk and flesh as opposed to full skin costumes, but their movements copy the Whisperers exactly. And not for the first time…
The Walking Dead Season 11 Is Showing The Whisperers’ Legacy
Earlier in The Walking Dead season 11, Maggie and Negan required a method of infiltrating Meridian, which was held by Pope’s Reapers. They decided to borrow Alpha’s tactic, dressing in full zombie costumes, masks included, to take the Reapers by surprise. Skip ahead to The Walking Dead‘s “Faith,” and now Lydia is using her mother’s old tricks to get away from the Commonwealth soldiers and catch them unawares. Both examples highlight the legacy Alpha and her Whisperers left behind, with The Walking Dead‘s heroes pulling from their playbook on multiple occasions.
The Walking Dead season 11 also showcased Alpha’s legacy during “Variant.” When Aaron’s group first encountered a walker that could grab weapons, climb buildings, and pick up objects, they naturally assumed the Whisperers were to blame, ripping off the culprit’s “mask.” Aaron’s paranoia that the Whisperers had returned proves how deep of an emotional scar Alpha’s villains left upon the landscape of The Walking Dead. He fails to even entertain the idea of evolved zombies, and the feverishness with which Aaron tears off the zombie’s face speaks to his fear, perhaps remembering how the Whisperers killed Jesus.
The Walking Dead Continues To Bend Its Zombie Guts Rules
The Walking Dead has never been particularly consistent with enforcing the zombie guts trick. According to The Walking Dead infection rules, the bacteria from a zombie’s mouth makes bites 100% fatal, and yet only a single character – Gabriel Stokes – has suffered serious ill effects from covering himself in guts. Additionally, the amount of entrails required has diminished over time. In The Walking Dead season 1, Rick and Glenn were absolutely dripping in organs and blood, but during the aforementioned season 11 example, Daryl’s group moved through the zombie crowd protected by a barely-visible skimming of innards.
“Faith” further confuses the rules surrounding zombie detection. Covering oneself in guts allows a survivor to move quickly through a crowd of zombies without being preyed upon, but The Walking Dead strongly implies that spending hours in the middle of a herd requires a more robust disguise – hence the Whisperers (and later Maggie with Negan) wearing skin masks. Aaron’s group enjoys the best of both worlds in The Walking Dead season 11, episode 22. The escapees are able to camouflage among a zombie herd for an extended period of time, but using guts alone, foregoing the Whisperer masks. The rise of variants means zombies are getting smarter in The Walking Dead, but maybe not that smart.
Next: The Walking Dead Properly Names A New Variant Zombie Type
The Walking Dead continues Sunday on AMC.