It’s hard not to connect The Walking Dead ratings with fatigue of its three-season villain, Negan. Season 8 cleared a path for a new adversary altogether, and new casting info may have confirmed a long-awaited foe will finally suit up against Rick.

You’re warned of full spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 8 from here on out, as well as potential spoilers for Season 9. But now that Negan has been put away by Rick’s group and the Saviors absorbed into a larger community, the AMC drama is in need of a new threat for Season 9. Conventional wisdom held that skinsuit-wearing comic villains “The Whisperers” were likely to join the fray, but the series has been curiously reluctant to confirm as much. The exit of actor Chandler Riggs also threw a wrench into the Whisperer arc, but TVLine reports casting of two key characters who may keep things on track:

Season 9 casting is underway for girlfriends Yumiko and Magna, future Alexandrians who are not only prominent protagonists in Robert Kirkman’s comic-book series but in the war with the Saviors’ Big Bad successors, the Whisperers.

Granted, The Walking Dead is not above shuffling around key comic characters. The Season 8 addition of Avi Nash’s Siddiq had little to do with his bearded comic counterpart; an Oceanside resident who joined the story after Negan’s fall. It may be that Yumiko and Magna have nothing to do with the Whisperer arc in this version, and TVLine also notes there have been few overtures about casting the group’s leader, Alpha. Not to mention, the odd customs and stilted speech of the group bear more than a passing resemblance to Pollyanna McIntosh’s Jadis and her “Heapster” brood, so The Walking Dead may skip past the Whisperers for repetition’s sake.

The Walking Dead Season 9 has officially begun production, Lauren Cohan and all, so stay tuned for further details in the coming months.

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