The Walking Dead review: The whispers are getting louder


The Walking Dead returns from its midseason hiatus to integrate the Whisperers. There’s also a steady restructuring of different critical relationships to parallel the comics.

The midseason premiere of The Walking Dead started a slow burn to the Whisperers proper debut in the series, as well as their anarchistic arc. The show began to build up their presence in the walker-ridden world earlier this season, but “Adaptation” finally gave a face to the new antagonists. It’s important to note that though we’ve officially seen the deceptive humanity under their walker masks, this big reveal is far from the height of the Whisperers arc.

The Walking Dead has finally returned, and there is still some resentment from fans over the show simultaneously suppressing a canon gay character’s sexuality while adding his death to the show’s running bury the gays trope. The midseason premiere intensified our grief over Jesus’ death as we watched characters mourn his loss, a grief we’ll be sure to feel many times over this season.

Opening the midseason premiere with the distressing reiteration that Jesus is dead only parallels a string of post-mortem reminders in the episode. Jesus’ prolonged death scene that carried over from the midseason finale parallels Negan’s journey to the site where he killed Abraham and Glenn. Though we all knew and expected that Jesus died from his fight with a Whisperer in “Evolution,” this episode reminded us of his abrupt loss. The grim reminder draws similarities to Negan as he dwells on his past.

Unlike the viewers and Alexandria and company, who all mourn Jesus, Negan likely doesn’t mourn Abraham or Glenn. Instead, he pities the power he lost from his battle with Rick and his group of survivors years ago. Not that it’s any revelation but Negan has serious attachment issues not only to his power but to his former self, which the series manifests in the scene where he visits the long-neglected sanctuary.

Negan’s journey outside his cell shows the devastating aftermath of the post-apocalyptic world. His time brooding illustrates that he has lost his place in the world because losing his power and his horde of followers changed him.

It also shows how desolate the world among the walkers can be and how it can transform anyone or anything (including dogs). However, Negan’s solitude during his brief freedom shows him that he isn’t free without human interaction and community, even if that means sacrificing his physical freedom.

Taking after her mother Michonne and father Rick, Judith attempts to stop Negan before he officially escapes Alexandria. She later shoots at him when he returns. Negan and Judith’s familial bond mirrors aspects of comic Carl and Negan’s friendship (even if they weren’t always amicable). Beyond drawing similarities to Carol and Negan’s bond in the comics, Judith does help us see a more vulnerable side to Negan.

Despite his warped humor and innate Negan-ness, he understands that Judith lost her dad and her brother. Given his connection to Carl, even though they’ve both tried to kill each other multiple times over, he acts as a lonely uncle. He’s a strange support system, and Judith seems to be connecting with him more and more.

Tinkering with the comic-based plot and character dynamics gives The Walking Dead a slightly different tone. The episode rebuilds on lost relationships, such as Negan and Carl’s, bu reforming and shifting Negan’s friendship to Judith. Still, “Adaptation” keeps a key component to the Whisperers issue with Alexandria and the surrounding survivors.

Similar to the comics, the woman Michonne captures and Daryl interrogates is Alpha’s daughter, Lydia. And just like the comics, Alpha (the leader of the Whisperers) could negotiate a trade to get her daughter back, especially now that the group of masquerading walkers have a couple of captive survivors of their own.

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In an episode that focuses on Negan with the concurrent introduction of the Whisperers, it’s clear that Negan is broke. He isn’t the same wise-cracking power-hungry jerk who wandered upon the Whisperers camp in the comics. However, like Negan’s currently defeated mentality, The Walking Dead is preparing to introduce Alpha, a broken leader at the height of her tirade. Yes, they have some similarities, but viewers will see how the apocalypse has broken her in much more disturbing ways.