And after Jesus died, he rose again. Welcome to the second half of Season 9. Let’s jump back into The Walking Dead with “Adaptation.”
The episode begins right where we left off in “Evolution,” with Jesus dead and our survivors still in the cemetery, surrounded by approaching, whispering walkers. They cut down as many as possible before falling back, making sure to grab one of the masks and Jesus’ body in the process. Though they seal the gates behind them, one of the “walkers” manages to get it open again…
Over in Alexandria, Negan walks out of his cell, but takes his time, in the event that he might alert someone. However, in the darkness, no one is aware of his escape. After helping himself to a tomato, he grabs a shovel and heads inside Rick and Michonne’s home.
As morning arrives, Negan heads for the gate. He climbs it, but is intercepted by Judith, who has a gun at the ready. He knows that she won’t shoot him, but she thinks otherwise. Still, Negan isn’t going to his cell, so Judith should just pull the trigger. He offers to go his way and never see Judith again, but again, she’s not having that.
Okay, so Negan climbs down and tells Judith about what happened when Rick and Michonne first locked him up. They told him that he would be useful for something and help people see that things could change. Things did in fact change, but not for him. Alexandria is a wonderland, but Negan’s part is four walls and a bedpan.
Judith reminds Negan that Michonne makes the rules and the decisions, but right now, Judith can make her own choice. It’s like their little chats. Judith isn’t letting Negan go- she’s just not seeing him leave. Judith tells Negan that there’s nothing out there for him or anyone. Negan responds that Judith knows him better than anyone else has in a very long time. He promises her that he won’t hurt anyone, even if they try to hurt him.
Still, it’s time for him to go. Before Negan can leave, Judith asks if he was in her room. He was, as he’s wearing her locket. He asks if she wants it back, but she says that he can keep it, as it will help him find his way. However, Judith promises that if she sees Negan again, she will shoot. With that, Negan leaves the Alexandria Safe Zone.
Then we cut to the Hilltop. As Luke surveys his surroundings, we jump over to Alden, D.J., Enid, Tara, and Marco, played by Gustavo Gomez, discuss whether to go after Michonne and the others, as it’s almost been a full day since they left. Marco suggests two two-person teams and loop around to see what they can find.
They’ll need one more person and while Tara suggests getting Oscar from the gate, Luke volunteers his services. After all, Connie and Kelly are in the garden, while Magna and Yumiko are already outside the gates. Alden finally says that Luke can ride with him.
Speaking of Michonne and company, we return to them as they wonder who would even consider dressing up like a walker. There could be more of them, but right now, the plan is to keep moving. Sounds like a plan.
Michonne tells Daryl about how Judith found the newcomers and how the two of them vouch for them. That’s good enough for Daryl. She knows that it’ll mean a lot to the people at the Hilltop to bring back Jesus’ body so he can be buried. Daryl apologizes for not being able to do that for her, but she’s sorry it couldn’t be done for the both of them. She then thanks Daryl for trying to find him. You know who she’s talking about.
Magna, meanwhile, tells Aaron that she wishes she got to know Jesus sooner, as he sounded like a great guy. Aaron agrees, but also says that Jesus shouldn’t have been out in the first place. Even when Eugene tries to shoulder the blame, Aaron interrupts him, saying that Jesus made his own decisions. They all knew the risks of being out here. Maybe what happened was bound to happen.
Then Dog picks up something because of course it does: walkers are in the bushes. Though the survivors wonder if these are the original kind or original recipe. Eugene’s words, not mine, but that is very clever.
They confront the walkers on a bridge, with Daryl putting bolts in some to find out which ones are walkers and which are humans. When one cries out in pain, the walkers converge on the human in disguise. Before another of the humans in walker skin can strike, she’s quickly outnumbered and instantly surrenders.
Michonne unmasks her and it turns out to be a young girl, who says that the survivors killed all the others. Naturally, no one believes that. With other walkers approaching, there’s no time to talk this out, so Daryl decides that they’ll bring her with them. Why they don’t knock her out so she doesn’t know where they’re taking her to, I don’t know.
Back to Negan, who embraces seeing the sun and walking around in the outside world for the first time in years. As he stops for a snack, some walkers, including a burned one, interrupt his meal, but he takes care of them thanks to his handy shovel. He later drinks some water from a lake, but instantly regrets it when he spits it back up. He then deserts the shirt he borrowed from what I’m guessing is Rick’s wardrobe.
Michonne and company arrive at the Hilltop- and okay, they had the foresight to at least blindfold their captive- but of course, it’s the sight of Jesus’ dead body that gets everyone’s attention.
