Remembering That Disturbing Love Scene On The Walking Dead (You Know The One)

"The Walking Dead" has had its share of icky moments, but usually those involve human characters dying or bloated zombies that have been stuck down a well being ripped in half so that their entrails spill out all over the place. It's not often, on this or any other show, that you see a killer and a woman wearing a severed zombie face get intimate in the woods. But that's exactly what happened in "The Walking Dead" season 10, episode 9, "Squeeze."

After series lead Andrew Lincoln departed "The Walking Dead" in its ninth season, taking protagonist Rick Grimes with him, the show was left to reconfigure itself around other survivors of the zombie apocalypse, including Negan, played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Prior to Rick's exit from the series, Negan had been a villain, cut from the same murderous cloth as the Governor (David Morrissey). Both the Governor and Negan had robbed Maggie (Lauren Cohan) of family members.

This is where we have to raise the alarm bell for spoilers. If you've seen the show, then you know the Governor beheaded Maggie's father, Hershel (Scott Wilson), with a samurai sword, while Negan caved in the head of her husband, Glenn (Steven Yeun), with his baseball bat.

People can change. Or so "The Walking Dead" asked us to believe as it sought to rehabilitate Negan's image, taking a page from the comics and giving him a gonzo little love interest along the way. In its bid for continued relevance post-Rick, the show had to sustain the interest of longtime viewers any way it could, and in the aforementioned episode, "Squeeze," it did that by having Negan and Alpha (Samantha Morton), the leader of the Whisperers, get naked — with a zombie twist.

The secret Whisperer handshake

Negan's big love scene with the zombie-flesh-wearing Alpha begins without a hint of romance. He's sitting on a tree trunk, cutting bark from it, when Alpha walks up on him in her zombie mask with another guy. Alpha simply says, "You," to Negan and keeps walking. Even he doesn't know what to expect as he follows her, though he suspects he might be in trouble. "Looks like Mom's mad at me," he says.

Alpha leads Negan into the woods, but actually, he's walking in front of her, which leaves him in a vulnerable position, with his back to her. Throughout the scene, Alpha never removes her mask, and although Morton is a famous actress in her own right, we never see her face. We just see her piercing blue eyes through the zombie mask, with its long blond hair. In a Southern-fried accent, she gives terse commands like "Keep walking" and "Eyes front" as Negan looks back over his shoulder.

It's campy as all get-out, but also a bit scary. Keep in mind, Hannibal Lecter also wore people's faces, and he was a cannibal. Negan isn't the nervous type, but he admits he's "not good with long, uncomfortable silences," and this one happens to be exacerbated by the fact that Alpha is scooting along behind him with her hand on her knife, not saying much.

"This feels like some sort of fraternity initiation," Negan observes. "Is that what this is? Am I going to get my skin suit and finally get to learn the secret Whisperer handshake?"

"Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" teaches us that Austrians say goodbye by kissing, and apparently "the secret Whisperer" handshake involves disrobing and embracing for some kinky roleplay as a zombie during outdoor sex.

'What the world needed'

The scene is something of a fake-out for both Negan and the viewer, in that he almost seems resigned to being executed. "The Walking Dead" has killed off any number of characters — that's the show's stock and trade — but Alpha has other plans for Negan, which become more evident as she tells him to take off his clothes.

As he strips down, Negan starts breathing heavier, like he's psyching himself up to go out of this world the way he came into it, which is to say, buck naked. He starts speaking about himself in the past tense, almost delivering a eulogy, monologuing about how he made himself into a monster "because that is what the world needed." And if you listen very hard between the lines, you can maybe even hear the implied Jackie DeShannon song lyric, "What the world needs now is love, sweet love."

Zombie love. Alpha punctures Negan's melodramatic soliloquy with the words, "Turn around," and when he does, she's naked, too. But still wearing the zombie face. This provokes a Keanu Reeves-like, "Whoa," from Negan, at which point the balance of dialogue power in the scene shifts to Alpha.

"You're a crass man," she explains. "I thought you might appreciate a crass reward." 

It turns out Alpha is pleased with Negan for outing the spy Gamma (Thora Birch) among the Whisperers. We only see them from the waist up, but as Alpha draws closer, saying, "I want to express my gratitude in a way that you will understand," it becomes clear that she has something very different in mind for Negan than a "Miller's Crossing"-style forest execution. It seems she, like Morgan's own real-life wife, actress Hilarie Burton, finds him and his skull tattoos "kinda hot."

Alpha's true skin

Realizing that he is in the middle of a post-apocalyptic booty call, Negan asks Alpha if she is going to leave her mask on.

"Does my true skin disturb you?" Alpha retorts.

"Not at all," Negan says. "Weirdly the opposite."

He's into this whole naked zombie love thing! And they go in for the kiss. However, Negan stops short, suddenly uncertain whether this is "a praying mantis situation" where Alpha is going to mate with him but then behead him.

Alpha doesn't say anything to that, which leaves Negan babbling further about how it's been a long time since he's been with anyone and he'll have to take his chances. Finally, Alpha wraps her arms around him and says, "Stop talk," which isn't exactly good grammar, but which gets the point across in its own two-syllable way. She gets the last word in the scene as the music swells and we cut to a wide shot of Negan and Alpha kissing each other nude in their socks in the backwoods of Georgia.

Ladies and gentlemen ... "The Walking Dead!" The sad thing is, though Negan and Alpha did enjoy a love connection, Negan would wind up carrying out his own prophecy in reverse and beheading Alpha just a few episodes later. The scene leading up to her death was framed similar to their earlier love scene, except this time, it was Negan walking behind her, and she had the mask off, so her shaved, non-zombie head was out for the viewer to see.

If you miss Alpha and would like to see her again, the good news is, she'll be returning (with or without weird zombie cosplay love scenes) for an episode of the "Tales of the Walking Dead" anthology series.