Two months after its mid-season finale, The Walking Dead is back with a rather sedate instalment designed to kick off the back half of season nine.
The first batch of episodes, which began in October, culminated with the death of another main character. This time, it was the end of Jesus (Tom Payne), who met his maker at the hands of the latest group of villains that’ll be terrorising our heroes for weeks to come: the Whisperers.
The latest episode, titled “Adaptation”, picks up immediately where things left off – with Daryl (Norman Reedus), Michonne (Danai Gurira) and company attempting to get away from Jesus’s murderers.
These are the five biggest talking points from season nine, episode nine.
1. The Whisperers gets faces
With Jesus dead, our gang scarpers from whatever the hell it is they’re up against – at this stage, they’re still unsure. The next day, Daryl and Michonne jump into action – with a horde of walkers oncoming, they figure out that two of them aren’t dead at all; they’re actually humans wearing stitched-up walker masks. Disturbingly, the person underneath is a young girl who claims she’s the only one left of her group so, naturally, they take her prisoner. It’s entertaining – and rather impressive – to see how well the writers have weaved the Whisperers into the show, especially considering their whole deal sounds pretty ridiculous (try explaining them to your friends).
2. Negan’s solo travels
The newly freed Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) makes his way out of Alexandria – and directly into the path of young Judith who, ridiculously, lets him go. Free for the first time in six years, the former main villain heads to the Sanctuary, his old stomping ground – only now it’s empty and filling him with nostalgia for the times he used to rule the roost. So, what does he do? He heads back to Alexandria. “There’s nothing for me out there,” he tells Judith. While these scenes – unthinkable a few seasons back – do well in showing the character’s trajectory, they also regrettably undo a lot of the work former showrunner Scott Gimple did in building him up, which is a frustrating thought considering how many hours were put into it.
3. Henry’s new friend
Remember Henry, the adopted son of Carol and Ezekiel? He’s still in that Hilltop prison for getting drunk, only now he’s got a cellmate: the Whisperer that Daryl and Michonne take prisoner. Pretty furious over the death of Jesus, Daryl becomes violent and wants to set her to the wolves – but Henry prompts him to stand down. Despite cryptically telling Daryl a few moments earlier she doesn’t go by any name, she’s more than willing to share it with Henry: it’s Lydia, a name that fans of the graphic novel will be very aware of.
4. Rosita is pregnant… and the daddy might be a surprise
Eugene (Josh McDermitt) returns to Hilltop after his run-in with the Whisperers and it sparks him into action: he wants Rosita (Christian Serratos) and he’s fed up of waiting around for her. Rosita doesn’t respond that well to his advances. Instead, she leaves the room and delivers some news that causes some eyes to roll: she’s pregnant – and the father is Siddiq (Avi Nash). Yes, Siddiq who we’ve barely seen her speak to before in the history of the show. There are only so many things that happened in the six-year time jump that we can register (Alden and Enid's romance is far down that list) and this one might just be a stretch too far.
5. Alpha arrives?
The scenes between Luke (Dan Fogler) and Alden (Cllan McAuliffe) thankfully serve something other than to show us the burgeoning friendship between these two non-entities – it’s to put them in mortal danger. They head out to find Luke’s pals, the gang we met in the first half of the season, and follow the trail left by Yumiko. A few boring conversations about music later, and they realise they’ve been had; the trail wasnt left by Yumiko at all. It leads them to who we can only assume is Alpha (Samantha Morton in her Walking Dead debut). Quite honestly, we’d feel more concerned if we actually cared about these characters, but it's good to finally meet the villain the show's been teasing for many episodes now.