The communities of Alexandria, Hilltop, and The Kingdom are struggling as Season 9 of The Walking Dead returns after its mid-season hiatus. Notably, we were introduced to The Whisperers, a group of survivors that adapted to the apocalypse by wearing the skins of the dead.
A popular storyline in the graphic comics, The Whisperers arc holds the promise of a return to the rich storytelling of the early seasons. Additionally some new, potentially big conflicts between the main characters are brewing. The addition of Ryan Hurst (Sons of Anarchy, Bates Motel) and Samantha Morton (Minority Report, Jane Eyre) as Alpha and Beta, the leaders of The Whisperers, will add some stark contrast to the leadership roles as we know them. Negan, by contrast, with his bluster and violence is in many ways, far less terrifying than The Whisperers.
Perhaps the most tantalizing piece of information we now know about the remainder of Season 9 revolves around The Whisperers as a cult. With a philosophy and clearly defined beliefs that separate them from simply following charismatic leaders with weapons, The Whisperers remind us that as civilization tries to reform, not everyone believes it should.
As nihilistic as The Whisperers seems to be, the communities are fading as well. With machinery breaking down, food harder to come by, and suspicions running deep about intentions, we seem to be witnessing an erosion of the very society we once believed they could rebuild.
With so much at stake, it’s not hard to imagine the struggles ahead and some of the story clues and hard foreshadowing, point us to a conflict unlike any other, but perhaps strong leaders will emerge too. Perhaps human beings are truly indomitable and resilient and can weather even the most corrosive conditions the world can throw at them. But perhaps the time to stop thinking about life as it once was is at hand, and the masterful ability of adaptation toward something completely new will be met head on and a new definition of humanity will emerge.
One thing is for sure; The Walking Dead is reinventing itself and providing us with something unique.
Season 9 of The Walking Dead has suffered a decline in viewers that was inevitable. As All Out War came to a close, and the chaos of the communities came to a roiling boil, viewers felt varying degrees of satisfaction. For some, the Negan story represented a slow and convoluted war that seemed far too protracted and resulted in making Rick look weaker than any fan wanted him to be. For others, the loss of Rick as a stalwart leader was too much to fathom and he represented the beating heart of The Walking Dead. Without Rick, many fans questioned the show’s ability to be dramatic in the ways they have come to expect.
Even at its low point however, The Walking Dead brings in viewer numbers that other series’ envy. AMC seems poised to continue The Walking Dead despite some decline in viewership. Additionally, as with any series that runs this long, transitional phases happen and interest wanes only to be reignited by exciting plot points and events. The departure of Rick may have been difficult to adjust to, but it appears that much like the reorganization of society of The Walking Dead’s communities, we too will need to evolve our thinking and adapt our expectations.
The highest probability is that the fans will be rewarded for their tenacity.
…and before I forget – Where the heck is Negan?