We’re over half-way through season 9 of The Walking Dead, and this episode feels like a season premiere. The bad part about beginning a new storyline this late in the season is the lack of time to introduce the new(er) world before season-end. The momentum seems completely off.
Without the show’s leading man and a prominent female character, the show has a completely new feel. We all know that Andrew Lincoln has stepped away from his moniker of Rick Grimes, but the last episode was also the last time we’ve seen Lauren Cohan play Maggie Greene/Rhee, at least for a while. Her departure was met with zero fanfare as not to devalue Lincoln’s exit, which wasn’t exactly fair to Cohan. So, thank you Lauren; you will be missed, too.
The new storyline has the same old flavor, though. New people have entered the community and they need to be vetted by the committee before being welcomed to Alexandria. We meet Magna (Nadia Hilker), her girlfriend Yumiko (Eleanor Matsuura), Luke (Dan Fogler), and sisters Kelly (Angel Theory) and deaf Connie (Lauren Ridloff) after “Li’l Asskicker” Judith Grimes (Cailey Fleming) saved their lives at the end of last week’s episode.
The residents of Alexandria are hesitant to allow new people to join their community. We don’t see many new faces milling around the town, and the public’s curiosity at the meeting was palpable. During the newcomers’ tentative stay, several townsfolk referred to an incident in regards to their apprehension, but none of them go into detail. What happened during the time jump that has made them more cautious than before?
Michonne (Danai Gurira) is especially against allowing new people into their community. She talks to Rick and Carl as if they’re there, which isn’t uncommon even in our own world. She seeks their guidance and strength, and with a warm wrap of Rick’s old shirt, she begins to come around. However, her hesitation may be a little more justified. What’s with the “x” scar on her back?
Carol (Melissa McBride) has also proven that she’s the same old sly warrior she’s always been, even with a new hairdo. (Because, you know, long hair means time-jump, right?) She’s still very protective of those she loves, especially Henry (Matt Lintz), who she and Ezekiel (Khary Payton) have named their son. After an ambush by a few wayward former Saviors, she torched them just like she did to Karen and David at the prison and just like she did with the cannibals at Terminus. Basically, we’ve learned that if you are a threat to Carol Peletier, you’re toast.
Being raised during the zombie apocalypse has given young Judith Grimes some thick skin. She takes after her late brother, though, by being compassionate, almost to a fault. She stood by her decision to invite the newbies back home, even though Michonne scolded her for doing so. Her headstrong personality also came out as she had Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) help her with her schoolwork. He tried to give her a lesson in trust, and she threw him shade about how well that worked out of him.
When did Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) become a ladies man? He began this season by being intimate with Anne/Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh), and now he’s involved with Rosita (Christian Serratos). Envious Eugene (Josh McDermitt) tried to make things weird in the most inopportune time, just as the newest threat to humanity arrives.
We finally get our first look at The Whisperers, a group of humans who cover themselves in walker skins and speak to each other in zombie-groans to blend in. There are only two episodes until the mid-season break, which doesn’t give a lot of time to investigate this group and determine their risk-factor.
With the introduction of new characters and new threats, there’s a familiar yet fresh storyline ahead. There’s a lot to cover, though, in the short amount of time before the midseason break. Perhaps that’s the plan all along, to tease a great new narrative, then break for the winter after giving us just a taste.