Season 9 of AMC's The Walking Dead premiered on October 7, 2018, and concluded on March 31, 2019, consisting of 16 episodes. Developed for television by Frank Darabont, the series is based on the eponymous series of comic books by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlard. The executive producers are Kirkman, David Alpert, Scott Gimple, Angela Kang, Greg Nicotero, Tom Luse, Denise Huth, and Gale Anne Hurd, with Kang taking over the role of showrunner from Gimple after his promotion to chief content officer for the franchise.
Eighteen months after the defeat of Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) under an alliance of communities spearheaded by Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), the season focuses on the united communities as they face obstacles and dangers both outside and inside their alliance, with the threat of the mysterious Whisperers looming.
A year and a half has passed since the end of the War. While on a supply run for the communities, one of Maggie's people is killed by a walker. The parents of the teen victim, Earl and Tammy Rose, are furious that he died for nothing, as half of what they got goes to the Saviors. Gregory seizes an opportunity to use the father to kill Maggie and take over but fails. Rick arrives, and he and Maggie conflict over how to handle the Saviors. She refuses to help them while Rick tries to assist them despite Daryl stepping down as leader and the group still yearning for Negan's leadership. That night, Maggie hangs Gregory publicly with the intent to not let it happen again.
A month after Gregory's death, the communities attempt to rebuild a bridge for better and faster passage to each other. Saviors who are on the construction crew begin to go missing and tension begins to grow. Things hit a boiling point when Aaron loses his arm in an accident due to Justin, a Savior causing trouble, failing to sound an alarm. Justin is removed off the project but is abducted by an unknown group while on his way to the Sanctuary.
Meanwhile, Michonne tries to convince Maggie to help the Sanctuary, but Maggie still refuses. After talking with Earl, who is imprisoned for his crime, she is enlightened to help the crippling community.
Rick talks to Negan about the bridge's progress but the former Savior leader continues to taunt Rick over his decisions and that his vision for the future is going to fail.
After Justin is discovered to be a walker, the Saviors, led by Jed, are ready to leave the project and demand guns to protect themselves, but Rick refuses. After Jed tries to hold him and Carol hostage, Rick has no choice but to send them away.
Meanwhile, Anne, former leader of the Scavengers, increasingly begins to feel out of place when everyone thinks it's her who is killing the Saviors. She returns to her old home to call for a ride out of the area. Gabriel finds out, and after he refuses to keep it a secret, Anne kidnaps him.
As the group tries to find out who is killing off the Saviors, Daryl and Maggie figure out it was Oceanside, killing only the Saviors who killed their men. They claim they were inspired by Maggie to do it and that Rick's rules aren't the only rules. Deciding that she gave it enough time to try Rick's rules, Maggie enacts a plan to assassinate Negan.
After being warned of Maggie's plan, Rick tries to stop her, but Daryl drives him off and the two end up falling into a deep pit. They argue over the morality of the situation, with Rick believing Negan will become a martyr for the Saviors, while Daryl disagrees stating that it's time to let it go. They escape and realize a herd is on route to the bridge. They go in separate directions to divert the herd with Rick being thrown off his horse onto a concrete slab, impaling his torso with rebar and knocking him unconscious.
Meanwhile, Anne attempts to have a walker bite Gabriel but cannot bring herself to do it and knocking him unconscious again, she leaves him in the Heaps with a goodbye note. Also, Michonne deals with Negan who is refusing to eat; During their conversations, she reveals that they do not know the whereabouts of Lucille, which causes him distress.
Maggie arrives in Alexandria to kill Negan, despite Michonne trying to convince her otherwise. Upon seeing Negan's state of being, Maggie relents declaring that he is already worse than dead. As she leaves, there is word of trouble at the bridge.
Rick wakes up and frees himself to get to the bridge while hallucinating Shane, Hershel, and Sasha along the way. He makes it to the bridge but realizes the group's efforts to fight them will be in vain. He sacrifices himself by blowing up the bridge much to the sadness of the group. Later, Anne discovers Rick on the riverbed and convinces her helicopter ride to take him with them.
