Spoilers for AMC’s ‘The Walking Dead‘ will be found below.
Readers of Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead source material may have noticed a brilliant misdirect in this week’s midseason finale. In the comics, when confronted by The Whisperers, several (mostly redshirts) are killed and only one survives: Jesus.
In the television series, however, the only person who dies in the first major confrontation with The Whisperers is … Jesus. It’s completely shocking for both comic readers and non-comics readers alike, and exactly the sort of change-up that Angela Kang continues to inject into season 9 of the series, revitalizing it creatively and turning in the best season of The Walking Dead at least since season 6.
However, as any good midseason finale should, this one left open a lot of unanswered questions that the series will hopefully answer when it returns in February.
1. Is Jesus Dead? This is not really an unanswered question. Jesus is dead. He will not be resurrected. This is not a fake-out. The Aaron and Jesus romance will never happen, which makes the death of Jesus doubly heartbreaking. It also elicited the loudest, “NooooooooooOOOOOO!” I have ever delivered at my television during an episode of The Walking Dead. This one hurt, but in a good way. In a surprising, unexpected way that is heartbreaking but that doesn’t lessen my excitement for the future of the series.
2. Will Negan escape? — Negan’s jail cell is left open this week, giving Negan a chance to walk away from from imprisonment for the first time in seven years. But where will he even go? The Saviors have been wiped out. He has no one to lead. He has nothing and no one on the outside, and while it’s not much, the relationships he’s forged with those in Alexandria are the best that he has. That said, we think we know where this is headed. The biggest reunion in the back half of season 9 may be between Negan and Lucille.
3. What’s the deal with The Whisperers? — They are very, very bad people, and unlike every other villain in The Walking Dead history, their motivations are not self-interested. They combine the chaos of The Wolves with the brutality of The Saviors and the next-level evil of the cannibals of Terminus. You have to be really evil to want to spend all day inside a skin suit. The Whisperers are set to wreak large amounts of havoc and mayhem on the survivors over the course of the rest of the season.
4. What’s the deal with Henry? — Henry has taken on Carl’s storyline, which means that he’s basically a lost teenager looking for love right now, and he doesn’t find it in Enid (who is hooking up with Alden now). A wayward Henry may find love in an unexpected place, namely among The Whisperers. I still believe, however, that the spy outside of The Hilltop may be Henry’s forthcoming love interest.
5. Who takes over as leader of The Hilltop? — The current leader of The Hilltop, Jesus, is now dead, and he didn’t want the job in the first place. Who does that leave? Tara is the default choice, but she may not be well suited to lead The Hilltop during a time of crisis, such as during the war with The Whisperers. Daryl could take over now that both Maggie and Jesus are gone. There’s also a dark-horse candidate in Aaron, who could leave Alexandria and fill the role of his would-be boyfriend at The Hilltop. Aaron has come on strong this season, and he seems to be playing a bigger role than he has in past seasons. Leader of The Hilltop would allow him to continue to expand his presence on the series.
6. What’s the deal between Michonne and The Hilltop? The series is hinting at a lot of animosity between Michonne and The Hilltop, which also apparently extends to Carol and The Kingdom. Michonne doesn’t want to be part of the “fair,” which is meant to bring solidarity between The Hilltop, Alexandria, and The Kingdom because — it appears — Michonne has taken a very isolationist approach with Alexandria. She is looking out for Alexandria only, and while she ostensibly cares for the other groups, she’s not willing to risk the lives of anyone inside Alexandria to further the interests of the other communities.
Is that all that’s going on? Is that the only reason The Hilltop resents her?
7, What’s the deal with the scars on Michonne and Daryl’s backs? Both Daryl and Michonne have identical X scars on their backs, which look like this:
We have no idea what the backstory is on these scars, except that they happened during the time jump, and — according to Michael Cudlitz, who directed last week’s episode, “It’s a big, really f—ed up thing.” Those scars may have contributed to the chilly relationship between Michonne and The Hilltop, and it may help to explain why Daryl went off the grid.
8. Why did Maggie leave? — We know where Maggie went — she left with Georgie — but we still do not understand why she left, and that may have to do with either Michonne’s isolationist approach, or it could have something to do with the X scars on Daryl and Michonne’s back (does Maggie also have a similar scar?)
9. Will The Hilltop accept Magna’s group? — This seems fairly obvious, especially after Magna and her group helped to rescue Aaron, Daryl, and Eugene from The Whisperers. However, The Hilltop was awaiting Jesus to determine whether to accept them into their community, and Jesus is dead now. There’s also a chance that Magna’s group — having earned trust from Michonne — may ultimately be accepted back into Alexandria (after all, that’s where they resided in the comics).
10. Will The Kingdom survive? — Finally, The Kingdom is apparently falling apart, which is why Henry is training to become a blacksmith and why Dianne has chosen to leave The Hilltop and move back into The Kingdom with Carol. The situation seems to be dire and at some point, The Hilltop and Alexandria may have to make a decision about whether to absorb the members of The Kingdom. Michonne may be reluctant to do so, which could set up another showdown between Michonne and Carol.
Final Note: The show was a perfect eight-for-eight this season. Angela Kang crushed every episode, and there was nary a misstep (save, arguably, for Scott Gimple’s decision to spin Rick off into a movie series). The show has been reborn, and if the trailer is any indication, the back half of season nine is going to be just as good.