“You are where you don’t belong.”
Well that was a spooky episode. The Walking Dead might technically be a ‘horror’ show but that’s more because of the gore and the zombies. But in Evolution, the stakes were raised and it was chilling. The Whisperers are here and they’re even more terrifying than they were in the comics.
The three hairiest characters (Daryl, Aaron, and Jesus) have gone out to locate Eugene, but they’ve ran into a herd. From the outset, it’s obvious that something is a little different about this herd. They move differently to begin with, aimlessly wandering around in circles. But it gets stranger from there. All of the tricks that Daryl knows to get rid of a herd – distractions like firecrackers and alarm clocks – don’t seem to work. And worse than that, once they find Eugene he claims that the herd is following him. The gang all put their heads together and figure that the walkers must be evolving and that they’re learning to talk. Like Eugene says, there is still brain activity so there is still the potential for them to evolve. It makes sense (kinda) and I wonder how many viewers were suckered in by this red herring. Of course, the truth is much worse.
The gang is finally pushed into a dead end in perhaps the spookiest graveyard I’ve ever seen. And the showdown is a good one. The budget for fake fog alone must have been through the roof. And after a couple of seasons of being forgotten in the important storylines, Jesus finally gets something cool to do. Sure, that cool thing is to be killed off, but it’s still an effective scene. After dispatching a bunch of walkers in cool slow-mo kung-fu style in a way only Jesus can, he goes to kill the last remaining walkers. There are only two left, you don’t even think anything of it. Which is what makes it all the more surprising when one of them dodges Jesus’ attack and stabs him, killing him more or less instantly. It’s a shocking scene, mainly due to the speed in which it happens, and one that shows The Walking Dead is not against taking risks. That makes the show very exciting and unpredictable again.
And of course these are not evolved walkers, though I am surprised by the amount of people online who thought that was going to be the case before the episode aired. No, it’s The Whisperers! And with their introduction, we’re fully into the new world order. The Whisperers use walker skins to make suits and masks for them to hide in the middle of herds, using the herds as a sort of giant weapon. Think of the times that characters have smeared themselves in walker guts, well this is the next level. Without giving too much away, these guys don’t play by any of the rules that other villains in the past have done, or don’t act in any kind of way that you might expect. It’s important to keep the bad guys interesting or you’d risk the show just being a revolving door of similar villains. And judging from their introduction in this episode, the preview for the next half of the season, and the source material, there’s no danger of that here.
Other things do happen in the episode, though it might be easy to forget that with what happens to Jesus. But it’d be a shame too, because there’s some good stuff going on. Henry has begun his apprenticeship at the blacksmith’s with Earl and it’s not long before he falls in with a group of douchebags (well, two douchebags and a girl that seems to be on the level). It’s a side of the apocalypse we’ve not seen before; what the kids all get up to while the adults are biting people’s throats out. It’s just a shame that living behind the walls for so long means that a lot of these kids don’t seem to comprehend what is actually going on outside. It seems that Henry is going to be taking some of Carl’s roles. In the comics it was Carl who wanted to become an apprentice blacksmith, and it was Carl who had an arc where he was trying to fit in with the other kids. And it’ll probably be Henry who has a relationship with Lydia (seeing as Enid is off limits). I’m fine with it, Henry is an interesting character and his interactions with the other kids in this episode were well done. But why get rid of Carl just to give his story to another character? Only time will tell if there’s a master plan at work there.
The mystery around the missing six years deepens in this episode, as Michonne meets Carol again – two characters who have had surprisingly little interaction with one another. Michonne is still firmly against the idea of a fair because of something she’s done, or a choice she made. There are very few clues around what exactly has happened in the time skip, but I hope we get a flashback to explain it. I’m sure Michonne will agree to the fair, and probably end up regretting the decision.
Negan escaped! Just like the comics, years of imprisonment comes to an end because his gate is left open. I was hoping he’d lock himself back up, to prove that he was trustworthy. But his path seems slightly different than in the comics. One way or another, he’s going to have to save someone’s life and prove that he’s changed. It seemed that earlier in the episode, he didn’t like the idea that the kids in Alexandria were scared of him. In the comics he’s a PE teacher, so perhaps that side of him still exists – the side that wants to teach and help people (in his own way). We’ll see, but the preview seemed to suggest he’s got more to do next year.
Overall, this was a thoroughly excellent episode and a phenomenal mid-season closer. Jesus’ death was handled in such a great way and improved on the comics, and after all, isn’t that the best thing an adaptation can do? The show has just had the best run of episodes that it’s had in ages, and hopefully it can keep it up. The question of whether it could survive without Rick seems to have been answered. I miss him, but the show will thrive.
Reviewed by Jack