"Evolution" is the eighth episode and mid-season finale of the ninth season of AMC's The Walking Dead. It is the one-hundred and twenty-third episode of the series overall. It premiered on November 25, 2018. It was written by David Leslie Johnson and directed by Michael Satrazemis.

Plot

A small rescue mission braves a dangerous herd in their hunt for a missing comrade, only to discover a surprising threat that could doom them all.

Synopsis

In the woods, Daryl, Aaron, and Jesus discover a herd milling around in the middle of a field. As they leave, an odd looking walker watches them from the herd.

In Alexandria, Gabriel helps Negan meditate in his cell. Negan compliments him on Rosita and brags that he's heard some interesting things about her from the gossip outside his cell. Gabe ignores it and leaves. Outside, Barbara informs him that Rosita has been injured and is at Hilltop.

At Hilltop, everyone runs inside as Michonne and Siddiq arrive with Magna and her group. From the guard post, Dianne makes them all surrender their weapons before entering. 

Inside, Tara coldly greets Michonne and updates her on Eugene, Aaron, Daryl, and Rosita's situations. She then informs Magna's group that they'll have to wait for Jesus to return before deciding on their future, but they can stay until he gets back. Connie thanks her for everyone. From the Barrington house, Michonne smiles at Carol but is ignored.

Later, Magna questions to Yumiko why Hilltop is led by a guy named Jesus, saying it sounds like a cult, but Connie assures her it's probably just a nickname. Yumiko suggests they work on proving their worth so they can stay. Michonne then introduces the new group to Carol, who happily introduces herself through sign language, which Connie appreciates. 

Carol asks Michonne about Judith and R.J. and then tells her about Henry moving to Hilltop. Carol asks if she can send a delegate from Alexandria to the fair but Michonne declines. Carol pleads but Michonne remains defiant and wishes her, Henry, and Ezekiel well.

In the woods, Jesus tells Aaron that Daryl used to trade with Hilltop before he stopped coming to visit. Aaron encourages him to embrace his new leadership role when Daryl cuts them off and says he can hear the walkers nearby through the wind. As they leave, Jesus looks with suspicion at the incoming herd.  

Back at Hilltop, Henry says goodbye to Carol, promising her to make her proud. Diane asks Carol if she can ride back with her to Kingdom and she agrees. At Earl's blacksmithing spot, Enid checks up on Henry and jokes with him. Earl invites him to dinner, though he initially refuses, he accepts after seeing Enid and Alden kissing. 

In Alexandria, Negan taunts Gabriel with cleaning his potty to the point where he gets mad. Gabe confesses he's upset he has to take care of him while Rosita recovers at Hilltop. Negan expresses genuine sympathy but is shut off by an angry Gabriel who storms off. 

Back in Hilltop, everyone eats at the mess hall except for a solitary Henry. A group of teens notice him and invite him to hang with them in the woods.

At the infirmary, Siddiq apologizes to Michonne for keeping secrets from her. Suddenly, Rosita wakes up in a panic and tells them she knows where Eugene is. They tell her Daryl and the others are already looking for him but get confused after she screams that the others don't know what they're dealing with.

At night, Daryl, Jesus, and Aaron locate Eugene hiding in a barn cellar. A terrified Eugene warns them a herd of walkers is looking for him and they need to leave immediately. "This wasn't a normal herd... They were whispering to each other", he tells them. They look at him confused, when suddenly Dog barks, warning them of the nearby herd.

Elsewhere, Henry drinks with his new friends in a shed outside of Hilltop. Gage suggests they have some more fun and takes them to a covered hole in the ground with a walker inside. Addy leaves as they throw rope rings at it and Rodney pees on it. Henry jumps in and mercy kills the walker. Gage is pissed at Henry for being a buzzkill and leaves him there.

Back in the foggy woods, Eugene suggests to the group that the walkers are evolving. Daryl calls bullshit when Aaron notices they're drawing closer. Jesus demands they split up but Daryl says that instead, he will guide the herd away while he and Aaron take Eugene to the horses.

In Alexandria, Negan plays with a tennis ball until he notices the door slightly moving because of the wind, confusing him. He touches the door and discovers it has been left open. He is left in thought for a moment but smiles and leaves.

