While everyone is still digesting The Walking Dead's shocking midseason finale, I couldn't think of a better time to analyze the first half of what has been a revitalizing season.
There were some significant changes going into The Walking Dead Season 9, some of which left some glaring question marks on the very future of the series. Not only was Scott M. Gimple stepping down as showrunner and passing to the torch to Angela Kang, but it was also announced that both Andrew Lincoln and Lauren Cohan would be leaving the series.
Since that announcement, fans have struggled with the thought of how this series would stay afloat without its central character of Rick Grimes. However, through Angela Kang's unique vision and direction, The Walking Dead has — so far — delivered one of its best seasons and found a way to utilize its core cast to create intriguing stories in spite of Andrew Lincoln's absence.
Is The Walking Dead really the best that it's been in years? Check out our midseason breakdown of what worked and what didn't.
If you can't wait until February, you can watch The Walking Dead online right here at TV Fanatic.
1. Standout Performance – Andrew Lincoln
Andrew Lincoln has delivered some incredibly mesmerizing performances during his tenure on The Walking Dead, but the actor laid everything out on the table for his character's swan song. Given the fact that filming his final episode was incredibly emotional ordeal, it ended up only aiding and enhancing Andrew Lincoln's performance.
2. Best Episode – What Comes After
Do you see a pattern forming here? It's fair to say that we can all be in agreement on this one. "What Comes After" was easily the best episode of the first half of the season on numerous fronts. Not only did Greg Nicotero bring his A game with stunning cinematography and storytelling, but it also provided plenty of callbacks and fan service while marking the return of Scott Wilson and Jon Bernthal to the series.
The appearances of Hershel and Shane as Rick slipped in and out of consciousness made for some incredibly engrossing moments, and culminated in a perfect tribute and sendoff for Rick Grimes' final episode.
3. Worst Episode: Stradavarius
"Stradavarius" is hands down the weakest entry of the first half of the season. That's not to say the episode itself is bad per se, but considering the influx of quality episodes that preceded it, this one just didn't quite measure up with the rest of the season.
Most of the blame falls on the episode attempting to follow too many stories at once, which is an issue this series has dealt with in the past. At least it did mark the return of Michael Cudlitz to the series who directed the episode. Oh, and Daryl finally got a haircut so it had that going for it.
4. Most Intriguing New Character – Magna
Out of the new group of survivors introduced this season, Magna is by far the most intriguing of the bunch. While her sketchy past remains unclear, she does appear to genuinely want to contribute and earn her keep. Look for Magna to become a key player when the season resumes.
5. Worst Character – Henry
No surprise here! Henry was probably one of the most hated characters throughout The Walking Dead Season 8. From his blatantly dumb decisions to poor life choices, it was difficult to not root for Henry to wander right into the gnawing jaws of a walker.
While The Walking Dead Season 9's time jump forced Macsen Lintz to hand the character off to his older brother, Matt, it hasn't done anything for Henry's likability. And since it appears that Henry is beginning to receive some of Carl's arcs from the comics, it's likely Henry will be sticking around for a while.
6. Most Interesting Development – The Whisperers
The Whisperers arrival had been subtly teased throughout season eight, but their debut this season has been met with horror and intrigue. We don't know much about this new group other than they wear walker flesh camouflage as they walk among the dead and influence herds. They also appear to be extremely territorial.
One of the things we're most looking forward in the second half of the season is learning more about this distrubing new group which is quickly solidifying itself as the most terrifying villain ever introduced on The Walking Dead.