Six years later, an older Judith Grimes rescues a woman named Magna and her group from a horde of walkers.
Judith and some Alexandrians bring Magna's group to their home. A hardened Michonne is reluctant to let them stay and during a council meeting, she points out Magna's prison tattoo to make everyone distrustful of her group. After talking with Judith and a visit from Magna in her home, Michonne decides to take her group to the Hilltop where she's sure they will be safe.
Meanwhile, the Kingdom is beginning to fail due to broken pipes which supply power and water. Henry decides to go to the Hilltop and learn how to become a blacksmith to help keep his home afloat. He and Carol travel on the road but are interrupted by Jed's group, the remnants of the fallen Sanctuary. The men raid their wagon and attack Henry. In the night, Carol burns them all alive in retaliation. Later, the two travelers come across Daryl.
While setting up radio transmitting equipment, Rosita and Eugene are followed by a strangely-acting herd of walkers that appear to talk.
Michonne leads Magna's group towards the Hilltop but is still distrustful of them. She learns from Siddiq that Maggie is no longer at the Hilltop and that her people still keep in contact with them. After stopping at Magna's former camp, they continue their journey. While Jesus and Aaron are out and about, they come across an injured and fatigued Rosita who informs them of Eugene's whereabouts.
Carol and Henry see Daryl's camp and convince him to come to Hilltop with them. Carol also asks him to mentor and watch over Henry while he's at the Hilltop. After they arrive, Daryl opts to go with Jesus and Aaron to look for Eugene.
Magna's group is ultimately accepted into Hilltop, but they are told by Tara that they must "earn their keep". Michonne and Siddiq learn from Rosita of what she and Eugene saw and how the rescue party is not prepared for it.
Daryl, Jesus, and Aaron find Eugene, who reveals that he heard walkers whispering to each other, suggesting that they are evolving. The whispering herd pursues the group and corners them in a cemetery. They are soon joined by Michonne, Magna, and Yumiko who provide their escape. However, while holding off the Walkers, Jesus is stabbed by a "walker" through the chest. After fending off the herd, the group discovers that the whispering walkers are indeed people wearing walker skins. The Whisperers suddenly surround the group.
After his cell gate is accidentally left unlocked, Negan escapes from confinement.
The group manages to escape the cemetery, and they capture a young Whisperer, Lydia, on their way back to Hilltop. While the community mourns Jesus' passing, Michonne and Daryl interrogate Lydia on her group but don't get anywhere, and Michonne's group heads back to Alexandria. Seeing Henry is getting close to Lydia, Daryl listens in on their conversations to get answers.
After escaping, Negan leaves Alexandria and returns to the ruined Sanctuary trying build a new start there but decides it's not worth it and returns to Alexandria where his cell is.
Meanwhile Alden and Luke, one of Magna's people, are lured into a trap by the Whisperers led by Alpha.
Lydia finally opens up about her past where she reveals that her mother and father were with a group for over a month and the group was soon overwhelmed and her father was killed in the attempt to fight them. Daryl, however, sees the cracks in her story and finds bruises on her arm which were obviously caused by abuse. After talking to Henry some more, she remembers that her mother killed her good-natured father and forced her to remember things differently. She reveals her mother leads the group which is bigger than they thought. The next day, Alpha shows up at Hilltop to demand Lydia's release.
Ezekiel and Carol lead a supply run for a trade fair that will ensure their survival. They retrieve supplies and a projector bulb for their movie theatre.
Meanwhile, Hilltop's confrontation with Alpha heightens when she offers to trade Alden and Luke for Lydia. The Whisperers even abandon a baby after it can't be silenced whom the Hilltoppers rescue. Knowing Alpha won't let up, Daryl is forced to give up Lydia despite Henry's wishes. After returning to her mother, Alpha slaps her and demands that she call her "Alpha" like the others. Later that night, Henry goes after Lydia, causing Daryl and Connie, a deaf survivor, to follow him.
