Be warned! This review will cover aspects of the episode. Spoilers will lurk like groaning walkers…

The fallout from that dramatic “fall finale” (recapped in lengthy fashion by Danai Gurira’s Michonne with much more detail than your average Dead previously segment) reverberated through the first episode back from the break. But it was hard to see whether much had real impact, despite the introduction of new villainous group The Whisperers. The creepy folk who wear the skins of the undead and shuffle along with zombie herds murmuring suggestions to drive them towards living targets were given an actual, human face in the form of Lydia (Cassady McClincy). Captured and imprisoned at Hilltop, she spilled a few details about her fellow Whisperers, albeit mostly that they’ll be a danger because they believe all other living folk present a threat to them. Yep, our heroes are in trouble again and while the idea of the masks and the travelling with zombies thing is a mildly interesting twist after what seemed like years of Negan and his cronies, the jury’s out on whether the show will make them truly interesting now we’re about to properly meet their leader, Alpha (yes, that was Samantha Morton at the end.)

Aside from that, most of the main character work was a combination of checking in with those at Hilltop, the return of Jesus’ body and people either heading out to look for the escaped Negan (more on that later) and Alden (Callan McAuliffe) and Luke (Dan Fogler) chatting about music before being caught in a Whisperer ambush.

The Walking Dead Season 9 Episode 9

Otherwise, there was soapy concern from Enid (Katelyn Nacon) for the soon-to-be-missing Alden and some chatter about how Tara will need to step up and lead Hilltop, what with Maggie away (thanks to Lauren Cohan’s contractual negotiations and other job on action comedy series Whiskey Cavalier keeping her off the show) and Jesus now pushing up Daisies (no jokes about how he could come back in three days, especially not given what usually happens to those rising from the dead here).

A big chunk was given over to Negan, who used his newfound freedom to… well, go wandering. He headed back to the Sanctuary and discovered that several of his lieutenants are now zombies. It’s true, you can’t go home again. It was a solid outing for Jeffrey Dean Morgan, showing yet more sides of Negan, even if the storyline represented a quieter, more reflective shade the show doesn’t always do well.

The Walking Dead Season 9 Episode 9

Adaptation (continuing the evolutionary science theme from the last episode) slowed things down again, and moved a few storylines forward. It was atmospherically shot by Greg Nicotero, who as usual brought the goods when it came to the zombie scenes, but also has a sure touch with moments that are simply characters talking.

The Walking Dead is still facing challenges as it ages and the ratings continue to slip. There’s the creeping feeling that it hasn’t yet done enough to win back a lot of viewers, and the whole tension-between-the-communities angle has apparently taken a backseat for now without much in the way of real resolution.

In summary

Highlight: The spooky final moments.

Lowlight: Judith Grimes: amazing tracker. TERRIBLE guard.

Kill of the week: The Whisperer taken down by a bolt from Daryl, consumed by the walkers he was wandering with.

Quote of the week: “Language! I’m a kid, asshole!” – Judith, channelling Steve Rogers until she very much isn’t.

Zombie of the week: The poor, ash-covered creature encountered by Negan.

MVP: Daryl, slayer of some Whisperers, sparer of others.

The big question: With the news that Danai Gurira is leaving the series, the question becomes just how Michonne will be written out. We doubt they’d kill her, but can they really just have another character wander off?

Read this season’s reviews

The Walking Dead Season 9, Episode 1: A New Beginning

The Walking Dead Season 9, Episode 2: The Bridge

The Walking Dead Season 9, Episode 3: Warning Signs

The Walking Dead Season 9, Episode 4: The Obliged

The Walking Dead Season 9, Episode 5: What Comes After

The Walking Dead Season 9, Episode 6: Who Are You Now?

The Walking Dead Season 9, Episode 7: Stradivarius

The Walking Dead Season 9, Episode 8: Evolution

Read last season’s reviews below…

The Walking Dead Season 8, Episode 1: Mercy

The Walking Dead Season 8, Episode 2: The Damned

The Walking Dead Season 8, Episode 3: Monsters

The Walking Dead Season 8, Episode 9: Honor

The Walking Dead Season 8, Episode 10: The Lost And The Plunderers

The Walking Dead Season 8, Episode 11: Dead Or Alive Or

The Walking Dead Season 8, Episode 12: The Key

The Walking Dead Season 8, Episode 13: Do Not Send Us Astray

The Walking Dead Season 8, Episode 14: Still Gotta Mean Something

The Walking Dead Season 8, Episode 15: Worth

The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9pm on AMC in the States and Mondays at 9pm on Fox.

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