Jesus is dead. If you had any hope left that Thom Payne’s queer, karate-kicking warrior survived his stab wound from the mid-season finale, “The Walking Dead” makes sure to begin the mid-season premiere with a shot of his cold lifeless corpse. Season 9 jumps back to life with this supersized episode that immediately plops viewers back into the creepy confines of the foggy cemetery. Our group of survivors fends off attackers dressed in walker skins to recover Jesus’ body. Here are the top five moments from “Adaptation.”
Dead or Alive?
As the Whisperers and their zombie horde chase Michonne (Danai Gurira) and company on their way back to Hilltop, Daryl (Norman Reedus) stops a small group of walkers on a covered bridge. Instead of headshots, he fires crossbow bolts into their legs. When one cries out in pain, it’s clear there are living foes hidden amongst the undead. The dead detect the screaming man and rip into him as the Whisperers, now exposed, unveil weapons and attack. Michonne easily dispatches one with a knife, while a young woman (Cassady McClincy) is unmasked and kept alive for questioning. This small battle emphasizes the dangerous ways this new enemy group can hide amongst the dead. Our heroes will have to be smarter than ever before when encountering walkers.
There and Back Again: Negan’s Tale
Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) takes his first steps in the new world after years behind bars. Judith (Cailey Fleming) pulls a gun on the escaped convict as he tries to hop the city wall, equipped with a compass he stole from her room. But like a slick used car salesman, he manages to sweet talk his way out of the community, convincing Judith he has no desire to hurt anyone. He journeys back to The Sanctuary, but finds it desolate and abandoned. The Saviors are no more, and Negan’s iconic whistle echoes through the empty chambers. His stature and power is gone. He grabs a motorcycle and reluctantly heads back towards Alexandria, only for Judith to shoot out his tires as he approaches. “I told you there was nothing out there for you” she scolds. He acknowledges that she was right and agrees to return to Alexandria as prisoner.
Eugene (Josh McDermitt) is on the mend in the infirmary, but his near death experience has inspired a “no day but today” attitude in him. He grabs Rosita’s (Christian Serratos) hand and begins confessing long-held feelings for his former travel companion. She begs him to stop before pulling away and fleeing the infirmary to vomit outside. Siddiq (Avi Nash) rushes outside to help her and Rosita admits that her gag reflex wasn’t induced by Eugene. “Remember back when we were having fun, before Gabriel?” she asks the doc. “I’m pregnant.” Judging by the expression on Eugene’s face as he eavesdrops through the window, it’s safe to assume few people knew of Rosita and Siddiq’s affair.
“We didn’t have names” cries the prisoner from her cell. The woman is being interrogated by Michonne, Daryl, and Tara (Alanna Masterson). The captive is young and afraid, offering sketchy sounding answers about her group. They take a break for Jesus’ funeral, with Michonne heading back to Alexandria to warn them of the new threat. But before she leaves, she pressures Daryl to stay at Hilltop to help Tara lead. Determined to find answers, he returns to the prisoner, clutches her by the throat, and slams her into the wall. She admits that they didn’t have walls, instead opting to move around with the dead. “Places like this never make it.” This all sounds truthful to Daryl, but he scoffs when she says there are only ten Whispers left. We know there is at least one member she is telling the truth about: her mother. She continues to pop up in the captive’s replies, and we deduce it was the mother’s idea to wear zombie skins to survive. Henry (Matt Lintz) offers her compassion from his neighboring cell (he’s still serving time for underage drinking) and gets Daryl to back off for the night. The woman thanks Henry for his kindness and introduces herself: “I’m Lydia.”
Despite Eugene being escorted to Hilltop some time ago, Alden (Callan McAuliffe) and Luke (Dan Fogler) are still out searching. Luke finds one of Yumiko’s arrows stuck to a tree with a herd of zombies nearby, and assumes a fight took place. The pair make their way through the forest, following a trail of arrows in search of their friend. Viewers are immediately suspicious of course, because Yumiko (Eleanor Matsuura) is already back at Hilltop. Soon Luke spots a female walker on his scavenger hunt. He moves in to kill her but she stops in her tracks and stares him down. Whispers sound from the trees as men and women in walker-skin disguises emerge to surround Luke and Alden. The woman before them produces a shotgun and aims at their heads: “trail ends here!” The wild eyes beneath her mask belong to Oscar nominee Samantha Morton. Meet Alpha, the apocalypse’s newest nightmare fuel.