Those cells at Hilltop are filling up quickly, wouldn't you say?
The wait is over as The Walking Dead made its mid-season return and tossing us right back into the mix of things without missing a beat. And while The Walking Dead Season 9 Episode 9 wasn't without its share of issues, it did succeed in propelling the story forward in dramatic fashion.
It's only been a few episodes, but I for one haven't missed Andrew Lincoln's presence. It's difficult to say if that's due to having the introduction of the Whisperers as a fun distraction or if the rest of the cast stepping into the spotlight has made the characters more well-rounded and engaging.
Regardless, here we are more than halfway through the season. And the fact that Rick's absence hasn't negatively impacted the overall pacing is worth noting. However, that doesn't mean the writing isn't still prone to falling into a creative rut from time to time.
The first thing that I need to get out of the way and address is Negan's break out. Who the hell is guarding Alexandria, anyway?
It's quite ridiculous how freely Negan roamed about without anyone noticing. You mean to tell me that there wasn't a single person on patrol or at the very least someone in one of the guard towers keeping an eye on things?
The only person that ended up noticing something was amiss was lil' Ms. Grimes.
It wasn't surprising that Negan convinced Judith to let him leave. While she's demonstrated that she is more than capable of holding her own against walkers, it's unlikely that Judith has ever been in the position to shoot a living person before.
Then again, growing up in such a world could have desensitized Judith to the point where taking a life may not be as difficult a choice as it seems. Given the current state of the world though, I wouldn't be surprised if Judith does get forced into that situation at some point.
Regardless, the fact the Negan called her bluff with Judith not pulling the trigger only solidified the fact that these two have formed a special bond. The whole point of that scene was to drive home the point of creating trust between these two.
It's an interesting dynamic, sure. And while Negan and Judith's relationship is one that I've been eager to dive more into, that entire situation felt a bit silly.
The writers have been trying to get viewers to sympathize with Negan, but I'm still having a bit of a rough time with how redemption for this character is even possible at this point. Although, it was a bit depressing when Negan moped around the abandoned Sanctuary, which was nothing more than an empty shell of a life long forgotten.
The world has changed significantly over the six-plus Negan's been locked up, and there's simply nothing left for him out there anymore.
We still don't know exactly what happened at the Sanctuary that caused the Saviors to disband. Did they all die? Where they forced out? Did some members join up with one of the other communities?
Don't get me wrong, I've been waiting to be done with the Saviors since their arrival during The Walking Dead Season 6, so you won't see me shed a single tear. But a little exposition as to what transpired would be nice.
Was there ever any doubt that Negan would return to Alexandria? When he took Judith's compass, and she told him to keep it, it was obvious that he would find his way back. It was a bit hokey and overly predictable, but it reinforced the next step in Negan's attempt at redemption.
It will be interesting to see what will happen when Negan mosies on back into Alexandria. Will Michonne and the others see it as a sign of trust and good faith or will he get tossed right back into his cell without anyone batting an eye? Then again, no one saw him leave so what's to say anyone will see him return?
Maybe it will be like he never left at all.
Judith: I told you there was nothing out there.
Negan: You sure as shit did.
Judith: Language! I'm a kid, asshole.
The fact that Negan returned to Alexandria on his own accord and knowing full-well what he was going back to is very telling. And now that he realizes that there's nothing left for him outside those walls, I'm eager to see how he adjusts back to the confines to his cozy little cell.
At least Judith was kind enough to meet Negan and guide him back to Alexandria. Does no one keep an eye on anyone in Alexandria that no one saw her slip out either?
Judith just can't stay where she's supposed to. She's Carl's sister alright!
At Hilltop, Luke has been eager to begin pulling his weight, and what better way to earn his keep than to go on a run with Alden? The only problem is that Alden and Luke setting out to search for Daryl and the others seemed a bit ridiculous.
First of all, Luke and his group are still relative newcomers and while we've more or less discovered that they are all decent people, why would Alden take one of them out alone with no one else accompanying them? It sounds like a risky move in an already unnecessary trek.