In Hilltop, Tara takes Earl down to the jail where Henry sits in a cell as punishment for misbehavior. Earl threatens to send Henry back to the Kingdom, causing Henry to explain that his reckless behavior stemmed from seeing Carol break down in tears. Henry explains his community is counting on him and begs for another chance. Sympathetic due to his own past mistakes, Earl promises to talk to Jesus when he returns, stating that the minimum sentence for a drunk and disorderly is two days in the cell. However, Earl tells Henry that he will have a lot of work to catch up on when he gets out, indicating that Earl intends to keep him as his apprentice.

Back in the woods, Daryl sets off fireworks to redirect the herd, but a group of walkers ignore the noise and the rest follow their lead, leaving him shocked. Meanwhile, Aaron, Jesus and Eugene end up at a foggy cemetery. They quickly get trapped by a locked gate, forcing Jesus and Aaron to go kill the walkers, while they hear whispers around. 

Suddenly, Michonne, Magna and Yumiko arrive to help them unlock the gate. Jesus tells Aaron and Eugene to get out while he finishes the walkers and starts taking out several with his sword. He goes to kill the last one but as he attacks it, the walker dodges and stabs him from behind through his chest, shocking everyone. "You are where you do not belong", the walker whispers to a shocked Jesus before throwing him on the ground.  

Aaron yells out "No!" and runs in, followed by Michonne, Magna and Yumiko. Daryl arrives at the cemetery with Dog and shoots the walker in the head as several more charge at the group with weapons. The group finishes them off. As Aaron goes over to Jesus' body, Daryl notices something on the back of the walker's head and cuts into it, revealing a mask. Before they can process the situation, whispers around them get louder and the group circles up preparing for a fight. 

Other Cast

Co-Stars

Uncredited

  • William Michael deArmon as Hilltop Rider
  • Ermes Zamperla as Hilltop Rider
  • Quandae Stewart as Hilltop Resident
  • Maria Z. Wilson as Hilltop Resident
  • Seven as Dog
  • Unknown as Whisperer 1
  • Melissa Eastwood as Whisperer

Deaths

Trivia

  • First appearance of Rodney.
  • First (and last) appearance of Whisperer 1.
  • Last appearance of Paul Rovia. (Alive)
  • On Foxtel, the episode was incorrectly titled "Whispers".
  • The title of the episode, "Evolution", is a reference to Eugene's belief that the walkers may be evolving due to them talking to each other.
  • Earl Sutton references his time in the Hilltop cell in "The Bridge" following his drunken attempt to kill Maggie Rhee in "A New Beginning" to Henry when he was also put in jail for drinking.
  • The food that was served during the dinner scene came from real gardens on Hilltop's set and included yellow squash, zucchini, tomatoes, corn and peppers.
  • Oceanside is mentioned by Rodney, and is implied to be active and thriving, and still mostly a woman-only community.
    • However, when describing the communities, Michonne only mentions Alexandria, the Hilltop and the Kingdom, suggesting that Oceanside is no longer in contact with them or Rodney had simply been asking about old rumors.
  • The magnitude of the unknown incident that split Rick’s group is seen, as members have become passive aggressive and cold to each other, such as Dianne and Tara being cold to Michonne, and Carol walking away after seeing Michonne. Michonne mentions knowing that people would still be angry at her decisions and that while she could "mend some fences," she won't do it in the way people want her to.
  • This is the second consecutive episode this season where Cooper Andrews is credited, but does not appear.
  • This episode marks the return of Alden, who had previously been absent since the episode "Warning Signs", and whose fate was unknown due to Jed's attack on him in "The Obliged”. He is shown working as a blacksmith with Earl Sutton and in a relationship with Enid.
  • This is the first mid-season finale where a named female character doesn't die.
  • Negan tosses a ball against the wall of his cell and catches it in a baseball glove, just as Steve McQueen did in The Great Escape.

