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Sunday, March 3, 2019

[RECAP] Season 9, Episode 8 of The Walking Dead, "Evolution"

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We've arrived at the midseason finale for Season 9 of The Walking Dead, entitled "Evolution", a reference to Rosita and Eugene's delirious statements that the walkers are evolving into communicating beings.  So how justifiable is this claim?  Well, it's a little complicated.

At the beginning of the episode before the credits even roll, we see Daryl, Aaron and Jesus already out in the woods, hiding behind some trees and observing something that's become fairly routine: A hoard of walkers.  The only difference is that they're just...mulling around in circles, as a contained entity almost like a concentrated storm system.  They comment that this behavior is indeed very unusual and they don't know what to make of it at all.  That said, before it gets dark, they decide to keep moving in order to find Eugene, sooner rather than later.  It's at this moment that we get a close up into the walker herd and we see the back of one PARTICULAR walker come to a full STOP, stand up ERECT and TURN their head to the side, likely toward to the sound of our heroes.

It's at this moment that it is abundantly clear that these are not walkers (spoiler alert) OR if they ARE something very nefarious is at foot.

But first, we need to revisit The Hilltop where Michonne has arrived with her band of newcomers.  To say that there's apparent tension is a gross understatement.  It is glaringly obvious that something occurred between these two communities to cause a rift of this level and a great deal of animosity toward Michonne specifically.  What decision did she make during this six year time jump that's made her public enemy number one?  At least Carol tries to extend an olive branch to Michonne and invite her to King Ezekiel's proposed fair (RED FLAG/SPOILER ALERT: DON'T GO TO THE FAIR).  But Michonne politely, yet firmly, declines the invite.  Smart on her, to be honest.

Michonne spends most of her time at Rosita's bedside as she recovers, alongside with Siddiq.  They speak some of the past, but in vague enough terms that we as viewers are still not clear on what occurred to get the relations to this level.  Before the conversation can go any further, Rosita wakes up with a start and asks feverishly about Eugene.  She is told he is still out there and she jumps out of bed and insists that they need to get to him IMMEDIATELY.

And while everyone is occupied at the Hilltop, someone apparently has been negligent with Negan's care because he one day casually gives his cell wall a slight push...only to realize that it was left unlocked.  A shocked Negan very calmly fully opens the door, grins his typical grin and walks right on out.

When we rejoin our heroes in the woods, we learn between conversations between Jesus and Aaron that Jesus is not very enthusiastic at the prospects of being the new leader of the Hilltop.  He's always lived a life on his own terms, coming in and out of society (sort of like Daryl in a way), so the idea of the committed responsibilities of a formal leader are not appealing.  Aaron tries to convince him he's more than capable but Daryl is more concerned about finding Eugene before the hoard catches up with them or it gets dark (or both).  In a smart move, he tosses an alarm clock into a field to distract the walkers...except, it doesn't work, unbeknownst to Daryl and crew.

Eventually, they come across the little shed Rosita mentioned and they find Eugene, hidden underneath the floor boards, in a sort of secret crawl space.  He is absolutely TERRIFIED and insists that the walkers have somehow evolved and they can now speak to eachother.  The crew is doubtful but they do see that the herd has caught up with them and they need to get Eugene to safety as soon as possible.  A hobbling Eugene is led away by Aaron and Jesus while Daryl (and dog) decide to go a different way in an attempt to distract the hoard.  Daryl even goes as far as throwing some firecrackers in an attempt to create an obvious diversion.  But he is absolutely stunned and confused to see the herd completely ignore the noise and stay the course of following Jesus and the others.  It's clear at this point that something is very wrong.

In a sort of homage to classic horror films, specifically George Romero zombie flicks, Jesus, Aaron and Eugene find themselves in a foggy cemetery after dark.  They see that beyond the gate, they should be able to get Eugene to safety but they can't quite open the door fast enough.  Jesus and Aaron realize that there's no way around it: They're going to have to fight off the walkers, at least to a point to allow a break to open up that gate.  Luckily for them the calvary arrives in the form of Daryl, Michonne, Magna and Yumiko.  They work on opening the gate and continue putting down the herd, especially Jesus.  You get the impression that after being kept in a sort of "desk job" if you will, he is relishing in this opportunity to be able to fight in the wild again.  He makes quick work of many of them, with a flourish, but unfortunately he doesn't realize how one of the walkers isn't really a walker.  This presumed walker sidesteps his advance comes up behind him and stabs him through the heart, ominously telling him that he is where he does not belong.

Aaron screams in anguish and the group immediately starts putting down everything around them (walker or not).  Once all died down, Daryl notices something strange looking about one of the walkers...stitches specifically on the head of one of the fallen walkers.  He takes out his knife to pull apart the stitches and makes a shocking discovery:  The face was a walker MASK.  After Daryl pulls off the mask, we see that underneath was a human person. 

At this point we hear an echo of whispers in the dark fog and our heroes line up in a circle Avengers-style to protect themselves from this new threat.  But what is it exactly?


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