Naturally, they want answers. Tammy lets Tara know right away with since Jesus trusted her, everyone is looking to her for answers right now. More than that, people will want justice for Jesus’ death. Getting answers won’t be enough. When it’s time for justice, the people will look to Tara for that, too.
The prisoner is taken into the same area where Henry is staying, and Henry learns from Daryl that Jesus is dead. As for the prisoner, she soon faces her interrogators: Michonne and Tara.
Continuing with the Wandering Adventures of Negan, he enters an abandoned men’s clothing store, makes a sound to make sure he’s alone, and starts exploring the bargain deals. He helps himself to a leather jacket when it turns out that he’s got some company: three dogs. They give chase until Negan manages to hide on top of a shelf long enough for the dogs to get bored and leave.
Negan heads for a locked door and manages to force it open just as one of the dogs arrive. But then he runs right into a walker, who he throws into the building just as it can feast on the dog. Well, the dog didn’t have to come after Negan.
Elsewhere, Luke tells Alden all about his interest in music, which could be good for the upcoming fair. Luckily, Alden used to sing, so they could be a two-man band. If only. But then they spot an arrow embedded into a tree. As Luke grabs it, a walker- which is dragging another walker- approaches. Luke trips, but Alden tosses his spear into the walker, giving Luke the time he needs to down the attached roamer.
With that, Luke comes up with the name of this proposed two-man band: Symphony of Awesome. Upon further examination, Luke realizes that this arrow belongs to Yumiko. As he finds another one, he believes that she’s leaving a trail for them, though Alden thinks that maybe it could just be a few stray shots. Well, if Alden is wrong, he has to sing at the fair.
Then Alden spots a herd heading south. If the two of them are caught on the wrong side of it, they’ll be here until morning.
So Michonne continues to question the prisoner about the number of others out there dressed as walkers. But the girl reiterates that they’re all dead, including her family. As for her real name, she doesn’t have one. None of them do because that’s not how it works. Daryl asks why they wear walker skins, and it’s apparently what these people did to live. They were just trying to see if they were good people, too.
I’m growing tired of this prisoner playing the pronoun game. But anyway, then Michonne’s people attacked. Michonne asks what this prisoner’s grew knew about them, but apparently no one filled this girl in on the plans.
Naturally, Michonne doesn’t trust a word of this, but they’ll try to pry answers out of the prisoner in the morning. It’ll have to be done without Michonne- she’s headed back to Alexandria, as she can’t risk them not knowing about this back home. Tara thanks Michonne for helping and promises that the newcomers have a home at the Hilltop. It is Tara’s call, after all.
Daryl assures Michonne that even though keeping the girl at the Hilltop is a risk, he’ll get her to talk. If she doesn’t, Daryl knows what to do.
Not far from here, Siddiq patches up Eugene, who tells Rosita that he was afraid she didn’t make it back. He’s upset about Jesus, yes, but he’d be another level of sad if something had happened to Rosita. Before Eugene can sputter out how he really feels about Rosita, she heads off. You probably should just get to the point next time, Eugene.
Anyway, after getting a shot of Rosita puking- because that’s what we needed- Siddiq comes outside and offers to run some tests, since her body has been through a lot lately. But apparently it’s not that. It has to do with the fun that the two of them had before Rosita’s thing with Gabriel. Yes, Rosita is pregnant. Also, Eugene hears this conversation from inside the trailer. Again, should’ve gotten to the point, Eugene.
Henry, out of his cell, talks with Daryl, who asks what the hell he was thinking in regards to his behavior. He wasn’t, but the fresh air is at least helping. But he shouldn’t get used to it, because he’ll be right back in his cell in two minutes. Luckily, he’s only got one more night. Henry is apologetic, but he wants to find his place. He knew who he was at the Kingdom, but who is he at the Hilltop?
You’re surrogate Carl Grimes, that’s who you are, Henry.
But back to our wandering Savior leader. It’s home, sweet home as Negan finally arrives back at the now abandoned Sanctuary. He whistles in the traditional Savior way, but no one is here.
He does hear a noise, and it turns out to be a walker who Negan apparently remembers as “Big Richie.” He admires Richie’s loyalty to the end.
We don’t get to see their conversation, though, as we return to the Hilltop. As Aaron helps Michonne pack for her journey back, he admits that she was right all along. Alexandria and the Hilltop, respectively, have everything that they need. As such, they should remain inside and protect what and who they have. He apologizes for not realizing this until now.
