SPOILER ALERT: Do not keep reading if you have not seen the Season 9 midseason premiere of “The Walking Dead,” titled “Adaptation.”
The midseason premiere of “The Walking Dead” picks up immediately where the midseason finale left off, with Jesus (Tom Payne) lying dead after the group’s first encounter with The Whisperers. The rest of the group manages to fight off the remaining Whisperers and walkers before barring the gate to the cemetery, though we see a Whisperer unlocking the gate before the opening titles roll.
In Alexandia, Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is out of his cell and walking through the streets. He sneaks into Michonne’s (Danai Gurira) home, where he enters Judith’s (Cailey Fleming) bedroom. He sees a drawing of her and her family on the wall before stealing a compass hanging on a hook. At daybreak, Negan tries to sneak out by climbing over the wall, but Judith catches him and holds him at gunpoint. He tells her he won’t go back to his cell and encourages her to shoot him if she is so inclined. She ultimately refuses to shoot and lets him leave, as the two have developed a bond. She tells him to keep the compass to help find his way.
At Hilltop, people are growing concerned that the search party has not returned yet. Luke (Dan Fogler) volunteers to go out looking in order to prove his usefulness to the community, with Alden (Callan McAuliffe) agreeing to accompany him.
Out on the road, Michonne and Daryl (Norman Reedus) lead the rest of the group back to Alexandria. They speak briefly as they walk together, with both apologizing to the other for seemingly failing to bring back Rick’s body. They encounter a group of walkers at a covered bridge and decide to see if there are any Whisperers among them. Daryl wounds one with his crossbow, leading the walkers in the group to descend upon him. Another Whisperer draws a knife and attacks Michonne, who quickly kills him. A third Whisperer, a young woman (Cassady McClincy), surrenders without a fight.
They taker her back to Hilltop and put her in the cells below the main house, where Henry (Matthew Lintz) for his drunken escapades. They begin interrogating her, but she gives up little information. Michonne says she must return to Alexandria to warn everyone, tasking Daryl with taking lead on the interrogation and assisting Tara (Alanna Masterson) in running Hilltop now that Jesus is dead. Later, Eugene (Josh McDermitt) again professes his love to Rosita (Christian Serratos). She again rejects him, and Eugene hears her telling Siddiq (Avi Nash) that she is pregnant with Siddiq’s child, as they had been together before she began her relationship with Gabriel (Seth Gilliam).
Negan travels alone, killing several walkers along the way. He stops off in a clothing store, where he treats himself to a new leather jacket. Unfortunately, he is interrupted by a few wild dogs who attack him. He barely escapes the store before they are able to get him. He returns to The Sanctuary, which is completely abandoned. He tries to make it feel like home again, but he is left feeling empty and alone, leading him to depart his former stronghold.
After Jesus’ burial, Daryl again goes to interrogate the Whisperer. She says there were only 10 in her group and that they wore the skins of the dead for their own protection. Daryl asks if they have a camp with walls, to which she replies walls do not keep people safe. She says that she and her mother saw communities like Hilltop fall repeatedly, and that anyone who is still alive is a threat. He again asks her how many in her group, but her answer does not satisfy Daryl. He begins dragging her out of the cell to face judgment from the people of Hilltop. Henry yells for Daryl to stop, and Daryl lets her retreat into the cell. He yells at Henry to learn his place before storming out. The Whisperer thanks Henry for intervening, revealing her name is Lydia. They talk, and Daryl sits outside near a window and listens.
Negan travels on the road on a motorbike he found at The Sanctuary. Judith stands on the road and shoots out one his tires. They talk, and Negan admits she was right in that there is nothing left in the outside world for him. He agrees to return to Alexandria with her.
In the episode’s close, Luke and Alden are still out looking for the search party. They encounter a lone female walker in the woods, but it is not behaving like a normal walker. Suddenly, they realize they are surrounded by other such walkers. The original female steps forward and pulls out a concealed gun.