TV Review: The Walking Dead – Season 9, Episode 9

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Season 9, Episode 9: Adaptation

PLOT: While the communities seek to learn more about the Whisperers, Negan finds that the Sanctuary isn’t what it used to be.

REVIEW: Who would have thought that the way to make the zombies on AMC’s The Walking Dead scary was to drop humans in among the herds? Well, apparently The Walking Dead comic book creator Robert Kirkman thought that, since he wrote about this stuff in the source material, but it wouldn’t have crossed my mind. We have been told again and again that other people are a bigger threat than the flesh-eating living dead in a zombie outbreak scenario, but I never considered that people might someday be disguising themselves as zombies to attack other humans. What sort of maniacs would do that?

Those maniacs are called The Whisperers, and it looks like we’re going to be learning a lot about them in the second half of The Walking Dead season 9. This group, wearing zombie faces as masks and walking among the dead, revealed themselves in the midseason finale, and this midseason premiere picks up right where the previous episode left off, with several characters still standing in a fog-enshrouded cemetery as zombies and Whisperers advance toward them. Jesus (Tom Payne) is dead on the ground, blood still running from the wound that killed him. 

If you like zombie slashing and bashing (and who doesn’t?), this episode delivers a good amount of it. You get a bit of action right up front in the cemetery, then as Michonne (Danai Gurira), Daryl (Norman Reedus), Aaron (Ross Marquand), Eugene (Josh McDermitt), Yumiko (Eleanor Matsuura), and Magna (Nadia Hilker) make their way back to Hilltop they’re confronted by more zombies and Whisperers – and during this confrontation they reveal a way of weeding out Whisperers that is both ingenious and amusing.

Later Luke (Dan Fogler) and Alden (Callan McAuliffe) will be running into zombies while on a poorly timed search for their pals, and we get former villain Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) – who has just escaped from Alexandria after spending seven years in a jail cell – returning to smashing heads as he takes a stroll back to his former home, the Sanctuary, and has to protect himself from the dead as he goes.

Now every time a character faces off with a group of zombies I’m on edge, just waiting for one of the walkers to reveal themselves to be a Whisperer, to dodge a head strike or pull out a weapon and start running. And every time one of the Whisperers does something like this, or even reaches out to unlatch a gate for their zombie pals, I get freaked out by them.

Still, I was wishing very hard that one of the zombies Negan comes across would turn out to be a Whisperer, just so I could see those worlds collide.

There’s quite a bit of action in Adaptation, but it slows down for a stretch for some more soap opera-esque moments. We have Negan sadly realizing that the Sanctuary isn’t what is used to be, young Kingdom “prince” Henry (Matt Lintz) wondering what his place is now that he has moved to Hilltop, and – most soap opera of all, I found this part to be pretty funny – the development of a complicated love square between Eugene, Rosita (Christian Serratos), Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam), and Doctor Siddiq (Avi Nash). There are also a couple adorable scenes in the episode, courtesy of “little ass-kicker” Judith Grimes (Cailey Fleming).

Cassady McClincy plays a new addition to the cast in this episode, and her character is not off to a great start with me. McClincy’s performance is good, but the character is proving to be quite annoying and frustrating at this point. I know she has a journey to make on this show, though, and I look forward to seeing how that’s going to play out.

Adaptation is a mixture of the interesting and the bland, but the positive outweighs the dull overall. This was a solid episode, and indicates that The Walking Dead is on track to be a better show than it has been in a while.

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BEST ZOMBIE MOMENT: Daryl demonstrates the perfect way to figure out whether the “zombie” shambling toward you is actually a living dead creature or just a person in disguise.

GORY GLORY: During his travels, Negan finds a severely burned zombie in the bed of a burnt out pickup truck. This zombie’s legs became fused to the truck in the fire, so it has to tear itself in half to go after Negan. That was pretty gross, and the effect is followed up by a nice decapitation.

FAVORITE SCENE: Daryl reveals to some zombies that there’s a Whisperer in their group. This was a delightful moment, because I’m already hating these Whisperers and wanting to see them get destroyed.