The Walking Dead actor Juan Javier Cardenas says some fans were left feeling "frustrated" by a shocking revelation about his character in the zombie drama's tenth season, which exposes Alexandria newcomer Dante as a Whisperer spy. In a twist that does not exist in the comic book source material, where Dante is a heroic member of the Hilltop and a romantic interest for community leader Maggie, Dante outs himself as a Whisperer mole before murdering friend Siddiq (Avi Nash). A flashback reveals Alpha (Samantha Morton) ordering the betrayal after traumatizing Siddiq by forcing him to witness the slaughter of his friends, including Enid (Katelyn Nacon) and Tara (Alanna Masterson).
"I knew going in that the character change was going to be a shock to people," Cardenas told Walking Dead BR. "With The Walking Dead, you have a combination of two really enthusiastic fan groups: comic book fans, and horror/sci-fi fans. When I saw how much it shook and in some cases frustrated some fans, I just took it as a validation of all the hard work we all put into crafting the drama of Dante's storyline."
"We really affected people, pulled viewers out of their comfort zone," he added. "That's what you want good storytelling to accomplish."
The reveal in Season 10 Episode 7, "Open Your Eyes," was made possible by the temporary absence of Maggie Rhee (Lauren Cohan), who will return to The Walking Dead in its tenth season finale airing October 4.
"It's one of those situations where, just [because of] the nature of where we are in the show and the characters who are no longer here, we had to bring Dante in a little bit of a different way than what you're expecting," executive producer Denise Huth told Radio Times ahead of Season 10. "In the comics, he's very much tied to Maggie’s story and right now Maggie's not here. But it was fun to introduce such a great character from the books and bring him in in a very different way."
Showrunner Angela Kang later explained Maggie's absence presented an opportunity to disguise a good guy comic book character as a villain, tying into the season's themes about distrust and paranoia.
"We felt it was really interesting to work with," Kang said. "It gave us an opportunity to write someone from the comic but still have a new take on it."
Cardenas' time with the series ended when Dante was viciously stabbed to death by Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam).
The Walking Dead Season 10 finale, “A Certain Doom,” premieres Sunday, October 4 on AMC, followed by the series premiere of new spinoff The Walking Dead: World Beyond. For all things TWD, follow the author @CameronBonomolo on Twitter.