“Who Are You Now?” finds The Walking Dead at a new beginning, with appalling hairdos aplenty and a new villain shuffling into the frame.
This recap of The Walking Dead Season 9, Episode 6, “Who Are You Now?”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
There have been some changes. In last week’s emotional, near-perfect send-off for Andrew Lincoln, Rick Grimes was airlifted out of The Walking Dead. But it turns out he wasn’t the only beloved long-time cast member who was leaving for less apocalyptic pastures – Lauren Cohan has gone too! And that, as well as reducing the show’s eye candy by 50%, means that the latest episode’s title, “Who Are You Now?”, could quite easily be asked of the mysterious new leader of Hilltop. Who could it be? Don’t worry about it just yet. There’s plenty more going on in the meantime.
Last week’s climax suggesting a whopping six-year time jump wasn’t merely a tantalising flash-forward to how things might one day be. This is where we are now. Alexandria has morphed into the picturesque farming community Carl always envisioned it would be. Michonne (Danai Gurira) is head of security, and has one-way conversations with Rick and Carl in the privacy of her well-appointed manor house, which is shared by Judith (Cailey Fleming) and a new arrival – her and Rick’s thus-far nameless sprog. Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) is now chairman of the community committee, and continues his reinvention as a dick-slinging man of the cloth by implausibly banging Rosita (Christian Serratos). As I said, there have been some changes.
Even Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) has perked up. He’s had a trim and now he helps Judith with her maths homework from the window of his cell; he can’t help being a little bit ominous still, but at least he’s not wallowing in his own filth and begging for death. The Kingdom is being presided over by Ezekiel (Khary Payton) and Carol (Melissa McBride), who now looks like Geralt of Rivia but is still a thinly-disguised psychopath. At one point in “Who Are You Now?” her and a now-teenage but still-irritating Henry are accosted by some scruffy Saviours who have been living in the wilderness for six years. Later, she douses them all in petrol and sets them alight. Go team!
There are two narrative problems in “Who Are You Now?”. The first is a cohort of newbies who are brought in by Judith and subsequently made to sit before the council, where their fate is decided: They’re to get lost. But Michonne eventually acquiesces and decides – thanks in no small part to Judith rather comically embodying all of Rick’s ideals – she’ll take them to Hilltop instead, where whoever is running s**t might take them in. There isn’t much to these guys yet; one of them is deaf, the other translates, there’s a tattooed tough chick who did some hard time, but beyond those surface-level qualities they didn’t bring much to the episode beyond displaying Alexandria’s ostensibly-democratic-but-really-Michonne’s-totally-in-charge system of governance.
The other issue is a technical one. There’s a radio system that is, technically speaking, complete garbage, so Eugene (Josh McDermitt) and Rosita head out into the wild to boost the signal. There’s some funny stuff here. Eugene is rather obviously in love with Rosita, and tries to explain their suitability in hilariously dry, evolutionary terms, but he’s also still a complete buffoon, and ends up injuring himself just as a herd of walkers arrive on the scene. Before he’s forced to summon the “testicular gravitas” to confess his feelings, the pair slathers themselves in mud and hide on a nearby banking while the herd pass by, muttering “Where are they? Don’t let them get away” to themselves. That would be a third problem.
What’s the deal? Are the walkers evolving? Ah, not quite. Those would be the Whisperers – a new cheerful tribe of villains who live among the zombies and wear their skins. How lovely. I’m sure they’ll fit right in.