In ‘The Walking Dead’ mid-season finale recap, the survivors encounter a whole new kind of enemy that ends in a shocking death…
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
Over the course of nine seasons, ‘The Walking Dead’ has been dramatic, funny, shocking and sometimes just down right sad but perhaps for the first time in more than 100 episodes, the show was truly frightening during the mid-season finale.
The first half of the ninth season of ‘The Walking Dead’ was somewhat marred because a couple of major events were already teased before the show even started and part of the joy of this show is coming to expect the unexpected.
So when Andrew Lincoln’s exit was confirmed months earlier and ‘The Walking Dead’ literally teased his final episode before it even happened, there wasn’t much mystery to unravel other than how he was going to leave the show. The same could largely be said for actress Lauren Cohan, who had signed onto do a new series on ABC months ahead of ‘The Walking Dead’ season 9 debuting.
Cohan didn’t get quite exit as Lincoln because the writers and producers behind the series are hopeful to get her back at some point but they also had to find a way for her to leave the show without killing the character.
Once all of that was out of the way, ‘The Walking Dead’ did a massive six year time jump and the series has been much stronger these last few episodes.
In particular, the mid-season finale on Sunday night was taut with tension as Daryl, Aaron and Jesus were on the hunt to find Eugene and while they eventually crossed paths with the mullet mastermind, they also ran across a whole new kind of terror that will definitely haunt this show for the remaining eight episodes (and perhaps beyond).
The Whisperers — a group that walks amongst the dead by covering themselves in rotting human flesh — have arrived and they are an enemy unlike any we’ve seen or met before. The Whisperers aren’t driven by power or control — not in the same way that we’ve seen from Negan or The Governor — and that’s going to bring a different kind of terror to ‘The Walking Dead’ this season.
And yes, there was a tragic death to cap off the episode — but we’ll get to that and more with our recap of ‘The Walking Dead’ mid-season finale titled ‘Evolution’…
There’s a cold chill in the air when Michonne arrives at Hilltop with a caravan of survivors she hopes to pass along to that community rather than welcoming them to Alexandria. Ever since the time jump happened, we’ve started to see that the communities — Alexandria, Hilltop, the Kingdom and Oceanside — barely communicate with each other any longer much less help one another in the age of the apocalypse.
What led to this broken relationship hasn’t been explained yet but obviously it was something so severe that these people who fought together for so long to defeat Negan and the Saviors can barely stand to be around each other any longer.
Does it have something to do with the ‘X’ shaped surgical scars we’ve seen on Michonne and Daryl? Is there more to the story why Michonne has seemingly cut off Alexandria from the rest of the world and barely wants anything to do with anybody else these days?
Those questions will have to wait for the second half of the season but it’s clear whatever happened was serious enough to burn the bridges between these communities.
As Michonne gets into Hilltop, she’s concerned about Rosita, who was found bloody, dehydrated and alone after being separated from Eugene out in the wilderness. Michonne can barely hold a conversation with Tara, who has become the de facto leader at Hilltop with Jesus out on the hunt and Maggie missing in action after leaving to help Georgie open new communities in neighboring areas.
Even a reunion with Carol is brief at best, although it doesn’t appear the harsh feelings extend to these two old friends. All we know for certain is Michonne wants nothing to do with this upcoming faire that is supposed to bring the communities back together despite pleas from King Ezekiel and his new queen Carol.
The new survivors — Magna and her group — are given the chance to stay at Hilltop so long as they can prove themselves useful.
Elsewhere at Hilltop, Henry starts to begin his new life as the apprentice to the blacksmith where he’s learning to forge weapons and work with iron and steel. Henry also has a big crush on Enid but soon finds out she’s moved on from a childhood crush on Carl and now seems to be in a relationship with Alden (the former Savior turned Hilltop loyalist).
Alone for the first time in his life, Henry ends up with a few more teenagers at Hilltop, who are just trying to act like kids by escaping the walls, drinking some bootleg liquor and revealing a pit where they’ve trapped a walker that they use for dart practice and ring toss. Henry is disturbed by what he sees and he ends up killing the walker — perhaps knowing that keeping a zombie around for too long will always backfire.
Henry is ultimately brought back into the community after vomiting on Tara’s shoes and she ends up locking him up for drunk and disorderly conduct. When Earl Sutton (the guy who tried to kill Maggie but was given a reprieve) shows up, he’s ready to write Henry off and send him packing to Kingdom.
Henry is able to convince him that this was a one-time incident and he’s serious about learning how to become a blacksmith. Earn agrees to keep him on — but expects more out of him going forward.
As for Rosita, she wakes up in a panic after being treated for dehydration and heat exhaustion. She tells Michonne and Siddiq about her harrowing experience in the woods where it appeared that a herd of walkers was actually pursuing both her and Eugene and she was forced to leave him behind due to an injured knee.
Rosita is shaken to the core over what just happened — and it’s enough to make Michonne want to investigate for herself and go look for Eugene.
Break My Rusty Cage
At Alexandria, Father Gabriel has been tasked with keeping a watchful eye over Negan while he attempts on a weekly basis to see if there’s any humanity in the former barbed-wire covered, baseball bat wielding sociopath. It seems Gabriel’s words bounce off Negan like he’s bulletproof and he loves to just give the pastor shit no matter what he says.
