Following the reveal of a Whisperer spy within Alexandria’s walls, the opening minutes from The Walking Dead 10x08, “The World Before,” solves another mystery from earlier this season: the person behind that “Silence the Whispers” graffiti that defaced Alexandria in 10x04, “Silence the Whisperers.” It was Lydia (Cassady McClincy), daughter of Whisperer leader Alpha (Samantha Morton), who first suspected the vandals to be tormentors Margo (Jerri Tubbs), Alfred (David Shae) and Gage (Jackson Pace), but this new clip shows us the real culprit: ranks-climbing Whisperer Dante (Juan Javier Cardenas), who was sent by Alpha to infiltrate and sabotage Alexandria while sowing dissent among its already paranoid survivors.
The reveal is a twist on creator Robert Kirkman’s comic books, where it was Alexandria leader Rick Grimes who urged the Alexandrians to silence the Whisperers through a targeted propaganda campaign.
“As we were breaking the season, we were talking about what is the nature of the Whisperer war and what are the feelings from the comic books that are interesting? And I’ve been talking about how we started thinking about it in terms of a cold war, and then we were like, ‘What really makes a cold war, a cold war?’” showrunner Angela Kang explained to EW. “And a lot of it had to do with that feeling of not being certain who to trust, the paranoia, and a lot of that came from what Robert Kirkman set up in the idea of Silence the Whisperers. All of that idea of propaganda and stuff is in the books. And then we were like, ‘Well, it’s also about spies, and there’s a spy aspect to it.’ And we haven’t really done that in that way other than Dwight had his own kind of turncoat thing, but this is a different way into it.”
To better disguise the twist and throw off comic book readers, who are familiar with Dante as a key part of Maggie's story and the Hilltop colony, Kang and her writers introduced Dante as an ex-field medic and compadre of Siddiq (Avi Nash), left second-guessing himself over near constant interference from his post-traumatic stress disorder.
“We really started from the idea of it’d be interesting if there are attempts to gather information on both sides, and then as we got into the story, of how it would be interesting if Siddiq, as a result of his PTSD, had gaps in his memory and can’t trust himself,” Kang said. “And as things are going wrong, he’s not sure what’s going on. We started creating this character of a spy, and then the problem was like, ‘Well, how do you even embed a spy when our people are so smart and they’re so savvy about things? And also our audience is savvy.’”
The answer, Kang explained, was the inherent trustworthiness of doctors — particularly in the apocalypse.
“We just talked about the fact that a lot of times sociopaths can be very high functioning individuals that hide in plain sight because they’re accomplished. And so, we were like, ‘Well, people just tend to trust doctors. They just do. And it’s something they need, and it connects to Siddiq,’” she said. “And we were wanting to introduce Dante as a character, and we just decided to meld them together and see if we could play a story where like, ‘Here’s this person who, on the one hand, is incredibly charming and could be a friend and he legitimately actually likes Siddiq, but he’s also got a deeper agenda.’ So, that’s how the genesis of the melding of Dante and this spy character came about.”