There are spoilers ahead for “The Walking Dead” season nine, episode eight, “Evolution.”
Sunday’s mid-season finale of “The Walking Dead” finally introduced us to the true identity of the show’s talking zombies. They aren’t really evolving as Eugene suggested. Daryl revealed them to be a group of survivors who blend in with the undead by wearing their skin called the Whisperers.
Showrunner Angela Kang told INSIDER there was some debate on whether or not to make the Whisperer reveal until the show’s return next year, but she pushed for it to happen sooner.
“My preference for story is that if you kind of introduce a mystery, you don’t drag it out too, too long. It just felt [right] for the rhythm of the show,” Kang told INSIDER. ‘For the comic-book readers, they know exactly who the Whisperers are from the beginning and I felt, for me, as just a fan and a viewer, I would have been frustrated if we didn’t get an answer within the mid-season.”
“There was definitely some debate,” Kang said about the decision to reveal the Whisperers on the mid-season finale. “This was a conversation with multiple people about, ‘Do you hold the reveal until after the break?’ And I was like, ‘No, no, no. You introduce the mystery and then there’s an answer to this little chapter of it and then we start the next little chapter when we open up the mid-season [premiere next year].’ That felt cleaner to me.”
It’s one of many decisions Kang has helped make since becoming showrunner of “The Walking Dead” on season nine to help pick the pace back up on the AMC zombie series, which has slogged in ratings after Negan brutally killed two beloved characters on the season seven premiere.
On the season nine premiere, Maggie (Lauren Cohan) quickly and efficiently killed off old Hilltop leader Gregory (Xander Berkeley) after he tried to have her killed. Typically, it’s the sort of death that would take a few episodes to play out on the show. On the series’ aftershow, “Talking Dead,” Kang referred to Gregory’s swift death as putting “the pedal to the metal” and getting it over with after building up his story for so long.
Similarly with the Whisperers reveal, there’s a danger of making people believe the show may be jumping the shark after nine seasons if you make people sit too long on believing that there are talking zombies on the show.
Kang said she didn’t think of it in terms of jumping the shark or not. For her, it was about story.
“It’s really like a story/rhythm preference on my side that seemed to work well for us as we were working on how it plays out,” Kang said of the Whisperer storyline.
“I really felt like the actors were so game for kind of going in new directions with their characters. Sometimes people can be protective of wanting to do one thing and all of our people were like, ‘Yes, bring on the challenges. Bring on the change.’ Let’s do new things. Their performances have been stellar,” said Kang adding what she’s been most proud of this season. “We basically had to do the equivalent of two pilots in the first half [of the season] alone. The first episode as well as the sixth episode.”
Where do we go from here?
Daryl, Michonne, Aaron, and more are currently surrounded by the Whisperers and Kang says it won’t take long for us to see more of them, including their leaders.
“I’m excited for the audience getting to see more of the Whisperer story,” said Kang of what’s to come. “We have Samantha Morten and Ryan Hurst coming up as Alpha and Beta for the comic-book fans. These are just great, great actors who kind of folded in so seamlessly and are wonderful people to work with. I’m excited for people to see their work.”
“This group, the Whisperers, is unlike anything we’ve encountered on the show and we’re going to start to learn about their philosophy and the way that they handle things and it truly gave us the opportunity to delve into a group that was so different. I think it’s been really interesting for us to kind of work on that and see the designs that go into it,” Kang continued. “As well, we’ll find out some more about what happened during that six-year passage of time with the mystery of the “X,” [and] we may see the return of a familiar character. I’m excited for all of that. And we also, I’ll tease, that we do something we’ve never done on the show before in the back-half of the season that I think fans will be into.”
And what about Negan?
Negan escaped from his prison on the mid-season finale and is on the run. Kang says it won’t take long to see what Negan is up to now that he’s free from his cell.
“We’ve obviously deviated a bit from the comics at this part of the story. When we open up in the first episode back in the new season, we will find out what it is that Negan is up to,” said Kang of what Negan will be up to on the rest of the season. “I think Jeffrey [Dean Morgan], who is such a remarkable actor. He has just done incredible work the whole season, but it’s really fun to watch him.”
“He’s certainly been sick of being stuck inside that cell, both Negan and Jeffrey,” Kang added. “So it was fun to kind of have him out and about and I think there’s a pretty cool story to be told there that I hope that fans will enjoy who have enjoyed Negan from the start or who are kind of just enjoying seeing his evolution in the character.”
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