Thomas Roach on The Walking Dead (warning – spoilers for season 9 follow)…
For the last few years now, The Walking Dead has dropped in quality and with it currently in its ninth season, its ratings are getting lower and lower. I’ll even admit that I didn’t watch around half of season 8, yet felt I didn’t miss any important information about the overall plot. However despite less people watching the show, season 9 has changed the series in a significant way for the better and I feel that the show has finally redeemed itself after a few years of disappointment.
The midseason finale episode of season 9, titled ‘Evolution’ – this episode itself has redeemed the show more than any other episode this season. I would even go as far to say it was one of the best episodes in any of the seasons so far. With the midseason finale having aired last week, and a wait till February before we see the outcome of the cliff-hanger, I can actually say I am interested in what is happening next.
As I stated, episode 8 of season 9 may have been one of the best episodes the show has ever done. It introduced us to the new villains in an interesting way and created an evolved conflict for the characters. During the episode, Eugene suggests that the walkers are evolving and starting to talk and hunt in an efficient way. This could have been played out a bit longer in my opinion; however it certainly didn’t damage the episode. For the first time in a long time, the show felt like it was part of the horror genre again. Not just to use of horror iconography in the graveyards and the heavy fog, but I felt a strong sense of fear for the characters and feared for the main characters lives.
I did have some prior knowledge to who the new villains are going to be in the upcoming season but that didn’t change my experience watching the episode. When Jesus was killed by the Whisperer after dodging his attack, and the others getting charged by walkers brandishing weapons, I can truly say my heart was racing and I knew this new set of villains has provided a threat that has not been seen before. When the show first started, walkers were scary, but for many seasons now they have not been a considerable threat. The fact that The Whisperers can hide amongst herds of walkers means that the survivors will face grave dangers in the future. I think The Whisperers are going to be the most interesting antagonists the show has had to date.
As much as I liked Andrew Lincoln’s performance as Rick Grimes over the years, I feel that his character leaving the show has improved it significantly. Obviously it is not the end of Rick Grimes’ story, with AMC announcing three movies featuring the character whcih will be coming to AMC in the near future. Rick’s absence from the last three episodes in season 9 has opened up the arcs of some of the main supporting characters. In just the last few episodes, I have grown to like the characters Daryl, Michonne and Carol more than I have since the earlier seasons. Opening up these characters to lead the show has created a refreshment that the show so needed desperately.
I also feel that the time jump after Rick’s exit has changed the show for the better. It allows the audience to experience a new world that has been lived in by these characters. It has also allowed the characters to change for the better without having to have spent a great deal of time using exposition to show how they have developed over time. A lot can happen in five years, and we the audience are getting to see how these characters have evolved for the better. The time jump has also been used to create a certain level of conflict that would have been built up over the last five years without having to deal with all of the boring bits. I can certainly say that the time jump has made it feel like a brand new show. With only three episodes having taken place after the time jump, it has certainly created a new thread to the show that is certainly worth exploring.
If The Walking Dead keeps up the quality of the last few episodes then I would say I am hooked again. The last time I was truly invested in the show was back in season five and it looks like from here on out we are returning to an interesting story. The show has certainly redeemed itself in my eyes after a tough couple of years and I look forward very much to what the show – and its spin off movies with Rick – will bring to fans of the series. Roll on February.