The Walking Dead season 9 is a marked improvement over previous seasons of AMC’s zombie show, reinvigorating a series which up until now had been dipping in quality with each passing year. The Walking Dead‘s ratings may never again reach the heights of its earlier seasons, but season 9 is certainly a move in the right direction for the long-running series.
This season, The Walking Dead‘s cast changed quite a bit with the loss of major characters like Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and Maggie Rhee (Lauren Cohen), but in their stead other characters have stepped up and been joined by new groups of survivors. Season 9 jumped forward in time further than any previous season and even employed flashbacks for the first time, slowly revealing events that happened in the interim and even during the outbreak. The biggest change on The Walking Deadseason 9, however, is the introduction of a new kind of villain, the Whisperers, who challenge the survivors in ways they never have been before.
All of these changes and more have transformed The Walking Dead from the miserable slog it became across the past few seasons into a captivating series once again. Now, there’s an excitement surrounding where the series goes next and even anticipation for season 10. Here’s what The Walking Dead season 9 did to improve itself.
The Walking Dead has lost characters before, but losing Rick Grimes was almost unimaginable. The Walking Dead is an ensemble show, but Rick is arguably the main character – how could it continue without him? After seasons 7 and 8 botched the exits of main characters like Glenn and Carl, was The Walking Deadreally going to manage any better with Rick?
Then season 9 comes along and it executes Rick’s exit more perfectly than was thought possible. Andrew Lincoln’s departure from The Walking Dead pleases fans that wanted Rick gone and those who can’t imagine Walking Dead without him, removing him from the main series while also promising to continue his story in stand-alone movies at a later date. It’s a genius move, and one that even works surprisingly well within in the narrative. On The Walking Dead, the characters all believe Rick is dead, having gone out in a literal blaze of glory when he sacrifices himself and his pet project (the bridge) to save everyone from an oncoming herd. In actuality, he survives the bridge explosion and is saved by Jadis/Anne, flown off in a helicopter to some unknown location which, when revealed, will also explain the “A” and “B” mystery the show has been teasing for years.
Rick’s “death” gives The Walking Dead all sorts of storytelling potential, allowing the characters who remain on the main series to carry on without him while at the same time teasing a reunion in the years to come. Season 9 is able to set Rick aside for a time, and in the process, The Walking Dead is becoming a stronger series for him to return to.
Daryl & Michonne Are Good Walking Dead Leads
With major characters like Rick and Maggie exiting The Walking Dead, other characters needed to step up and take their places as the leads among the ensemble. In season 9, those characters are Daryl and Michonne, with Norman Reedus and Danai Gurira easily shouldering much of the narrative following the six-year time jump. Rick’s death places both characters into positions of leadership they previously wouldn’t have held, challenging them and forcing them to deal with situations they can’t solve with a katana or crossbow.
Daryl, especially, is given more to do than in any season of recent memory, as if removing Rick finally allows Norman Reedus’ character to step out from his shadow. Nowhere is Daryl’s arc stronger in The Walking Dead season 9 than in his interactions with Lydia. He recognizes that she’s been abused by her mother, Alpha, even before she does, having some experience with enduring that kind of behavior himself. The two are kindred spirits in that way, and in feeling responsible for her, Daryl finds himself in the unlikely position of being a parent or mentor. Now that Henry’s gone, Daryl is really all Lydia has left, paving the way for an even deeper character arc when The Walking Deadreturns for season 10.