The Walking Dead entered a whole new era in Season 9, and not just because of the big time jump that saw Judith Grimes transform from a toddler into a kid who knows her way around a handgun. The ninth season has seen the departures of Andrew Lincoln and Lauren Cohan, and while there are reasons to expect both of them back in the zombie apocalypse, we can only wait and see what's in store.
The Walking Dead showrunner Angela Kang chatted with CinemaBlend about how it feels to move forward without Lincoln and Cohan as Rick and Maggie:
I think what's been hard is that we love Andrew Lincoln and Lauren Cohan so much and, you know, our plan is to hopefully have Lauren back. She and I have talked about it over the course of the season. But I think in terms of the story, we've deviated so much from the comic in various ways over the years, so that part we're kind of used to. We find ways of like remixing the different storylines with different arrays of characters and kind of adjusting for the characters that we have.
While the Walking Dead team misses having two of their long-running stars around, Angela Kang revealed that the show isn't crippled by their absences. For one thing, the door is open for Lauren Cohan to return if she ever has the time and inclination to take a break from Whiskey Cavalier and drop by the zombie apocalypse, and we can't 100% rule out Andrew Lincoln turning up again someday. The Walking Dead franchise certainly isn't going anywhere.
Admittedly, there was the potential for some difficulty in crafting the Season 9 story if the show intended to stick with the fundamentals of how the zombie apocalypse has unfolded on the pages of Robert Kirkman's comics, where Rick and Maggie are both still alive and in the mix. Angela Kang feels that the show's many departures from the source material -- especially in recent years -- means that the show can do its own thing without compromising its storytelling.
Rick and Maggie were distinctive and beloved characters, but that's not to say that other characters can't fill their roles in some way or other. The latest episode revealed that Jesus has stepped up as leader of Hilltop now that Maggie (and baby Herschel) have joined Georgie, and multiple characters are helping to fill the hole left by Rick.
Angela Kang elaborated on the state of the show following Rick and Maggie's departures, saying this:
But also, I think that the characters that we still have, they're so strong and it's been really gratifying to really get to have more material for Norman Reedus and Danai Gurira and Melissa McBride and Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who's doing amazing work, as well as this entire ensemble of people. And so I think they''ve really been just shining in their episodes. As well as, you know, we've got new people coming up like Samantha Morton and Ryan Hurst. You know, with the show, it's always something new going on and it's always a challenge, but like in good ways. So we just went forward, and we just tried to tell the best stories we could with, with all the great, great actors that we have.
We already knew that Norman Reedus was likely going to have a major role in the post-Andrew Lincoln era of The Walking Dead, and the first couple of post-time jump episodes proved that he's not the only character to change, and I don't just mean everybody (else's) hair! Michonne's life changed in some very big ways after Rick's death, and Carol got hitched and took on the role as Henry's mom. Negan has a very different role on the show than in the comics.
Of course, the new status quo with the good guys isn't what everybody has been dying to see in The Walking Dead Season 9. News broke way back in July that the group known as The Whisperers would arrive to menace our heroes at some point in the new season, and they're finally shaping up to change the game after the time jump.
At this point, we can at least be confident that The Whisperers are going to be seriously creepy, and all signs point toward them bringing a mystery element back to the show. While The Saviors were a formidable threat, their antics and the all-out war became tiresome to some fans (including yours truly) by the end of Season 8. The Whisperers in Season 9 could be exactly what the show needs to reinvent itself and perhaps boost those ratings a bit higher.
Angela Kang has been largely tight-lipped about The Whisperers, but she had this to tease when CinemaBlend's own Nick Venable mentioned his excitement about the arrival of Samantha Morton and Ryan Hurst:
[Samantha and Ryan] are great. So great.
Do we know precisely what to expect from Alpha and Beta and the rest of The Whisperers? Definitely not. Still, it sounds like we can look forward to the performances of the actors tasked with bringing these villains to life on the small screen. Fingers crossed that The Whisperers for the show are a hit with viewers as well as comic readers!
The midseason finale of The Walking Dead Season 9 airs Sunday, November 25 at 9 p.m. ET on AMC. For some viewing options once the show goes into hiatus, swing by our midseason TV premiere schedule. We can only hope that the midseason finale at least touches on some of the most exciting plots introduced after the time jump, and not just The Whisperers.