Daryl and Dog arrive from a sleeping spot that Dog picked when Michonne tells him that Alden and Luke should’ve been back by now. It could be nothing, but it could also be something. Michonne, that’s not a hunch. When Michonne asks what Daryl will do with the prisoner, he asks why this is up to him. Michonne believes that Daryl is the best judge of character that she knows. Without Jesus or Maggie, the Hilltop needs Daryl.
Yes, Tara is smart, but Michonne doesn’t believe that Tara needs to do that alone. Bringing Jesus’ body back will help the Hilltop residents move on, but after that, it’s about doing whatever it takes to not bury more.
With no one else there to help him, Negan sets a few shelves and couches back up at the Sanctuary. Even still, the leader is on his own. He heads outside with his pipe and sees that other walkers have streamed into the Sanctuary. One by one, he downs them all except for Big Richie. He has to stay outside.
When Negan heads back in and examines the big, empty building, he pulls out Judith’s locket. So he lets Richie inside so he can put him down for good.
Back at the Hilltop, while Michonne and her crew head back to Alexandria, the rest of the community has gathered together to say goodbye to Jesus.
But not Daryl. He heads to the cellar and demands the prisoner tell him who she is. He also reminds her that the people outside just buried a good man and they’re looking for blood. All Daryl has to do is drag her ass out. When Daryl seizes her by the neck, she confesses that there were 10 of them. They wear skins to blend in, but don’t use their names. They move with the dead and the skins prevent the walkers from attacking.
This group has no need for walls, though, as walls don’t keep you safe. Places like this don’t make it happen. This girl and her mother saw it happen many times. She barely remembers the world, but her mother told her how it was changing and how they had to change with it. They needed the dead to keep each other safe. As for why her people attacked the survivors, that was always the plan.
It’s just what people do, right? It’s us or them, as far as she’s concerned. Daryl again asks the girl how many people are in her group, and he wants the truth this time. It doesn’t help that he’s pointing a blade at her. It’s apparently just her mother, and the girl doesn’t want the survivors looking for her, as she’s just one woman out there alone. But then, the girl already said that this group is never alone.
She was at the cemetery, but she apparently got separated. Daryl isn’t convinced. He’s ready to drag the prisoner outside, but soon relents and just locks her back in her cell. Instead, he goes over to Henry and reminds him that he was supposed to keep quiet. He tells him that his place is right where he is in his cell, for as long as it takes for him to figure out who he is.
As Daryl leaves, the girl eventually thanks Henry for saving her. But Henry responds that he had to, as he couldn’t let Daryl drag her out there to die. When Henry introduces himself by name, the girl finally introduces herself as Lydia, played by Cassady McClincy. As it turns out, Daryl is outside, listening to this conversation unfold…
Okay, now this was unexpected. Negan hits the road on a motorcycle when, out of nowhere, Judith stands in his way on the road. She opens fire, causing him to crash on the side of the road. She tells him that there are a lot people looking for him and reminds him there was nothing out here for him.
Negan returns Judith’s compass and agrees to return to Alexandria because, after a trip to the Sanctuary, he decides that there really is nothing left for him. Not anymore. But what then, Judith asks. Well, Negan will let her know once he knows.
First off, what? Second, the hell?
Fine, whatever. At the Hilltop, Magna joins Enid, who tells her that she’s glad to have her as part of the team now. As for why Enid is here, she’s got Alden on her mind, but she’s not sure what to call her thing with him right now. Luckily, Luke is a survivor, so he and Alden should be fine.
Speaking of, as Luke and Alden find another of Yumiko’s arrows, they spot a walker approaching them. As Luke goes in, the walker just…stops dead in its tracks. Before the two can process this, they realize that they are surrounded by many “walkers” staring them down.
One of them approaches, tosses down Yumiko’s arrow, and points a gun at the two, telling them that the trail ends here.
It certainly does. We’re back in the world of The Walking Dead and luckily we don’t spend the entirety of the episode just dealing with Jesus’ death. The mystery of the people in walker skins is slowly unraveled, alliances are adjusted, the power structure changes, and Negan sees what life is like in the great outdoors.
Actually, I want to start there because the moments with Negan were, for my money, the best part of the episode. Like the episode’s title, Negan has to do a lot of adaptation in a world that has moved on without him being a part of it. We see him struggle to grow used to being his old self, at least when he’s at the Sanctuary. A life of solitude at his old stomping grounds provides him nothing but loneliness.
We see through his eyes just how much the Sanctuary has changed. What was once a thriving complex filled with workers and survivors is now a ghost town. Negan may be home, but there’s no heart there anymore. Negan may be a free man, but there’s nothing left for him in his familiar territory. I like how these moments play out.
