When AMC released the trailer for The Walking Dead Season 7 during the San Diego Comic Con, fans were graced with a brief look at what lies ahead for Rick's group - at least those who survive Negan's bat - in the upcoming season. While the focus was on what's next for The Walking Dead, some comic book fans saw a little deeper into the Tara and Heath sequence at the end of the trailer. Speculation began and bam!, the Whisperers jumped from the comic book pages into theory land.
With Negan just making his first appearance in Season 6 finale, some fans are adamant that it's too soon for the next Big Bad to arrive in The Walking Dead, but others are a bit more resilient in believing we might be in for a big surprise this next season. Let's take a look at the hints AMC has dropped of the Whisperers thus far, and figure out if they'll share Negan's spotlight in Season 7 of The Walking Dead, or if the producers are trolling us - yet again.
As were about to delve into comic book territory, HUGE SPOILER WARNING for everyone who isn't caught up with the comics - or The Walking Dead TV show.
Understanding the Pace
Back in the early seasons of The Walking Dead, many things were extremely different from what we're currently used to. The walkers were faster and smarter - some even carried and used props - and the pace of the show in comparison to its comic book counterpart was much slower. For instance, Season 1 (who had Frank Darabont as showrunner) covered issues 1-6 of Robert Kirkman's comic books, while Season 3 spanned from issue #12 to #38 with Glenn Mazarra taking over the showrunner mantle.
Since Scott M. Gimple took over as series producer and showrunner in Season 4, The Walking Dead has been following a much steadier pace, and has clearly been drawing more and more from the comic books' original story lines. True, Gimple has included two of the least appreciated novelties in the show - the filler episodes and the infamous cliffhangers - but he's brought The Walking Dead to a steady pace. So steady, in fact, that fans have been able to predict what issues will be covered in every season.
Last season (which covered issues #78 - #100 of the comics), the episodes were packed with plot development and, apart from the Morgan and Enid episodes, fillers were pretty much non-existent. Add to that the fact that three episodes ran for thirty extra minutes and you'll get the explanation as to how - and why - Negan made his debut in the finale. Had Gimple followed his Season 5 pace (which covered only 15 issues instead of 22), it would be fair to assume we would only get Negan in the early episodes of Season 7. If The Walking Dead keeps this pace up, it's very likely the end of All Out War and the introduction of the Whisperers will serve as the between-seasons cliffhanger.
From 'Something to Fear' to The Whisperers
In Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead comic books series, Negan makes his first appearance in issue #100 (Something to Fear #4). Just like in the show, the Survivors were aware of Negan's existence prior to their fateful meet-up, but there are 13 comic book issues between Glenn's death and the beginning of the next arc, All Out War. After those 13 issues, there's another 15 until we see the Whisperers for the first time.
Now, the Whisperers are the threat Rick and the gang have to face after All Out War and after a two-year time skip in the comics. It's not like they deal with Negan and immediately after have to deal with the Whisperers. Alexandria - and all the Safe Zones for that matter - face some relatively peaceful and prosperous times before things start to go sideways once more. That time skip has always been a question for some fans, as there's a myriad of stories to cover in that time - and the opportunity to add in non-canon plotlines as well.
Hence, that gap in the comic books' story line is an integral part of the answer to whether the Whisperers will join Season 7 or not. If they follow the comics and don't show us those two years, then the Whisperers might make their entrance sooner than expected.
Who Are The Whisperers?
As is always the case with a post-apocalyptic society, as soon as people get comfortable enough to believe life is getting better, shit hits the fan again. After the All Out War comic arc ends, Rick is visibly older, and living means more than just surviving for the Alexandrians. To tip that balance, the Whisperers come with their different - and big - community, where people wear the skins of the dead in order to walk among the walkers.
They have no desire to mingle with the living though, and when one of them is captured they set out for war. Their leader, Alpha, is a strong and merciless woman, who tries very hard to hide her emotions and feelings - because she considers them to be weaknesses. In an attempt to set some borders between her lands and Rick's, she kills a bunch of Survivors and places their heads on spikes. Recently, AMC released some teaser images for Season 7, and one of them mimics very well what Alpha did in the comics.
Yes, it could be a walker. Yes, it could be simply an Easter egg.
But this could very well be a friendly character's head, put on a spike by Alpha. If that's the case, then it would be the second clue to the Whisperers featuring in Season 7 of The Walking Dead. As mentioned in the introduction, the first clue came with the Comic Con trailer, and the Whisper-esque look some of the walkers that Tara and Heath were fighting. Their sunken eyes and dried skin could be a result of decomposing in a overly dry environment - like the one we see Heath in - but it's also pretty similar to the appearance Charlie Adlard gave the Whisperers in The Walking Dead comic books.
The Nay Evidence
The hints are out there and AMC is working extra hard to get people to think "Silence the Whispers" around every corner, but that is, in itself, enough indication that they might be playing us once more. The main piece of evidence that debunks the theory of the Whisperers making an appearance in Season 7 came from Robert Kirkman via Skybound on Twitter a while back.
We could make Negan and his arc the second evidence, since in the comics he's the big bad of all times for Rick's group. Many things happen before and during All Out War that make Negan an intrinsic part of The Walking Dead, and that shape Rick into the leader he turns out to be by the end of that arc. Negan's character is rich and so well layered that giving him a single season to develop - and a shared one at that - wouldn't do justice to his comic book counterpart.
Another point to consider is simply the quantity of material the producers of The Walking Dead would have to rush through in order to show the Whisperers this season. From where the show now stands after the cliffhanger - which refers to issue #100 - to when Alpha does her thing with the borders, it's 44 issues. Now, it's one thing to cover 15 or 22 issues in a season, but to draw from 44 comic books is a whole other ordeal.
So, Will the Whisperers Debut in Season 7 or Not?
I'm just gonna call it and say no. There's a really slim chance that the Whisperers will make an appearance in the upcoming Season 7 of The Walking Dead, which means the producers are messing with fans' minds - yet again. It's a grand marketing twist to aim the spotlight on anything but Negan's victim - or victims - and keep the cliffhanger mystery alive for the premiere. And it's working just fine, thank you very much.
Season 7 will bring a great and rich story arc with Negan taking center stage and make The Walking Dead world a whole lot bigger with the inclusion of new communities. Also, if producers Gimple and Greg Nicotero are true to their words, it will offer the necessary payback for that Season 6 finale cliffhanger that's become so controversial. The Whisperers most likely won't join The Walking Dead show until late Season 8 and, when they do, Rick and the gang will be ready to take them on - courtesy of Negan's tough love training.
What's your take on the Whisperers appearing in Season 7? Will they or won't they have an early introduction? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
The Walking Dead Season 7 premieres on October 23, on AMC.