Evolution – the Unsettling Half-Season Finale

‘The Walking Dead’, Season 9, Episode 8

This episode begins with a gathering storm and walkers who go around in circles. Aaron, Daryl, and Jesus watch the herd uneasily, trying to understand why the walkers don’t act the way they usually do. They head off to track Eugene, who is still lost.

Back at Hilltop, Father Gabriel is trying out mindfulness with Negan, who mocks his efforts and mocks Gabriel’s blinded eye, which echoes the way he used to mock Carl. After Gabriel learns about Rosita’s injuries, he finally tells Negan to shut up.

Michonne, Siddiq, and the new group make it to Hilltop, where they are met with fear and panic. Dianne, the archer from the Kingdom, guards the gates at Hilltop now. She stares down Michonne until the entire group disarms. It’s clear there is old, bad blood between the women. Something disrupted the former allies enough that even Carol turns away when she sees Michonne.

Carol and Michonne have a brief conversation, and Michonne makes it clear that she will refuse to allow Alexandria to participate in the upcoming fair. Why won’t Michonne go to the fair? Something, still unanswered, has happened in the last six years has ruptured the partnership between Oceanside, Alexandria, Hilltop, and the Kingdom. Michonne is allowed to spend the night, the new group is allowed to stay as well, but Dianne decides to go home with Carol.

Carol’s adopted son Henry had hoped to spend more time with Enid, but regrets to see that she already has a boyfriend. He meets a few other young people at Hilltop, and gets in trouble when they get him drunk and show him the walker they keep as a pet to torture when they get bored. Henry kills the walker and is punished for his drunkenness, sort of like a really rough first night at a frat house.

Rosita wakes up, and her accident has brought long-simmering tensions to the surface, as Michonne learns that Aaron and Jesus still meet to train together and that many in Alexandria and Hilltop want to form an alliance again. But the immediate concern is Eugene, and Rosita insists they search for him at once. This is the first time we’ve seen Rosita scared – she watched Abraham slaughtered by Negan, she’s been through war while she was trying to get Eugene to Washington DC, but she’s never been scared. She knows that something is wrong with the walkers and she’s heard them whisper.

Eugene has also heard the whispers, and when Daryl et al find him, he’s in terror. “This wasn’t a normal herd,” he tells the men, and they believe him. An all-time classic battle ensues in a misty, spooky field. It’s looks like a scene from the Lord of the Rings, complete with handsome bearded men, swordplay, and the fog of the undead warriors. Michonne and the new group show up just in time to open a rusted old door that will lead them to safety, but Jesus refuses to stop fighting. He’s refused to stay home and lead Hilltop, and his end is inevitable. Just as he’s headed to safety, a walker stabs him and whispers, “You are where you do not belong.”

Daryl and the others surround Jesus’s body, and they kill the whispering walker. Daryl looks closer at the body and sees that there’s a man inside the sewn-together skin of a walker. GROSSSSSSS. This is possibly the most upsetting moment of the show, and that includes all things Lucille.

The half-season finale ends on an equally unsettling note: Negan’s cell is unlocked, and he walks free. The last thing we hear for next season’s preview is the whistle.

Rebecca Kurson

Rebecca Kurson writes about literature, pop culture, television, science fiction and music. Her work has appeared in Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Observer, The Federalist and Rodale's Organic Life.

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