We’re here already! The Walking Dead Season 9 mid-season finale! After a couple of time jumps, the final episode of Rick Grimes and the introduction of The Whisperers (more on them in a second), the first half of the season has been pretty eventful, to say the least and this episode is no different. Here are five thoughts on the mid-season finale. As ever, spoilers follow.
1. Face Off
This week’s episode opens with Aaron, Jesus and Daryl all watching the herd that started following Eugene and Rosita. They watch as the herd is circles about – it’s certainly not behaving how we would expect them to. As the trio leave, the camera moves through the herd as the zombies pass before stopping on one walker that suddenly cocks its head toward the camera. The episode then cuts to the opening credits but on this alone, the series is certainly trying to deliver on the promise of returning to its creepy horror roots.
The trio continue on their search to find Eugene and in attempt to by some time, Daryl throws an alarm clock as a distraction for the herd but, after finding Eugene hidden in a barn, the herd catches up them again. They manage to escape, but Daryl chooses to stay behind and try to divert the herd using firecrackers. This works momentarily but the herd changes direction and start heading in the direction of Eugene, Aaron and Jesus. This thread ends in the episode’s climax which sees the foursome scurrying through a foggy graveyard. They desperately try to open a gate to escape but its stuck in the dirt. They turn to face the walkers and dispatch them with ease – perhaps these walkers, while they are might be evolving, according to Eugene’s theory, are still unable to defend themselves, which would make them a lot less threatening, right?
Wrong. Just as Michonne, Magna and Yumiko arrive to rescue them, things get worse. Jesus opts to hold off the walkers while the others escape. This leads to a montage of Jesus doing typical Jesus things: He jumps and kicks the walkers and we even get a cool shot of a walker’s head being kicked against one of the graves. However, this is ultimately Jesus’ final moments as one of the walkers suddenly ducks, weaves and kills him. This moment is a huge one, not just because we lose a significant cast member, but because it is a fully fledged Whisperer appearance. It is a very creep and quite surreal moment to see a walker move so unnaturally. The episode quickly delves deeper into the horrific nature of these new villains with Daryl discovering that the walkers are not simply walkers. They are humans wearing walker skins. Of course, comic book readers like myself will have known that about the Whisperers, but seeing them onscreen took the horror to a whole new level.
Then, as the group are trying to make sense of the situation, they end up surrounded, leaving us with the long wait until February for the series’ return.
2. Prison Break
The second biggest cliffhanger in the episode comes in the form of Negan escaping his prison cell. In the episode we discover that Gabriel has been trying to help Negan by encouraging to meditate and try to uncover the truth about him, so that he can help him. However, Negan doesn’t seem to be cooperating in the attempts and instead frequently interrupts him by talking about his love for the window in his cell. He describes how people forget he is there and talk about all sorts of things. Negan says he gets to hear lots of Rosita’s conversations, toying with Gabriel, who presumes she is talking about him, but Negan suggests otherwise.
The idea of Negan being privy to people’s conversations is another potential danger for the community because it gives him significant insight into a community and potentially information to influence and use as leverage over individuals, as shown with his interactions with Gabriel. Despite the fact that Negan still seems quite happy to torment others, I still find it great fun to watch him. Jeffrey Dean Morgan seems to thrive in the role and so when Negan walks out of his unlocked prison cell, I can’t deny that I’m hoping it means he gets some more screen time again. Let’s just hope he’s more reformed than this episode suggests, otherwise the Whisperers aren’t the only threat the communities will have to face in the second half of the season.Continued below
3. The Blacksmith’s Apprentice
This week’s episode also sees Henry and Carol arrive at the Hilltop for Henry’s apprenticeship. Henry seems desperate to help the Kingdom, which is his reason for taking the apprenticeship, but he asks for his pay in advance and is able to send Carol back to the Hilltop with some screws and nails to help the ongoing maintenance. However, despite this sense of maturity we know Henry is still young and naive. This is shown when he meets another group of kids his age, Gage, Rodney and Addy (played by Jackson Pace, Joe Ando-Hirsh and Kelley Mack, respectively) who are instantly a bad influence on him. They sneak out to a cabin in the woods at night (when is this ever a good idea, let alone when you’re in a zombie apocalypse) and get drunk.
Whilst out there, Gage and Rodney reveal that they have a walker trapped in a pit that they like to use to play the zombie head equivalent of horseshoes, but Henry is quick to ruin the fun by jumping into the pit and killing the walker. Despite clearly being a killjoy for the other two boys, Henry is clearly not foolish enough to leave a walker in a dangerous position, although, I must add that it definitely seemed foolish to jump into the pit in a drunken state when surely his stick could have reached the walker from outside it. Nevertheless, Henry is certainly showing the potential to be an interesting character since the time jump and under the tutelage and discipline of blacksmith Earl Sutton, could grow to be into a vital role for the communities.
4. A Brief Goodbye
In Henry starting his apprenticeship, it means Carol has to say goodbye to him before heading back to the Kingdom and while the scene is only small and could easily be forgotten amongst all the larger developments in the episode, it gives the episode a bit of warmth. Over the course of the six year time jump, it is clear that Carol has allowed herself to become incredibly attached to Henry and she cries when she has to leave. While this is to be expected in the circumstances, its another change for Carol who has grown to be a steely figure over the course of several seasons – even Henry is shocked to see her upset. Finally, Carol gives a cute wave to Henry as she leaves and cements herself as the warm beating heart of the show at this moment in time.
Let’s just hope nothing ever happens to Henry because I don’t want to see Carol get hurt again. Plus, if something did happen to Henry, well, I’d pity the person who caused it because, despite this warmth she is displaying at the moment, Carol is still not to be messed with.
5. A Frosty Reception
Since the time jump, Michonne has been a cagey figure, not only rejecting of outsiders but also disconnected from the other communities and this is manifested when she arrives at Hilltop this week. Tara and Enid give her a particularly frosty reception while her encounter with Carol isn’t too warm either. Carol discusses the letter Ezekiel has sent to Michonne asking her to get Alexandria involved with the fair he is organising, but Michonne is resigned to the fact that there is nothing but “broken world” between the communities now and the distance between them cannot easily be fixed. She would much rather focus on making sure the population of Alexandria survive and I think this is rooted in her concerns for Judith and RJ and on the basis of this episode, her opinion may not change very quickly. However, I think that Magna and Yumiko deciding to help her rescue attempt at the end of the episode may be the required catalyst for change.
Overall, this week’s mid-season finale was a very enjoyable one with plenty of developments for multiple characters to keep the audience interested with the full introduction of the Whisperers, unfortunately at the expense of Jesus, leaves us with the long wait for the The Walking Dead‘s return on February 10.