The Walking Dead 1002 – We Are the End of the World
It’s origin story time and for this week’s ride in the time machine, We Are the End of the World provides some backstory to how Alpha and Beta got their start. The episode also reveals the inner workings of the way the Whisperers operate and introduces Gamma, a new character portrayed by Thora Birch. Gamma is the sister of one of the Whisperers, Frances the woman who lost her child to the community on the Hilltop last season.
One thing We Are the End of the World establishes is that Alpha and Beta are if nothing remarkably consistent. From the moment we are introduced to their first meeting seven years earlier in a darkened hallway of an asylum they really haven’t changed that much. Beta was always a man of few words and preferred to keep his face hidden behind masks. Alpha’s twisted vision of loyalty and motherly love only escalated after she left her husband behind and the methods she employs as leader of the Whisperers in the present were evident from the start.
The dynamic between Alpha and Beta is an interesting one. While she may have been subordinate to him when she needed his help when they first met, she’s somehow superseded him to become the leader of their group. Two loners in search of something the pre-apocalyptic world was unable to offer them, Alpha and Beta used their respect for the dead and what they represented in a world without order to form a lasting bond. While their relationship is a complicated one it soon becomes clear that Beta isn’t as conflicted as Alpha is when it comes to their world view. While Alpha is prone to waves of cruelty dotted with drops of compassion, Beta is far more militant and consistent in his outlook on things, particularly where loyalty and the collective thought of the group is concerned.
His disapproval of how Alpha dealt with Gamma’s sister causes some conflict between them. The woman’s loss has shaken her confidence in the Whisperer manifesto and her doubts are beginning to spread amongst others in the group. The knowledge that there is another path to survival, one that includes growing crops, livestock and a good shower every once in a while has a certain and obvious appeal but runs counter to what Alpha and Beta are selling on their side of the boundary line.
Mental illness plays a big role in We Are the End of the World. Frances suffered from PTSD due to losing her child and trying to deal with that while remaining loyal to the way of the Whisperers was ultimately too much to bear. The symbolism of where Alpha and Beta first met and the enduring devotion to their almost soulless existence proves that their world view isn’t just based on a difference of opinion.
Alpha isn’t that different from Frances. The only difference is that they had different constitutions and ways of managing their trauma. Beta’s mask isn’t just a physical one either. He too is harboring some deep psychological scars. Some are in his heart while others he wears proudly on his face. The revelation in the final moments of the episode make his path to the present all the more tragic and also reveals what broken minds are capable of when the only hope they see is darkness.