Two man band. Symphony of awesome!Luke
Secondly, why would Alden take the one person from Magna's group who is the most ill-equipped to defend himself? Of course not too long after Alden and Luke headed out, Daryl and the others made their return to Hilltop anyway. If Alden thought that situation out just a bit longer, he would have seen everyone return and wouldn't have had to leave to begin with.
None of it made any sense and merely served as a poor excuse to set up Alden and Luke to end up captured by the Whisperers.
On the flip side of that whole debacle, the one thing that I loved about Alden and Luke's encounter with the Whisperers was how they revealed themselves. There was just something about the walkers shambling about and suddenly stopping dead in their tracks that sent a wave shivers down my spine.
It was incredibly eerie and very effective.
So far I'm impressed with how well the Whisperers are translating to the screen, and I look forward to what new horrors await our survivors as they continue to cross paths with this villainous group.
Daryl shooting the walkers' legs to reveal which ones were Whisperers was a smart move, and it was interesting how quickly the actual walkers turned on the imposters once they were exposed.
It was a brilliant way to find out who was actually a walker, and it ended up leading to the capture of Lydia. Keeping her hostage will hopefully prove useful in learning more about her group. Although, it appears it will take more than simple interrogation tactics and angry threats from Daryl to pry anything out of her.
Lydia is either excellent at deceit and manipulation, or she was truly genuine and utterly terrified. Based on what we know and have seen from the Whisperers thus far, I'm inclined to side with the former.
While Daryl's probing proved unsuccessful, once he left Lydia immediately began opening up to Henry.
Daryl: I'll get her to talk.
Michonne: If she doesn't, you know what you have to do.
The thing that struck me as odd is why Henry was still imprisoned. Sure what he did was idiotic, but punishing him by keeping him locked up seems a bit extreme.
If I had to take a guess, odds are it's all a ploy by Daryl, and he is deliberately leaving Henry locked up with Lydia to obtain information. If that is indeed the case, it's unlikely that Henry is in on it, which makes him the perfect person to help pull this off due to his innocent and naive nature.
While it sounds like a great plan, whether or not it will pay off is the question.
There were a few inclinations during this episode that make me wonder if Daryl will end up becoming the definitive leader of Hilltop. Tara has taken over as the interim to fill that role, but as Michonne put it, that may not be enough.
Everyone looks up to Daryl and respects him, and he's as qualified as anyone to run that place.
Ever since Rick's "death" he's been emotionally lost. And Daryl taking up the mantle of leading Hilltop's people would give him purpose again.
He's never been one who's eager to lead, but as Michonne said, Daryl's an excellent judge of character, and that's a vital skill that would prove incredibly useful.
The Whisperers have taken Alden and Luke, but there's no doubt that they're still alive -- at least for the time being. And now that Daryl has Lydia it's only a matter of time before mama comes a-knocking.
The second half of The Walking Dead has officially kicked off, and aside from a few nitpicks here and there and questionable storytelling decisions, it looks to continue to build off of an otherwise stellar season.
Other tidbits from the episode:
The Whisperer voices echoing through the graveyard was super creepy.
Eugene's line about whether the walkers were Whisperers or "original recipe" was fantastic. Eugene is always great for a fun quip or two.
Was anyone else surprised that Negan never went searching for Lucille? You would think that would have been the first thing he'd go after.
Did anyone catch the little reference with Negan picking the tomato? It was a neat nod back to Rick's conversation in The Walking Dead Season 8 Episode 8 about Carl's unrealistic future of coexisting with Negan.
Poor Eugene can't catch a break with trying to profess his love for Rosita.
- Speaking of which, Rosita and Siddiq got a little freaky at some point, and it appears things are about to get even more complicated since she's likely pregnant. Awkward...
Now it's time to hear from you, Walking Dead Fanatics.
Should Lydia be killed?
What did you think of "Adaptation"? What will happen to Negan upon his return to Alexandria? What do you think the Whisperers will do with Alden and Luke?
Hit the comments below and let me know.
You can always watch The Walking Dead online right here at TV Fanatic.
Steven Ford is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.