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The Walking Dead 9.08 Review – ‘Evolution’

November 26, 2018 | Posted by Katie Hallahan
The Walking Dead - Evolution
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The Walking Dead 9.08 Review – ‘Evolution’  

Welcome to the mid-season finale of The Walking Dead! The true threat of the Whisperers is revealed and that reveal comes at quite a cost indeed.

The plot! At Hilltop, Michonne, Siddiq and Magna’s group arrive to a chilly reception after the group tracking Eugene has left. They have to hand over their weapons for as long as they’re staying, and the new folks have to wait for Jesus’s return to determine if they can stay or not. Carol and Michonne talk about their kids, and Carol tries to get Michonne’s help for Kingdom. While she apologizes for it, Michonne is firm that they cannot and they must look out for their own community. There’s more insinuation about some choices Michonne made that caused this distance, along with her learning more things her people hadn’t told her. But when Rosita awakens in a panic, all that is put off for the immediate threat. Meanwhile, Aaron, Jesus, and Daryl have been tracking Eugene and noticing some odd walker herd behavior while they do. Eventually, they find him hidden in a barn crawl space, left behind due to his dislocated knee. They head back to their horses, at different times trying tactics to get rid of the herd but it never works. They finally confront the herd in a graveyard they’re trapped in, and Michonne and Magna and others come to help them escape. But just as Jesus is attacking the last few, one of them dodges his swing and stabs him through the heart! The group takes instant revenge and discovers the secret–in amongst the walkers are living humans wearing the skin of walkers to blend in. And now they’re surrounded and don’t know who’s a Whisperer and who’s a walker. In other storylines, Henry gets drunk with some immature idiot kids and learns that they are in fact immature idiots, and in Alexandria, Gabriel gets sick of Negan’s attitude on top of his worry for Rosita, resulting in his accidentally leaving the cell unlocked and Negan free to walk out.

What a way to close out the mid-season! It’s almost hard to believe we’re only 3 episodes out from losing Rick, to be honest. A lot has happened and the action is really picking up, and once again I’m very glad that his ‘death’ was followed by such a large time jump. While his presence and legacy will always be felt on this show, getting far past the period of mourning was a good decision.

I am also glad that the truth about the Whisperers is now out there. Once again, anyone who’s read the comics was aware of this twist, and I think we were all having trouble biting our tongues. But on top of that, if the walkers aren’t actually evolving, that’s not the kind of red herring you want hanging out there in the show or the fandom for very long. Eugene’s proposed idea (which you know he’s been obsessing over since first hearing them talk, including every second he was in that crawl space) is an interesting one, too, but this show isn’t really about the disease, it’s about the people. And this is still, as the episode title implies, an evolution of sorts. The Whisperers are a completely new kind of enemy. We’ve seen the survivors cover themselves in guts to sneak past walkers before, but always as a desperate or last resort–and one that is not without its risks, as Gabriel’s blind eye reminds us. But to wear the skin of another human being like this? That’s next level. That’s the kind of thing that in our world is reserved for some of the creepiest and most deranged serial killers of both the real world and the horror movie world. Even in this world where extremes must be gone to and considered in order to survive, this is still unsettling to say the least.

On top of all that, they killed Jesus! This was a shock and really drove home the threat posed by the Whisperers. Jesus was a very skilled fighter and a good person; to see him die is not only shocking but a true and deep loss that will have reverberations and consequences. Hopefully no one else dies before that group gets out from the graveyard! Speaking of which, I really liked the use of a graveyard setting for this fight. Despite the dead being a constant presence, we have rarely seen actual graveyards like this on the show. The setting, the fog, the fear from the unknown and unusual enemies who stalked them, it made for a great combination. It’s more like a scene from the original Night of the Living Dead than maybe anything we’ve seen on this show so far.

Moving on, we also get some more insight into what’s been going on with Michonne and the other communities. Her reception at Hilltop is so cold I think it gave me goosebumps. Tara is no way warm to her, though she is very clear and fair. There’s no indication that how they’re treated is anything unexpected; Michonne is the first one to remove her weapons without being asked, after all, and Hilltop doesn’t attempt to keep her from Rosita or to hide information from her. Then there’s Michonne and Carol’s reunion, which, while friendlier, still has Michonne keeping her friend at arm’s length. Here we get a little more information: Kingdom had, at some point, asked for help from Alexandria and Michonne refused. While she does seem genuine in her apology to Carol, she is nonetheless very firm on her decision that they all need to look after their own people, their own homes. Carol’s lack of argument suggests that this is an old debate and one she knows isn’t going to change. Later, Siddiq says that Michonne could still mend things with the other communities, and she says she knows, but she can’t do it the way they want her to. And then perhaps the biggest clues: she didn’t make her choices because she thought they would be easy, and at least the others are alive to hate her. This has to be more than just something born out of Rick’s death. I can see that being part of it, as his death was brought about by trying to unite the communities. But it’s been so long, and these hints seem more specific, for it to be about that. Not to mention the X-brands on Michonne and Daryl’s backs. I look forward to finding out more and to seeing what, if anything, can finally start to heal this divide. It’s sad to see these old friends and chosen/found families separated like this.

Two more storylines make up tonight’s episode, though they don’t factor in as much right now. First up is Henry’s storyline. This one kind of annoyed me as it’s such a cliche, but I suppose that may have been intentional since there were other classic horror movie shout-outs in the episode. Still, the one where teenagers are idiots who get drunk and do something idiotically dangerous is beyond tired. Hell, they’ve even done this specific set-up on Fear the Walking Dead and, dare I say it, it was done better there. Those kids were at least newer to the apocalypse than these ones. At least Henry quickly wised up to realize that this was the case, killed the walker, and no one got bit. I did like Earl’s frank talk with him, however, and I hope that means we’re done with these kinds of storylines going forward.

Second, and more interesting, were the handful of scenes between Gabriel and Negan. It was nice to get a longer look at how Negan’s doing in captivity. He seems fairly settled and resolved to living out his days in this cell, but still chafes at it somewhat. He’s certainly recovered his ‘charming asshole’ personality quirks, but he also seems to have uncovered some humanity along with it. He seems genuinely sorry for pissing Gabriel off. Not extensively, but genuinely. The most interesting thing, of course, is that Gabriel’s distracted enough that he leaves the cell unlocked and Negan is now a free man. Where will he go? What will he do? Is he really changed or has the same old animal simply been let out of his cage?

Thanks as always for reading and sharing your thoughts and comments! Happy holidays and I’ll see you all again in February!

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
This was another classic TWD episode of multiple storylines intercut with one another, and it handled this better than it sometimes does! The action was good, the pacing was tight, the hinted at backstories were intriguing, the stakes were real, and the cliffhangers were tense! Jesus's death was unexpected and hit hard, not to mention being very memorable with how it played out. Seeing that walker suddenly duck was a moment I won't see forget! And the reveal of what the Whisperers truly are is creepy and disturbing. Henry's storyline was the only part that I wasn't that into and kind of annoyed by, but it thankfully didn't hamper the episode overall. Overall, a great episode to cap off this half of the season.