Warning – this blog will contain spoilers for the season 9A finale “Evolution.”
Season 9 has seen the Walking Dead find a groove it’s been missing for arguably a few seasons now. After the war arc saw a drop in ratings thanks to a slowed pace and an antagonistic group that wore out their welcome, writers knew they had to bounce back with a vengeance.
This season was already full of shockers, including the departure of leading man Rick Grimes, as well as a couple time skips that moved the show on over a half-decade into the future. But the beginning of the mid-season finale teased a different type of enemy – and more specifically, a different type of walker.
Save for a few instances of them turning doorknobs, jumping fences, and using rocks to attack doors in the debut season, the walkers have always been considered relatively dumb creatures. They shuffle around, they growl, and they eat – it’s a simple way of life.
But Jesus, Aaron, and Daryl were eyeing a herd that seemed to be shuffling around in place, uncharacteristic of the foes viewers have come to know and understand. And when the group stumbled upon a wounded Eugene who Rosita had stashed away in a barn, he said the walkers had been following them, and that he had heard them whispering. This posed a theory that the walkers were evolving, and recalling old memories including how to talk.
We also got to see Michonne and Carol reunite at the Hilltop, and it was teased that something big happened during the time skip that has seen the communities stick to themselves rather than joining together like they did during the war. Showrunners have said we will find more about this in the second-half of the season.
After providing commentary from the comfort of his cell for the duration of this season, Negan finally managed to escape. Gabriel, who was tasked with emptying the bat-loving baddie’s bathroom bucket, inadvertently left the cell open. Hey, wait a minute – remember when they first got to Alexandria, and Gabriel was the one who left the front gate open? What’s with this guy and not closing doors?
As Daryl, Jesus, and Aaron tried to help a wounded Eugene escape the herd pursuing them, they heard a voice calling out – but this time it wasn’t evolved walkers, but an old friend. Swayed by Carol’s speech about how they were still family, Michonne went out to help them. Eager to earn their keep and residency at Hilltop, Magna and Yumiko joined her much to Michonne’s surprise.
As Jesus unleashed a barrage of kicks and flashy moves that would’ve looked at home in any action movie, it seemed like he had things well in hand – until a zombie stabbed him in the back, whispering “You are where you do not belong.” Sadly, we don’t think he’ll rise in three days.
Daryl killed the walker, revealing him to be a human in a walker mask – just as the entire group was surrounded by more of them. See you in February, Walking Dead fans!