Negan doesn’t lash out at the world or have some huge breakdown. His scenes are slow, methodical, and are allowed to breathe as we take in the world alongside Negan. He’s out of his cell, but he has no way to follow.
At least, not until he heads back to Alexandria…and right into Judith. Right, was she just out there, looking for him? Anyway, these two have great chemistry. Judith is a kid, but Negan doesn’t talk down to her. He sees her pretty much as an equal, and her being Rick’s daughter serves as a reminder of Negan’s past life. Plus, Judith can go toe-to-toe with Negan in a war with words.
Kind of like Carl, Negan has a bond with Judith that can’t be replicated with someone like Rick or Michonne. Not that he’s trying to mold or impress Judith- he did help with her math homework, after all- but he sees her as a friend. The feeling might not be mutual, but I enjoy the connection that these two have and hope to see more of it. Plus, I’m curious what awaits Negan now that people know about his escape.
We’ll deal with that later. Daryl as the reluctant leader feels like the logical choice for his character arc. As Michonne said, he’s a good choice of character, and that’s pretty accurate. As standoffish as Daryl is, he can tell when someone is a good or bad person at heart. He doesn’t want to lead, but he may be forced into this position with Jesus’ death.
Without saying it, he’s always looking out for the interests of others. He was the one who never stopped looking for Sophia, and here, he’s never stopped looking for Rick. Even though his name isn’t stated and while it’s been years since he vanished, Rick is still very present not just in everyone’s lives, but the legacy that he’s left. But Daryl keeps up hope that he can be found.
He’s adapting to a life without Rick, and like Aaron, he’s taking on some of those responsibilities, such as when he confronts and interrogates Lydia. Unlike Michonne and Tara, I’m glad that Daryl cuts out the bullshit and tells Lydia that the Hilltop residents are ready to see her dead. He’s forceful, but effective in his execution.
Plus, he’s still getting information out of Lydia when Henry struck up a conversation with her. I have to wonder if this was part of Daryl’s plan. As if he knew that Henry would try to stick up for Lydia as a way to find his place. So instead of Daryl just getting fed up with Lydia and leaving to try again later, he stuck around to eavesdrop on the conversation. So he learns about Lydia without having to ask the questions himself.
Admittedly, it’s the only thing that can be done with Henry at the moment since he’s trying to find out who he is at the Hilltop. At the Kingdom, he had more of a purpose, but if his past actions with those other kids were any indication, he’s got a long time before he adjusts to life here. Again, he’s adapting to a new environment.
I’m not a huge fan of Henry taking on comic Carl’s storyline, but hey, what are you gonna do? The show’s already killed off Carl and Rick isn’t around, so I guess they have to supplant those roles somehow.
Sticking with adapting at the Hilltop, now Tara is in the position of being next in line to lead. She’d been encouraging Jesus to step up and be in charge, and now those responsibilities fall to her. At least, until Maggie comes back, anyway. Tara has what it take, yes, but like Jesus, she’ll need someone at her side to help, and that may where Daryl comes into play.
Plus, I think this could be the one time where Tara is officially in a position of leadership. She’s always had a voice and been involved with big decisions, but never the leader. So it will be interesting seeing her adapt to this sudden shift.
Jesus’ death has also caused a death in Aaron, who now agrees with Michonne that everyone should stick to protecting their own communities. One would hope that this doesn’t wall everyone off from one another, especially with this fair coming soon. As we progress through this season, we’re gonna hear more about that fair, so look forward to that. Comic readers, you know what I’m talking about.
Briefly on Rosita and Siddiq. So they’re an item, and this started apparently when Rosita was with Gabriel? Well, okay. A bit out of left field, but it is true to a similar moment in the comics, so there’s that. As far as the show goes, though, it would be nice to get an explanation for when Rosita jumped from Gabriel to Siddiq.
Also, nice as it is that Eugene cares so deeply for Rosita, he had plenty of opportunities to tell her about how he felt. But at the same time, she doesn’t seem to share those feelings for him.
Finally, we have Alden and Luke working together in the woods. It’s nice that the two have a moment to bond, but now they’ve also run into the people disguised as walkers. It’s a good way to end the episode and leave us with more intrigue in regards to this new threat. You can bet that they’ll be paying the Hilltop a visit soon.
All in all, a pretty good return for The Walking Dead. The moments with Negan in isolation were strong and the death of Jesus has shifted things around between the Hilltop and Alexandria. However, the new threat in the form of humans dressed as walkers is something the survivors have not faced before. How will they combat this? And what of Lydia? We’ll find out in the weeks to come. See you next time.