Negan is in a better place now than he was when he begged Maggie to kill him six years ago.
He’s got a tennis ball and a baseball glove so he can play catch. He gets visits from Rick Grimes’ daughter Judith and he has a window where he can see outside and listen to all the people walking by who have somehow forgotten they’ve got a monster living amongst them.
He even tries to taunt Gabriel about a conversation he heard from his girlfriend Rosita that wasn’t necessarily about him. It’s all fun and games until the messengers from the Hilltop arrive to tell the community that Rosita has been found and she’s being treated for injuries.
Gabriel is doubly upset — one because he sent her out to explore new regions in an attempt to find more people and two because he can’t go after her himself since he’s stuck at Alexandria looking after Negan.
Gabriel even lashes out at Negan following their latest encounter as he tells the former leader of the Saviors that he’s doing everything possible to reach the person he believes is inside of him but he’s starting to wonder if the monster is all that’s ever been there.
Gabriel leaves even as Negan almost seems remorseful for constantly pushing his buttons.
Later that night as Negan is tossing his tennis ball around the cell, it actually slips through the bars and he’s left without any entertainment to keep him occupied. Negan looks out at his lost tennis ball and then notices something else — the door on his cell has been left unlocked.
Gabriel was in such a hurry to get away from him earlier he failed to lock back the door to keep their prisoner behind bars. Negan walks out of the cell, tosses the tennis ball and leaves to go join the good citizens of Alexandria.
Negan’s story has been altered in many ways from the comic books so it’s tough to tell where he’s going or what he’ll do now that he has his freedom. Is this the same Negan who ruled with an iron fist or has an actual person emerged during these seven plus years he’s been locked away in a prison cell?
We’ll find out more in the second half of the season.
Whisper to a Scream
The truly terrifying part of the episode followed Daryl, Jesus and Aaron as they were searching for Eugene after finding out from Rosita that he was left alone in the wilderness when they were forced to escape a herd of walkers.
Right away as the group makes it out into the field, they notice that the herd of walkers that they’ve been tracking isn’t behaving like the typical group of the undead that just follow noise and continue to move forward in a mindless manner. Instead, this herd is just standing around and not really moving at all right now.
Still, Daryl believes they can distract the herd so they can continue the hunt for Eugene.
He uses an alarm clock to serve as a noisy distraction and they move forward to find the barn where Eugene was left behind when Rosita was forced to run.
When they finally find Eugene hidden down in a hole underneath the barn, they find that he’s terrified of what he just encountered. Eugene tells them that he and Rosita heard the zombies whispering to each other and the herd wasn’t just aimlessly walking along — they were hunting him.
Eugene theorizes that perhaps the walkers are evolving — while they are dead, the brains must still be functioning in some capacity and maybe they are starting to change and evolve as time moves forward. While everybody seems skeptical that the zombies are suddenly moving with purpose, Aaron quickly realizes that Eugene must be onto something when the herd they just distracted minutes before is already knocking on the front door of that barn.
As for Daryl, he escapes and tries to lead the herd in a different direction but his attempts to move them are unsuccessful as well. Daryl is dumbfounded to see that the walkers are basically ignoring the fireworks he sets off to get their attention and instead they continue to move forward as if they are hunting something or somebody.
Back at the barn, Aaron and Jesus carry Eugene out and they end up cutting through a graveyard in an attempt to slow down the walkers since there’s a wall that will be harder for them to get through and it should give them some distance to make an escape.
Sadly the gate on the other side of the cemetery is shut and buried in dirt, making it nearly impossible for the door to open and the group to escape. Out of nowhere, Michonne arrives to lend a hand and she soon has back up from Magna and Yumiko, who show up to prove that they can be trusted and they are willing to pull their own weight.
They finally get the door wedged open enough for Aaron and Eugene to slip through but Jesus stays behind to deal with the walkers pouring into the graveyard coming to get them.
Jesus kills several zombies — and shows off some slick ninja moves — and he’s just about ready to join his friends when he cuts down one zombie and then swings at another but this one actually ducks under his sword blade. The zombie then shoves a knife through Jesus’ back and whispers into his ear as Aaron and the others are horrified to watch him die.
“You are where you do not belong”
Jesus falls dead — the first victim of this new threat that has arrived.
Daryl shows up just in the nick of time to cut down several more walkers that were coming towards the gate as Aaron, Michonne and the others get back inside to check on a fallen Jesus. Daryl goes to pull his arrow out of the walker who killed Jesus and that’s when he discovers that he didn’t just put a zombie down.
Instead, Daryl finds a mask made of human skin sewn to an actual human being, who was wearing the rotted flesh as a disguise to walk amongst the walkers.
A second later, several more zombies emerge from the mist and fog but they aren’t just meandering towards the survivors looking to eat human flesh. The zombies are standing there with knives and other weapons in their hands surrounding the survivors and refusing to let them escape.
And with that, the Whisperers have finally arrived.
‘The Walking Dead’ will return with the second half of season 9 on February 10 but check out the first trailer for the final eight episodes below: