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Remember when The Walking Dead flipped things up by leaving the road (mostly) to settle in Alexandria, and the many changes stemming from that narrative shift? Season 9 features a similarly dramatic evolution, picking up roughly 18 months after the All Out War's conclusion, without Negan around to keep the communities from thriving. Peaceful times allow for quite a few new characters to show up and enjoy the fruits of everyone's labors, and Season 9 has already confirmed quite a few exciting new additions that comic fans were happy to hear about.
The early half of Season 9 will be mashing together the various Walking Dead communities, from Hilltop to Oceanside to the Sanctuary, and it will also be taking a few characters out of the picture, with Andrew Lincoln's Rick Grimes permanently biting the dust, while Lauren Cohan's Maggie Rhee will be taking a temporary hiatus. Such absences allow for new faces to fill the void, and because this show is based on a Robert Kirkman comic book that shows no such restraints about frequently introducing survivors, AMC's The Walking Dead will continue the trend. Some may be sticking around for the long haul, while others may just be around for walker-consumption purposes. Let's go over everyone we know about so far.
Alpha and Lydia
Season 9 is when The Walking Dead's most unfresh-smelling villains, The Whisperers, will shamble their way into the lives (and deaths) of our protagonists. The walker-blending group is led by the single-minded Alpha, whose most noteworthy physical feature is her shiny bald head, outside of wearing walkers' skin as clothing, naturally. To be portrayed by Samantha Morton, Alpha is Old Testament-ruthless about rules and order, which can be attested to by both her victims and her daughter Lydia, who will be played by Cassady McClincy. In the comics, Lydia and Alpha have a complicated relationship, which Lydia is able to balance in ways by getting romantic with Carl. Since Chandler Riggs' character is dead on the show, it'll be interesting to see if another teen character gets to fill that role. (Get your breath smelling nice, Henry.)
Alpha is the leader of the Whisperers, so Beta is naturally her second-in-command, although his psychical stature would have some thinking those roles were reversed. Ryan Hurst was recently cast to play the ever-angered behemoth, and it's a solid fit, since Beta needs someone with a commanding presence to don that previously owned skin cap for TV. Without getting into spoilers here, let's just say that Beta's loyalty to Alpha isn't encumbered by loyalty to others, so none of the good guys' communities are wholly safe from his menacing wrath. It's not clear when Beta will show up, but we'll be waiting on something around the midseason finale. The villain also got a weird quasi-twist in the comics, which should make for a very quirky moment if the TV show adapts it properly.
Not every group can be as big and flashy as O.G. Team Family and its multi-settlements, and there are some survivors factions out there who keep a more limited population. Such is the case with Magna, the newest comic book sorta-leader to make it to live-action. As played by Nadia Hilker, and first seen in the Comic-Con trailer earlier this year, Magna is going to enter the lives of all the regulars in a seemingly hectic way, although we're not sure of the particulars just yet. In the comics, the Richmond-hailing Magna is strong and confident, and also smart enough to not completely trust Rick or others early on, though she eventually comes around in most ways. Magna admittedly doesn't inspire very many major storylines after arriving, so perhaps she's not long for this world.
In the comics, Yumiko crossed paths with Magna around Washington D.C. and traveled with her from there to Alexandria. Yumiko is not the most important character to the overall narrative, but she's certainly important to Magna, as the two are romantically entangled. It's not quite clear yet if the characters will be lovers on the TV show, but it would seemingly be a silly thing to change. Aside from all that, Yumiko is mostly utilized for her skills in the middle of battles, or on the outskirts of battles, and she is part of the later-formed Militia. As such, viewers can probably expect to see actress Eleanor Matsuura showing off her physical prowess during several intense encounters across the season.
Though many of the new characters coming to Season 9 are seemingly direct ports of their comic counterparts, Connie stands apart as being quite different in an interesting and inspirational way. Connie will be the first deaf character on The Walking Dead, with actress Lauren Ridloff similarly being the first deaf actor among the TV show's main cast. Without meaning to sensationalize the sensory distinction, I'm quite interested in seeing quite a bit of Connie's story to hear about her closest calls over the years, and how she managed to survive them all, since sound and hearing are so imperative to staying alive when the dead are near. She does always have a protector nearby, though, which eases things up a bit. Speaking of...
Angel Theory joined the Walking Dead cast as Kelly, Connie's sister, which will serve as another relatively rare instance where siblings have not only survived but also stayed together. Given Connie's deafness, Kelly almost necessarily needs to be extremely attentive to everything her sister is doing when in the wild, not to mention her own safety. Kelly is described as being "ever-alert and ever-protective," which was shown off in small part during the big Season 9 trailer. I like a strong sister dynamic in this environment, so their presence will certainly be welcomed. Comic fans might notice something different here, which is because Kelly was a male in Robert Kirkman's co-creation. (The drama had previously swapped genders for Alexandria's former leader Deanna Monroe.)
Of all the people in Magna's group, Luke is probably the one who is least capable of surviving out in the world on his own, which doesn't exactly bode well for Dan Fogler's TV iteration. Without a whole lot of comic character development to go on, Luke can basically be described as someone who values the safety of groups. I'm hoping Fogler is allowed to show off his comedic sensibilities in the role, and that he's not just whiny and crippled by fear the whole time. If the TV show lays Luke's story out as it went in the source material, his fans should start getting worried when the Whisperers show up. Dun-dun-dunnn!
Earl and Tammy Rose
For all the reasons why Carl's death was a tragedy on the TV show, I'm most upset about missing out on all the character's comic elements following the time jump. One of those elements was his mentor-apprentice relationship with the Hilltop's blacksmith Earl Sutton, a people-pleasing weapon expert who serves as a welcome reminder of the goodness that remains in people. However, things might be different on TV, where John Finn's Earl will be married to Brett Butler's Tammy Rose, who was involved in a few controversial situations that were devoid of anyone's kind nature. It's possible the TV show will keep Earl's kind streak intact, but I'm skeptical, since Butler's performance strengths are far more in tune with Comic Tammy Rose's chaos.