The Walking Dead Season 9 midseason premiere truly took the show in a different direction. New characters take center stage as the Whisperers are finally revealed. Adaptation brings a change of leadership at the Hilltop. Daryl (Norman Reedus), Michonne (Danai Gurira), and Tara (Alanna Masterson) address dark secrets and frightening threats. Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) tastes freedom, but it's not as sweet as expected. Rosita (Christian Serratos) has an epic reveal. Henry (Matt Lintz) makes a new friend, while Luke (Dan Fogler) and Alden (Callan McAuliffe) do not.

Adaptation opens at night with Jesus (Tom Payne) dead in the cemetery. The Whisperers are circling. Michonne goes into ass kicking mode. She fends off walkers and Whisperers, as Daryl, Aaron (Ross Marquand), Magna (Nadia Hilker), Yumiko (Eleanor Matsuura), and Eugene (Josh McDermitt) escape. They carry Jesus' lifeless body for burial. Daryl locks the cemetery gate as they race away. A Whisperer unlocks it.

In Alexandria, Negan walks quietly around. He relishes a tomato off the vine. He sneaks into Rick's house. He sees a drawing of Judith's (Cailey Fleming). Negan steals her compass, a shovel, changes clothes, then heads to the wall to climb over. He's stunned when Judith gets the drop on him with her python revolver. He tells her he's not going back. She thought he was smarter than this, there's nothing out there. Judith lets him escape, but promises to shoot him if she sees him again.

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At the Hilltop, Luke (Dan Fogler) walks around in the morning. He's impressed by the settlement. Luke volunteers to go with Alden to search for Michonne and Jesus. On the road, Nadia and Yumiko are disgusted by the Whisperer masks. They regret not knowing Jesus to the bereaved Aaron. Michonne vouches for the new people to Daryl. They talk about a horrible incident in the past that separated the communities. Bringing Jesus back is important. Daryl wishes he'd been able to do the same for Rick. The dog warns them of walkers ahead.

Daryl intercepts the herd at a bridge. He shoots arrows into their feet. He hits a Whisperer, who howls in pain. He's immediately set on by the walkers. Michonne comes from behind and slices through the rest. A female Whisperer remains, she drops her weapon as Daryl and Michonne advance. Daryl rips her dead mask off. She pleads for mercy as they take her prisoner.

Negan walks happily though the woods. He stops by a truck to reflect, then sees a walker for the first time in years. As he kills it, a burnt walker grabs him from behind. He escapes, but is shaken to reality by the experience. He drinks from a river, only to throw up later on. He walks back to the spot where he bludgeoned Glenn and Abraham with Lucille.

Michonne and Daryl's group arrive at the Hilltop. Everyone is distraught at the loss of Jesus. Tammy Rose (Brett Butler) tells Tara that she's in charge now. The people will want the prisoner for justice. Daryl takes the girl to the holding cells. Henry (Matt Lintz) is still there for his conduct. He's stunned by the prisoner, and Daryl's news that Jesus has been killed.

Negan makes his way to an abandoned town. He goes into a clothing store, then puts on a dust and cobwebs covered jacket. He hides on top of cabinets from feral dogs. Negan escapes out the back door with only the jacket and a piece of pipe. Meanwhile, Luke and Alden find one of Yumiko's arrows in a tree. They find another. They are being shadowed by a herd. They make the decision to keep looking rather than head back.

Michonne and Tara interrogate the Whisperer girl in the cell. She cries nonstop. She knows nothing. All her people were killed. They did not have names. They were good people. Michonne does not believer her. Outside, Michonne tells Daryl and Tara she is leaving in the morning. Alexandria must be told of this new threat. She warns Daryl that it is dangerous to keep the girl.

In the infirmary, Siddiq (Avi Nash) pops Eugene's knee back into place. He screams throughout, then professes his love again to Rosita. She runs out of the room in a hurry. Siddiq watches as she vomits in the grass. Rosita reminds Siddiq of their dalliance before she hooked up with Father Gabriel. She's pregnant with Siddiq's baby. Eugene overhears their conversation through his window.

Daryl and Henry watch as Jesus' grave is being dug. Henry apologizes profusely for his actions. Daryl reminds him he has another night in the tank. Negan has now walked back to the Sanctuary. "Home sweet home", he mutters. He walks into the abandoned, garbage strewn factory. He breaks down a secret wall. His hidden stash of food has been eaten by rats, but a motorcycle is still there. A walker making noise gets his attention. It's Big Ritchie, one of his old Savior followers.

Michonne packs up her wagon to leave. Aaron confides that she was right about everything. They should stay in Alexandria, defend their own from now on. Tara has decided to let Magna's group stay. It's her decision now. Daryl wonders why he should be involved in any of this. Michonne reminds him that he must stay and help Tara to lead. Daryl swears he'll get more information from the girl.

Negan revisits his life at the Sanctuary. He sits in the conference room. Gathers his old furniture. He clears the yard of walkers, leaving Big Ritchie. He sits down in the cold wet factory. The Sanctuary is long gone. He dispatches Big Ritchie as he leaves for good.

The Hilltop buries Jesus. The people take turns putting nails into his coffin. An enraged Daryl goes back to the cells. He grabs the Whisperer girl and threatens to drag her outside to the people. They would kill her in retaliation. She begs for mercy, with Henry chiming in for Daryl to stop. Daryl tells Henry to shut up and be quiet. The girl says they have no names. They wear skins to live among the dead. Places like the Hilltop never survive. Walls are useless. They kill people who are the true enemy. She and her mother are all that's left. Daryl throws the girl down and leaves in a huff. After a few moments, the girl thanks Henry for defending her. She says her name is Lydia (Cassady McClincy). Daryl listens near the window as Henry and Lydia talk.

Negan is riding his motorcycle down a road. Judith is standing in the road before him. She shoots at him and he crashes into the grass. He curses at her. She chastises him for bad language. She's just a kid. Negan was on his way back to his cell. She was right. There's nothing outside. He gives her back the compass.

At the Hilltop, Magna and Enid (Katelyn Nacon) are at the lookout. Enid is worried about Alden. Magna comforts her. Luke is tough. In the woods, Alden and Luke find more arrows. Suddenly they are surrounded by walkers. A female stands in the short distance. As they approach her, she stands upright. She throws an arrow towards them, before brandishing a shotgun. "The trail ends here," she says to their surprise.

Multiple storylines were opened and deepened. Jesus' death leaves Tara and Daryl in charge at the Hilltop. They have Lydia prisoner, and she's befriended Henry. What was the major incident involving Daryl and Michonne? It must be why Maggie is gone and the communities are fractured. Negan's outside trek leads him right back to Judith. Has the arrogant, ruthless Savior truly changed his ways? Rosita has certainly made the rounds. Pregnant with Siddiq's baby, in love with Father Gabriel, and a fawning Eugene in tow. The snooping of conversations through open windows was really stupid. Using it twice in an episode is just plain lazy. The plot has indeed thickened to a syrup. Tune in next week to AMC, as The Walking Dead reveals the leader of the Whisperers.

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Julian Roman