The Walking Dead may have sealed someone's fate by bringing a comic book cover to life in its midseason 10 premiere, "Squeeze." Alpha (Samantha Morton) suspects the Whisperers are being watched by the enemy after spotting Carol (Melissa McBride), Daryl (Norman Reedus), and Aaron (Ross Marquand) and other survivors at the site where Alpha once kept her walker horde, since relocated into a cave where the heroes are now trapped. The Whisperer leader assumes Alexandria is sending spies across her border, but Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), the newest member of the Whisperers, correctly deduces that it's Gamma (Thora Birch) who is the spy within her camp.
Alpha tells him her people know the enemy have "noting to offer except lies," but Negan, once a leader of men when he commanded the now defunct Saviors, has been in Alpha's exact situation: he was brought down in part by the efforts of an insider, Dwight (Austin Amelio), who helped Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) win the war against the Saviors nearly eight years earlier.
"If you don't want to end up where I am right now," Negan tells her, "I suggest you zig where I zagged." Alpha says they're very different, but Negan disagrees.
"I had people. I had a system. Thought they believed in it, just like you," he says. "See, the thing is, you stay a king — or queen — long enough, with people telling you all day every day that your shit don't stink, eventually you start to believe it. The thing is… it still stinks."
Negan says to look closer to home, immediately ruling out clear goose-stepper Beta (Ryan Hurst), Alpha's most loyal follower. But "the little one," Negan says of Gamma, the only other Whisperer granted a name, "She is close enough to you that she knows exactly where that horde was. But she guards the border, which means she's close enough to the enemy that they could have gotten to her."
He's right, of course: Alpha once punished Gamma, real name Mary, amid suspicions she was being seduced by the way of life offered by the metal-armed man, a.k.a. Aaron, Gamma's border patrol counterpart. When Alpha comes around to the idea, she orders Beta to track down the missing Gamma and bring her back — alive — so that she can be dealt with as the pack watches.
Later, when Negan is marched into the woods and ordered to remove his clothes, he assumes he's about to be killed.
"You're right. We are different," he says, uttering what might be his last words. "I made myself into a monster, because that is what the world needed. I built something. I saved people. My name, it meant something."
Ordered to turn around, Negan is met with the sight of Alpha wearing nothing but her "true skin," a mask made from walker flesh. Because he's a "crass man," Alpha says, "I reckoned you might appreciate a crass reward."
Asked if the mask disturbs him, Negan admits it's "weirdly the opposite." Still apprehensive, he asks, "This isn't some sort of a praying mantis situation, is it? Cut off my head afterwards?"
Alpha gives no answer, but after eight years in solitary confinement, Negan reckons he'll take his chances.
The scene is inspired by the cover of The Walking Dead issue #156, titled "Queen and King," which shows Negan and a masked Alpha, both fully clothed, in a romantic embrace. Unlike their live-action counterparts, Negan and Alpha don't have sex — despite Negan's attraction towards her — and the issue ends with, spoiler, Negan taking advantage of his closeness to Alpha by cutting off her head.
Negan later presents Alpha's decapitated head to Alexandria leader Rick Grimes to bargain for his release from jail. Unless Alpha manages to survive the half-season, this arrangement could play out with Daryl in the television show.
"Is it coming to an end? That's what you assume. You never know," Morton said in a recent interview when asked about the television series creeping up on Alpha's comic book death. "This is the thing about AMC and that world, and the comic book world. It's like, you just don't know what they have in store, and you don't know how people's stories [are going to go]."