Comic Parallels

  • Daryl, Aaron and Jesus finding Eugene hiding in a barn is adapted from a similar scene in Issue 132, where Dante finds it empty instead.
  • The group being attacked by the Whisperers in a graveyard is adapted from a similar scene in Issue 132, where they are attacked outside of the barn instead.
  • The Hilltop community dinner is adapted from Issue 131.
  • Rosita waking up to warn the others about the new threat is adapted from a similar scene in Issue 130, where Marco wakes up hysterically instead.
  • Henry ending up in jail for drunken misbehavior is adapted from a similar scene in Issue 135, where Carl ends up in a cell for beating some bullies instead.
  • Gabriel leaving Negan's cell door unlocked is adapted from a similar scene in Issue 140, where Olivia leaves it unlocked instead.
  • Negan leaving his cell is adapted from Issue 152.
  • Jesus being stabbed to death by a Whisperer is adapted from a similar scene in Issue 132, where Doug is killed instead.
  • A Whisperer saying to Jesus "You are where you do not belong" after stabbing him is adapted from a similar scene in Issue 134, where he says this before only attacking him instead.
  • Daryl unmasking a Whisperer is adapted from a similar scene in Issue 132, where Dante does the unmasking instead.

Goofs/Bloopers

  • When Daryl unmasks one of the Whisperers, Jesus's body can be seen breathing despite having been killed moments ago.
  • Before Carol leaves to go back to the Kingdom, Henry and Alden fill up her wagon. She then bids farewell to her son, with Alden looking on. However, when the wide shot pulls out, Alden is nowhere to be seen and Henry is alone.
  • One of the child extras seen running through Alexandria was also seen in "The Obliged", despite the fact that the episode took place 6 years prior and the boy seems to not have shown any signs of aging.

References

Episodes of The Walking Dead
Season 1 "Days Gone Bye" • "Guts" • "Tell It to the Frogs" • "Vatos" • "Wildfire" • "TS-19"
Season 2 "What Lies Ahead" • "Bloodletting" • "Save the Last One" • "Cherokee Rose" • "Chupacabra" • "Secrets" • "Pretty Much Dead Already" • "Nebraska" • "Triggerfinger" • "18 Miles Out" • "Judge, Jury, Executioner" • "Better Angels" • "Beside the Dying Fire"
Season 3 "Seed" • "Sick" • "Walk With Me" • "Killer Within" • "Say the Word" • "Hounded" • "When the Dead Come Knocking" • "Made to Suffer" • "The Suicide King" • "Home" • "I Ain't a Judas" • "Clear" • "Arrow on the Doorpost" • "Prey" • "This Sorrowful Life" • "Welcome to the Tombs"
Season 4 "30 Days Without An Accident" • "Infected" • "Isolation" • "Indifference" • "Internment" • "Live Bait" • "Dead Weight" • "Too Far Gone" • "After" • "Inmates" • "Claimed" • "Still" • "Alone" • "The Grove" • "Us" • "A"
Season 5 "No Sanctuary" • "Strangers" • "Four Walls and a Roof" • "Slabtown" • "Self Help" • "Consumed" • "Crossed" • "Coda" • "What Happened and What's Going On" • "Them" • "The Distance" • "Remember" • "Forget" • "Spend" • "Try" • "Conquer"
Season 6 "First Time Again" • "JSS" • "Thank You" • "Here's Not Here" • "Now" • "Always Accountable" • "Heads Up" • "Start to Finish" • "No Way Out" • "The Next World" • "Knots Untie" • "Not Tomorrow Yet" • "The Same Boat" • "Twice as Far" • "East" • "Last Day on Earth"
Season 7 "The Day Will Come When You Won't Be" • "The Well • "The Cell" • "Service" • "Go Getters" • "Swear" • "Sing Me a Song" • "Hearts Still Beating" • "Rock in the Road" • "New Best Friends" • "Hostiles and Calamities" • "Say Yes" • "Bury Me Here" • "The Other Side" • "Something They Need" • "The First Day of the Rest of Your Life"
Season 8 "Mercy" • "The Damned" • "Monsters" • "Some Guy" • "The Big Scary U" • "The King, the Widow, and Rick" • "Time for After" • "How It's Gotta Be" • "Honor" • "The Lost and the Plunderers" • "Dead or Alive Or" • "The Key" • "Do Not Send Us Astray" • "Still Gotta Mean Something" • "Worth" • "Wrath"
Season 9 "A New Beginning" • "The Bridge" • "Warning Signs" • "The Obliged" • "What Comes After" • "Who Are You Now?" • "Stradivarius" • "Evolution"