If you've read or a have a working knowledge of the comics on which The Walking Dead is based, you probably spent this episode trying not to spoil some pretty big twists for your non-comics-inclined friends. Or if you're not a comics reader, that might be even better — just know there are some gigantic twists coming, and this episode has laid the groundwork for several of them.
From the mentions of "the fair" to the capture of a Whisperer girl who's hiding some big secrets behind her teary eyes, "Adaptation" charges full speed ahead into the back half of the season. The show isn't taking any time to catch its breath — and with villains like the creepily cool, walker-suit-wearing Whisperers, that's definitely for the best.
The episode opens just moments after the midseason finale ended. The group, consisting of Michonne, Daryl, Magna, Yumiko, Eugene and Aaron escapes the cemetery with the Whisperers at their heels. They grab a Whisperer mask and Jesus’ body and lock the gate behind them. As they leave, one of the Whisperers reaches around and unlocks the gate again.
Team Michonne heads back toward Hilltop, and Michonne and Daryl have a conversation about what bringing Jesus back to his home turf for burial will mean to his people. Remembering what happened to Rick, Daryl apologizes to Michonne for not being able to do the same for her. She thanks him for looking for Rick, and thanks him for “after,” whatever that means.
She left the series last year.
They run into another band of Whisperers on a bridge and make short work of them. This fight ends with one Whisperer standing — a simpering teenage girl. She’s not giving any good answers to Michonne’s questions, so she opts to take the girl prisoner and bring her back to Hilltop, where there’s undoubtedly a cell for her.
An Unexpected Diagnosis
Team Michonne makes its way back to Hilltop, bringing Jesus home and depositing the Whisperer girl in a cell. A still-locked-up Henry isn’t sure what’s going on, but Daryl brings him up to speed without freeing him. Michonne, Daryl and Tara attempt to interrogate the Whisperer girl, but between her vague answers, her whimpering and her crying, they’re not able to get much out of her. When they leave the cells, Michonne tells Tara she’ll have to keep interrogating the girl without her — Michonne’s going back to Alexandria to warn her people of the new danger. Michonne then tells Daryl that if he can’t get the kid to talk, he knows what he has to do.
Elsewhere, Eugene’s recovering with Siddiq as his doctor and Rosita by his side. The scientist takes this close brush with death as a sign he needs to confess his feelings to Rosita, but, visibly upset, she runs out of the room. She then vomits in the bushes and reveals to Siddiq, who followed her outside, that she’s pregnant with Siddiq’s baby. Eugene hears all of this from inside and looks heartbroken.
Daryl and Henry have a heart to heart about the latter’s misdeeds. Henry confides in Daryl that while he knew where he stood at the Kingdom, he’s still trying to find where he belongs at Hilltop. Apparently, everyone’s trusting Daryl; Michonne wants him to stick around and help Tara lead, and seems to be leaving the Whisperer girl’s fate in his hands.
This comes into play after Jesus’ funeral, when Daryl stomps down to the cells and tries to get more answers from her. He threatens to deliver her to the vengeful Hilltop citizens waiting up the prison steps. This earns him at least a little more information, whether or not it’s true: the girl says there were ten people in her group and she moved around with her mom, who realized camps always fall and to survive, one needed the dead. She says they were always going to kill his people, because “it’s kill or be killed.”
Plus, Angela Kang weighs in on The Whisperers and the threat they pose in the second half of Season 9.
Unsatisfied with her answers, Daryl grabs the girl and tries to drag her up the stairs. She’s saved only by Henry, who calls for Daryl to stop and seems to convince him to show mercy. Of course, that doesn’t mean Daryl’s pleased with him — in reference to their earlier conversation, he tells Henry his “place” is in the cells until he wises up. The Whisperer girl thanks Henry for saving her, and introduces herself as Lydia. Yes, that Lydia, from Carl’s storyline in the comics. Dun-dun-dunnnnnnnnn.
An Unsatisfying Taste of Freedom
Negan is free! He makes several stops as he enjoys life outside his cell, the most notable of which is the Grimes house. He goes into Judith’s room and picks up a compass pendant. At dawn, he attempts to make his escape by scaling the wall, but Judith catches him. Negan talks her out of killing him by promising her he won’t hurt anyone, but she makes him a promise of her own: the next time she sees him, she’ll shoot. Judith’s a lil’ asskicker, indeed!
Before he left Alexandria, Judith told Negan there was nothing “out there” for him. The more he sees, the more that seems to be the case. He nearly gets killed by running into some walkers, drinking unclean river water (come on, Negan, you know you have to boil it!) and almost falling prey to a pack of feral dogs. But that’s not all; when he finally gets back to the Sanctuary, his former home turf is long abandoned, overgrown and left in shambles. Only one of his former followers remains there, in zombified form — a man called “Big Richie,” who Negan allows to continue making noise and banging on the doors rather than getting rid of him.
One of the weirdest, biggest mysteries from the ninth season has been the strange marks on their backs.
Nothing Out There
This decision comes back to bite Negan, if not literally; Richie starts to walk away with a larger group of the undead, who Negan then has to put down. Realizing the Sanctuary is lost, Negan leads Richie back into the factory and puts him down, too.
The Sanctuary wasn’t a total bust: Negan did manage to get himself a motorcycle. Unfortunately, that becomes a hazard when he runs into Judith and she shoots out his tire, making good on her promise. Negan tells her she was right and gives her back her pendant. Since there’s nothing for him out there, he’s going to go back to Alexandria.
Trail Ends Here
Hilltop’s justifiably worried about Jesus’ group and decides they need to send another group out after them. Overhearing this conversation, Luke volunteers to go and gets paired up with Alden. They’re a pretty good team, at least personality-wise; they’re both musically inclined, which leads Luke to start nagging Alden to perform with him at the upcoming fair.
Eventually they discover an arrow of Yumiko’s in a tree — and then another one. Luke’s convinced this isn’t coincidence, but rather, Yumiko has created a trail for them to follow. They find themselves in the midst of a horde, but they don’t think too much of it at the time… at least, not until they’re in the middle of the woods, following Yumiko’s trail, and find walkers standing still around them. These aren’t walkers at all: They’re Whisperers. A woman — Alpha — throws one of the arrows at their feet and points a gun at them, saying, “trail ends here.”
These shows might be about the dangers of a world ruled by the undead, but there have been quite a few quotes and scenes that made us laugh.
- I have seen maybe ten seconds of Alpha in total and she’s already utterly terrifying in the best possible way. I’m so excited to see how she lives up to her comics counterpart.
- It’ll be interesting to see how Lydia and Carl’s storyline ends up being adapted for Henry. Obviously he’s not missing an eye, so at least one, uh, memorable scene will have to be eliminated (for those who are curious, a Google search for “Lydia Carl Eye” will give you all you need to know).
- Judith and Negan’s interactions are sweet, but I can’t help thinking about what could have been if Chandler Riggs’ Carl was still around. It’s a bit hard to believe Judith knows Negan better than anyone, largely because we haven’t been shown that — we’ve gotten one scene with them that implied a connection, but nothing more concrete. For this friendship (or frenemyship?) to be believable, TWD needs to invest more screentime in it.
- Can we give a big round of applause to composer Bear McCreary for his work this episode? There were plenty of incredible musical moments in his hour, most notably when Jesus’ body was brought back to Hilltop, when Negan’s theme played as he entered the Sanctuary and the music that overlapped his decision to put down Big Richie, and, of course, the now-familiar Whisperers theme at the end.
The Walking Dead, Sundays, 9/8c, AMC