Allow me to present to you, dear Walking Dead review readers, a triptych of thoughts on The Whisperers, our season 9 villains.
1. The Whisperers are technically interesting, in the sense that I’d like to see a whole lot more of how exactly it is that their society functions—and has been functioning for 10 years since the beginning of the zombie apocalypse.
2. Just about every aspect of that society’s believability crumbles, in terms of making any kind of logistical sense, when subjected to the lightest possible scrutiny. Case in point: Where do these people even get clothing, at this point? They’re not making acid-washed jeans in the woods.
3. How can we possibly even begin to consider these guys a true, existential threat to the likes of Alexandria, The Hilltop and The Kingdom when they spend all of their time walking around with their heads bowed and shoulders slumped, moving approximately 2 mph? Might I remind you that the three, previously mentioned communities are all ARMED WITH NUMEROUS AUTOMATIC WEAPONS and possess a BULLET FACTORY that has been working overtime for the last six years? The Whisperers are supposed to pose a threat to the existence of these people, when they can’t even stop their own camp from being overrun by the very same dead they’re supposed to be blending in with? Am I really supposed to accept this?
The fact is this: The Whisperers are “interesting” antagonists. They can be creepy or spooky antagonists. But capable and competent antagonists? That they most certainly aren’t. These people are as incompetent as they are unrealistic, and I’m fairly certain that Judith Grimes could take on their entire society on her own.
With that said, the fact that they still immediately get the drop on Henry only speaks to how unbelievably stupid that kid is. As I discussed in last week’s review, the problem with Henry is that he’s inheriting Carl’s comic book storyline without any of the competence or accolades that Carl possessed as a character. When Carl goes running after Lydia in the comics, we think “This probably isn’t a good idea,” but we know Carl has the wits and toughness to take care of himself. When Henry runs out into the arms of certain death, on the other hand, we just think “this idiot kid deserves to die immediately.” It’s impossible to give him the goodwill you would have given to Carl, because the character has done nothing to earn it.
Meanwhile, back in Alexandria, The Walking Dead continues to rub the audience’s lack of information into its collective face. We STILL don’t know what exactly caused the breakdown in socializing, trade and brotherhood between Alexandria and The Hilltop, even though everyone is constantly drawing attention to it. Why did Michonne’s mindset change so radically after Rick’s death, when the most logical response would have been to rely even more on the other communities? The Walking Dead spent 8 seasons showing us and telling us, over and over, that the survivors are strongest when they work together. Then something happened (off camera) in season 9 to give Michonne a mindset that is now the exact opposite, and we’re still in the dark as to what it was. It’s absolutely maddening.
With that said, Michonne’s conversation with Aaron was a nice sentiment, and it’s nice to see that she can still feel some kind of empathy for someone, somewhere. It was a great touch to have the little girl opening the door and calling Aaron “Dad,” especially if you remember that this is the daughter of a random Savior who was murdered by Rick. That’s a powerful reminder of what a difference saving one person can make.
Other stray thoughts:
— Lydia quickly starts lying to Alpha about her captivity in Hillside upon rejoining The Whisperers, immediately casting aside any dramatic tension that perhaps she was just playing Henry for a fool. Hey, who needs tension, right? Lydia is young and attractive, so clearly she’s a good person at heart. That’s all The Walking Dead needs in order to decide a character’s worth.
— Why is The Kingdom having such a hard time apparently supporting itself? Before the war with The Saviors, they were one of the breadbaskets of the area, farming and raising enough food to provide for BOTH themselves and give tribute to The Saviors every week. Now, after six years of peace, they can’t even provide for themselves, with little stated reason beyond storyline necessity. The only problems we’ve really seen are infrastructure ones, such as the community’s water pipes—but if those were issues, wouldn’t they have sent someone to The Hilltop to become a blacksmith sometime in the last six years, before we watched Henry get old enough to go? Did they all just sit around while the entire place went to shit, and are they all depending on HENRY of all people to fix it? Because that’s a very, very bad plan.
— The sequence with Beta cutting a new walker mask off a freshly dispatched zombie was one of the goriest, greatest things on The Walking Dead in the last few years, and I appreciate it.
Finally, lest we forget, I will for the fourth week in a row be assessing a standardized, one-point reduction from this review score, for the fact that The Walking Dead refuses to answer the most obvious questions raised by the first half of the season, such as how relationships between Alexandria and The Hilltop fell apart, and why Michonne and Daryl have shared “X” scars on their backs. Because The Walking Dead shows no inclination of ever giving the audience the basic information it needs to process what is happening in its fictional world, I will continue to assess this one-point deduction to each and every review score, until such time as they actually bother to fill us in on information that all the characters already know. I’ll just be repeating this block of text at the end of every review, so get used to reading it!
Unweighted Score: 6.4
Weighted, Get-Your-Shit-Together Score: 5.4
Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident horror guru. You can follow him on Twitter for more film and TV writing.