Warning: General spoilers ahead
Truth be told, after Carl Grimes was killed off in last year’s mid-season premiere and then, Andrew Lincoln’s very abrupt departure from the series, I didn’t hold out much hope for the future of The Walking Dead, which is very disheartening since I’ve covered the show since season 2. Also, being an avid comic-book reader, it was only made worse by my receiving the next issue every month and seeing either Rick or Carl on the cover — a constant reminder that the series is now barely recognizable in its relation to the source material. All of this is why I have been relatively silent for the past 2 episodes since Rick’s final send-off. While the Whisperers storyline has always been my favorite in the comics and I knew that arc was on the horizon in the series, I didn’t want to get my hopes up and instead, decided to adopt a “wait-and-see” approach to determine if I wanted to continue coverage of the show. However, I am glad to report that after screening Sunday’s mid-season finale, we should all give Showrunner Angela Kang and her team a standing ovation, and I’m beyond excited for the remainder of the season. In other words, yours truly is back on board for this show!
So, now, you may be thinking — what makes Sunday’s episode so damn good that it pulled you back from the edge, Mary? Yes, part of it is the Whisperers arc itself, but a storyline wouldn’t have been enough to keep me watching. Instead, it’s **how** the Whisperers are introduced, and even more importantly, the overall choreography and atmosphere of the episode. I’m a child of the 70’s and the 80’s, and I can recall the days of the good, old-fashioned horror movie. I can remember watching Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot and being mortally terrified. Or, sitting on the edge of my seat while being introduced to Night of the Living Dead. Unlike Nightmare on Elm Street and the Friday the 13th movies and their dozen of sequels, these movies didn’t rely upon gore and shock value in order to scare its viewers. Instead, they used pure horror and the build-up of tension, keeping the audience completely oblivious as to what would happen next.
This is what makes “Evolution” so great — which after 8 years of the show trying to upstage itself for the goriest walker kill ever, is a welcomed breath of fresh air. I mean, first we had Dale being disemboweled by a walker’s bony fingers in season 2. Then, we had Noah being ripped apart in the gruesome revolving door scene from season 5. Come on, this show is more than “1000 Ways To Die By Walker.” This all being said, imagine the following going into Sunday’s episode. We know Jesus (Tom Payne), Daryl (Norman Reedus), and Aaron (Ross Marquand) are out looking for Eugene (Josh McDermitt), and we know from the promos, that they, indeed, find him. That’s good, but now, night is falling and there’s also a herd in the area. Had this been all the group is up against, it would have been a cake walk, because these people have encountered herds many times before. However, as we saw in the episode 2 weeks ago, the walkers in this herd appear to be “whispering” to one another, and as Eugene explains in Sunday’s episode, “This is not a normal herd … They’re evolving.”
So, in summary, what do we have? We have a thunderstorm in the dead of night, very thick fog, and a herd somehow, someway tracking our small band of survivors while whispering to one another. Creepy AF. Oh, to top it off, they decide to try and evade the herd by going through a graveyard, even after Eugene’s stark warning, “This is a bad idea. We’re going to get lost in here!” Ya, think? This all starts about halfway through the episode, and trust me, you’re going to be a basket case up until the final moments. Of course, I can’t reveal how it all plays out, but I will say it all culminates with the reveal of the Whisperers, who make their presence known in a very shocking, profound way. More specifically, brace yourselves for the final 3-4 minutes of the episode, because even after having watched it 3 times now, it still makes the hairs on my neck stand up.
Bottom line, hold onto the rails, folks, and perhaps get yourself a bottle of bourbon — you’re definitely going to need it come Sunday.
Episode 9.08 of The Walking Dead is titled “Evolution” and airs Sunday at 9/8c on AMC.
Geeky computer and math nerd by day and TV fanatic by night. My beats are The Walking Dead, The Strain, Person of Interest, Z Nation, and anything that most people would call freaky. Editor-In-Chief and Lead Writer of TVGeekTalk.com