The Walking Dead recap: A whole lot of broken world

Ross Marquand as Aaron - The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 8 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC. Acquired via AMC Networks Press Center.
Ross Marquand as Aaron - The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 8 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC. Acquired via AMC Networks Press Center. /

Full of ominous foreboding, The Walking Dead just delivered a whopper of a mid-season cliffhanger. The Whisperers have officially arrived.

Over the past few seasons, The Walking Dead has bungled the transition of narrative from page to screen, thriving instead in the space between the canonic comic cells. Ever since the much-hyped arrival of Negan, the show has floundered to keep apace with the momentum of the books. All Out War lasted a mere eleven issues in the comic (Vol. 115 to 126), but spanned a mind-boggling season plus of airtime on the show. That’s a lot of nonsense filler.

Not so with the Whisperers. At least not yet. For the first time since Season 6, the show has done something electrifying with the lead up to the new Big Bad on the show. As a comic reader, I remember the shock and confusion that washed over me as I first met the Whisperers within the glossy black and white pages. Walkers can talk?! Are they evolving? No. Wait. They’re people?! What the what is going on?!

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For me, watching the last three episodes of The Walking Dead Season 9 have activated the thrill of discovery all over again. This brief handful of episodes proved to be the perfect amount of time to set up and tease the arrival of these horrific monsters while simultaneously giving us much to ponder over the break.

The show just has to stick the landing in the back half of Season 9. And given that the foundation has already been set for several watershed moments in the comics, the likelihood of continued success seems high. Not only has the Whisperers’ origin story been meted out with perfection, but the stage has been set for a dovetail with some mysterious tragedy in the past that has fractured our TWD family; a fracture that seems to have originated with a monumental decision from Michonne (Danai Gurira).

As Michonne brings the newbie group to Hilltop, she encounters Tara (Alanna Masterson) who gives her old friend the iciest reception since Elsa’s castle in Frozen. Neither one can just let it go. Then, Carol (Melissa McBride) tries to thaw the waters by invoking the fair, but she fails. Michonne is steadfast in her view to protect Alexandria and Alexandria only.

Understanding Michonne’s shift in focus to protecting the Alexandrians above all others is sad and frustrating, but it’s understandable. The woman has lost so much, it’s a literal miracle that she’s still standing at all. Her unexpected change of heart also adds an element of the unknown to the proceedings. Siddiq (Avi Nash), continually tries to encourage Michonne to do the right thing, but his pleas keep falling on deaf ears.

Avi Nash as Siddiq, Danai Gurira as Michonne – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 8 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC. Acquired via AMC Networks Press Center.
Avi Nash as Siddiq, Danai Gurira as Michonne – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 8 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC. Acquired via AMC Networks Press Center. /

Side Note: Does anyone else feel like Siddiq carries on Carl’s legacy? Carl died to save him, and so by the transitive property, we traded Carl for Siddiq. I can’t help but think that’s one of the reasons why Michonne seems to have entrusted him as her new right hand man. In many ways, he’s basically a substitute Carl. 

Meanwhile, out in the wild, Jesus (Tom Payne), Aaron (Ross Marquand), and Daryl (Norman Reedus) track the Whisperers. The suspense ramps up every time we check in with them. During daylight hours, the men are alarmed to see the herd milling about aimlessly, and grow even more perplexed when it starts following them. These three guys are some of the most experienced and skilled in navigating the broken world between communities, and they all know that walkers aren’t supposed to act like this. Something isn’t right.

They find out just how bonkers things are when they find Eugene (Josh McDermitt) squirreled away in a hidey hole. He rants about the walkers newfound abilities such as talking and circling back to find humans when the herd comes right up on top of them. The group flees into the foggy night with a gaggle of zombies in hot pursuit.

It’s literally a dark and stormy night as the conclusion of the mid-season finale unfolds. Night falls, and everything starts to go haywire. Even the scenes with young Henry (Matt Lintz) take on a decidedly sinister pall. Thunder rumbles in the background as he parties as the Hilltop Teen Center. He drinks a bit too much moonshine (hint: any amount of moonshine is too much moonshine) and then mercifully puts down the torture pet that the two other teens have wrangled in the backyard.

These walkers were once people, and Henry knows that. Most of our gang does. But the Whisperers know that above all, and they use the herds of the dead as a support system for survival. It’s a psycho idea, but it’s certainly effective. The strategy totally has the element of surprise going for it.

And that element of surprise is what ultimately trips up our band of scruffy trackers. As the men work to get Eugene out of harm’s way, Daryl and his pup stay behind to divert the herd. Mr. Dixon certainly has some fun herd bait up his sleeve throughout the episode, like an old school alarm clock and a string of firecrackers, but he’s not thinking outside of the box. As he tosses the firecrackers out, he watches as the herd gets nudged back into formation, heading back toward the other three men.

– The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 8 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC. Acquired via AMC Networks Press Center.
– The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 8 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC. Acquired via AMC Networks Press Center. /

The Whisperers have them right where they want them. Aaron and Jesus work on taking the herd out one by one when the cavalry arrives. Michonne, Magna (Nadia Hilker), and Yumiko (Eleanor Matsuura) manage to squeeze a gate open, allowing the men to pass through. But, for some reason, Jesus decides to stay and fight.

If it had been a regular herd, our boi would have certainly had a fighting chance. He uses his sweet ninja skills to take out a dozen or so walkers with ease. Then, he approaches the final boss of the level. Thinking the walker will act like a walker, he slashes at the head, making the fatal mistake of leaving his body wide open for attack. Swish. The Whisperer ducks, stabs, and ruthlessly goes in for the kill.

NO!!! (I literally gasp/screamed NO at the TV when this happened.)

As Jesus lay dying, Daryl removes a creepily well-made skin mask from one of the Whisperers faces. One wonders for a moment if the leader of the Whisperers was a fan of the Nic Cage classic Face/Off back when the world was whole. In both cases, the villains took faces off and became one with their enemies. The Face/Off tactic is a power move to be sure, but it’s one that only psychotic masterminds are capable of pulling off.

At the conclusion of the episode, the world has come crumbling down. Up is down, left is right, Henry is in jail, Negan is free, and a group of our heroes are trapped in an accidental prison of their own making, ready to fight these unknown crazies to the death. Oh, also, Jesus is dead. May God have mercy on everyone.

Until February…

dark. Next. 5 Questions The Walking Dead Season 9B Needs to Answer

Random Thoughts Before I Go:

  • At the top of the episode, we see a group of kids run up to Negan’s cell, admonishing one another not to be “scaredy cats”. It’s foreshadowing the peer pressure that we Henry experience later in the episode – apocalypse kids are bored af without TV – but it’s also a testament to what Negan has become: a seemingly harmless boogeyman.
  • Speaking of Negan, Gabriel left the door open. Ugh. Gabriel. We were just starting to like you. Why are you the way that you are? 
  • The song we heard Jesus listening to last week was called “April Skies” by The Jesus and Mary Chain, and looking back, the lyrics perfectly foreshadowed his looming death. We should have known! Sob!
  • The compass pointing due North on Henry’s t-shirt was a little too on the nose.
  • The moonshine reminded me of the Beth and Daryl two-hander “Still” back in Season 4. Moonshine + apocalypse = tragedy. Will anyone ever learn?

‘The Walking Dead’ returns to AMC in February 2019.