Be warned! This review will cover aspects of the episode. Spoilers will lurk like groaning walkers…
As what the Walking Dead so often likes to call the “fall finale” (AKA the mid-season break, because even zombies need Christmas off, dreaming of brains in their stockings) rolled around, all the shuffling of various characters paid off – sort of – as the show attempted to properly introduce the new Big Bad while simultaneously letting the old one out of his cage. Negan, or as we suppose we should call him after figuring out that his cell was nowhere near as secure as it should have been, Freegan, is once again loose to cause chaos down the line. He’s been back and forth as a character so far this season, at once seeming like the pathetic loser crouching within the cocky, despotic killer, and then right back to his old tricks, looking to burrow under Gabriel’s skin like a tick. Borrowing heavily from the likes of The Silence Of The Lambs and even the Loki/Natascha scene in Avengers, it’s been a decent use of Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s charisma, even if we’re now worried he’ll just be back to his old, bat-wielding self.
The now-standard tension between the communities reared its head in a big way, though the scenes between Michonne and Carol, Michonne and Siddiq and Aaron and Jesus just cemented one of the series’ biggest issues, as characters who should fairly clearly know each others’ viewpoints spout exposition and motivation in at each other in a way that screams Actors Reading Lines rather than real people. And of course Jesus got a chance to explain his worldview one last time.
The big final scene with Eugene, Aaron and the ill-fated Jesus was actually the most effective of the episode, and one of the better action sequences the show has staged. For all its pulling from some very obvious zombie movie/horror film tropes, it worked, creating an atmospheric way out for the long-haired hero. It also allowed for a proper look at our first “Whisperer”, the group from the comicbook’s storyline known for disguising themselves as the dead and merging with zombie herds to nudge them towards their own goals.
And at least it felt like Jesus went out fighting, even if there’s the creeping sensation that our heroes still make very, very stupid decisions in the style of Rick Grimes. Still, nothing plunged the needle of the Stupid-O-Meter quite as far in the direction of “Imbecile” as Henry’s awful Very Special Episodes with some of the kids from Hilltop. Drinks? Bad choices? Peer pressure? Terrible security from the community? Check them all off the list and add in a bonus entry of Henry Learns A Lesson And Feels Bad. It’s enough to make you want to hammer some steel in frustration.
It’s always worrying when The Walking Dead cooks up an episode that has one or two effective scenes to recommend it, but that is drowned in either pointless chatter among characters who should all know better, convenient plotting and terrible ideas.
Evolution was a real example of this – while there are still alleyways to be explored about the suspicion between the communities, a lot of the bigger, scene-setting stuff came off as extremely basic, at least until the finale. And please, producers, don’t show a big cliff-hanger with heroes in danger and then (in the States at least) have a trailer where they’ve clearly gotten out of it. That’s surely a no-brainer. Which won’t delight anyone, living or dead. It remains to be seen how the Whisperers storyline plays out, and it’ll be interesting to see an actor such as Samantha Morton take on a role like this, but the jury remains out as to whether her group will be a worthwhile, and more notably, different threat.
Highlight: The graveyard smash-em-up.
Lowlight: Henry’s After-school Special.
Kill of the week: Jesus, who promised he would come again, but is unlikely to resurrect from this.
Quote of the week: “I have to clean up your shit, but that doesn’t mean I have to listen to it” – Gabriel, to Negan.
Zombie of the week: Pit zombie. Target for darts and all manner of teenage shenanigans.
MVP: Jesus. He gave his life so others may live.
The big question: Aside from what the Whisperers will actually bring, we’re wondering just how their little trick works. Do the dead actually listen to them? That actual answer, on TV at least, may have to wait until the next season, which kicks off on 10 February in the US and 11 February in the UK.
Read this season’s reviews
Read last season’s reviews below…
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9pm on AMC in the States and Mondays at 9pm on Fox.