Spoiler alert: This post contains spoilers for the mid-season premiere of the ninth season of The Walking Dead.
The Whisperers have arrived in full force.
The Walking Dead returned Sunday night with the mid-season premiere of Season 9, picking up where we left off in November, with mild-mannered Negan finding his jail cell unlocked and the Whisperers — humans wearing zombie skins — making themselves a known threat.
Episode 9, “Adaptation,” has about five different storylines bumping up against each other, but the biggest threads of Negan’s escape and the squad of Michonne, Daryl, Aaron, and Eugene capturing a Whisperer prove to be pretty exciting and entertaining.
Seeing a chance to get out of his seven-year confinement, Negan sets out from his underground cell and hops over the walls of Alexandria after a brief run-in with a revolver-toting Judith, who begrudgingly lets the former maniac go but warns him that if she sees him again, she’ll shoot.
They want to eat Negan.
At this point, Negan basically turns into a cowboy-esque lone wolf, living off the land while music that sounds like it fits right in with a spaghetti western movie. It’s a nice break from most of the other plotlines that involve large groups of people.
It also gives us a refreshing new scare as Negan pillages a sporting goods store: wild dogs. These are nothing like Daryl’s new dog, no, they want to eat Negan, who narrowly escapes and potentially causes a zombie to eat one of the dogs off-camera. Yikes.
After a jaunt down memory lane at the Sanctuary, where Negan finds some good soil and a potential space to farm food like the good old days, Negan sets off for Alexandria, only to run into Judith who shoots his motorcycle out from under him.
Negan says he’s back for good, saying there’s nothing out there for him. But of course, we know that’s not necessarily true. Hopefully we’ll see Negan stirring things up again.
Meanwhile, the action squad (Michonne, Daryl, Aaron, and Eugene) run into a group of zombies and Whisperers, capturing one of the Whisperers and bringing her back to their civilization along with the body of Jesus, which everyone is pretty sad about (but honestly not for that long).
Through a bit of interrogation, the gang learns from the young woman that the Whisperers are blending in with zombies to survive. Clearly they’re (mostly) able to blend in so the zombies aren’t really a threat to them, but it goes farther than that.
The Whisperers have a philosophy: kill everybody who isn’t a Whisperer, because everyone is a potential threat.
The young woman, whose name we learn is Lydia, claims that it’s just her mom left out there, and that’s it for the Whisperers.
Of course, that turns out to be a lie, as convincingly as she says it.
We see the music-loving duo of Alden and Luke out and about, who are stopped in their tracks by a zombie that’s stopped in its own tracks — that’s not normal.
Alden and Luke are surrounded by Whisperers. It’s a terrifying scene and subverts what we’ve thought we’ve always known about zombies and their one-track minds. Now anything that looks like a zombie could be a much bigger threat than we thought.
It’s a great teaser to set off the remainder of the ninth season. The Whisperers look like they’re going to be quite a large problem for everyone.