In the woods, Alpha questions Lydia about her time at Hilltop but gets nothing out of her though she suspects something is up. Henry is discovered by Beta who takes him to Alpha. Henry sees their way of life and what happens when someone challenges Alpha. At night, Alpha and Beta decide to test Lydia's loyalty by forcing her to kill Henry. This is halted by the arrival of Daryl and Connie who lead Walkers into their camp. Henry forces Daryl to let Lydia come along.
In Alexandria, Michonne scolds her council for keeping secrets from her only for Gabriel to retort that she would've shot their ideas down anyway like sending a delegation to the Kingdom's upcoming trade fair. She asserts that it's so Alexandria survives. She later allows a delegation to go, after Judith confronts her on how she changed despite her belief that no one can change.
Ezekiel and Carol learn of the Highwaymen who demand a toll for use of their roads. While prepared to kill the group if need be, The Kingdom attempts a compromise which is reached when Carol promises them that they will see a movie at the fair. As a result, the Highwaymen become escorts for people going to fair.
Meanwhile, Daryl's group is on the run from Beta who is attempting to get Lydia back. At an abandoned building, the group kills Beta's men one by one while Daryl fights Beta. The giant is pushed down an elevator shaft but survives. With Henry injured in the fight, they decide to go to Alexandria to get him patched up as it is closer.
In a flashback, it is revealed that Michonne's hardened nature came to be due to the arrival of Jocelyn, a friend of hers before the apocalypse. She kidnaps Alexandria's children with her own child army, and Daryl and Michonne go after them. They are both branded and Michonne is forced to kill Jocelyn and all but one of her child soldiers to rescue Judith and the others. Alexandria has closed its gates ever since.
Back in the present, Daryl's group arrives to get Henry patched up. Judith knows that Daryl and the others need help, so she escapes Alexandria to go after them. Michonne follows and rescues her from a walker, and the two finally get their feelings out. Judith believes Michonne doesn't love her friends anymore which enlightens Michonne to make amends and go to the fair and give Daryl's group a ride to it. Two Whisperers watch as people arrive at the fair, and they tell Alpha.
As the fair opens, Alpha infiltrates the fair and observes the lives of the people. She encounters Lydia who renounces her mother and tells her to leave before anyone finds her. Michonne meets with the leaders of all the communities and Alexandria agrees to give Lydia asylum. They sign a charter Michonne drafted six years ago as a protection pact should the Whisperers attack any one of them.
Michonne, Daryl, and others lead a search party for other fair-goers only to be surrounded by Whisperers. Alpha shows Daryl a large herd of walkers she's ready to use if they cross her borders again. The group leaves and find that Alpha marked her borders with ten pikes with severed heads of members of the community which include Enid, Tara, and Henry. Siddiq gives a eulogy as he was with them when it happened. As Lydia and Daryl visit the border, snow begins to fall.
Months after the fair, The Kingdom has finally fallen and the community is forced to go to Hilltop for the remainder of the winter. Realizing a snowstorm will either hinder their way there or trap them, they decide the best way to get to Hilltop is to cross through Alpha's border. Lydia, who has become suicidal, is reluctant to go because of how most people see her. Carol begins to see her true colors and tells her she is not weak. After they reach Hilltop, Carol breaks up with Ezekiel and returns to Alexandria with Michonne and Daryl.
Michonne learns that Negan saved Judith after she ran off to get Daryl's dog out of the storm and thus earns her respect. After Ezekiel and Judith finish conversing on the radio, a voice sounds through asking if anyone is out there.
- Main article: Title Screens (TV Series)
- Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes (5/16)
- Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon (16/16)
- Lauren Cohan as Maggie Rhee (5/16)
- Danai Gurira as Michonne Grimes (13/16)
- Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier (12/16)
- Alanna Masterson as Tara Chambler (10/16)
- Josh McDermitt as Eugene Porter (11/16)
- Christian Serratos as Rosita Espinosa (12/16)
- Seth Gilliam as Gabriel Stokes (10/16)
- Ross Marquand as Aaron (9/16)
- Katelyn Nacon as Enid (7/16)
- Tom Payne as Paul Rovia (8/16)
- Khary Payton as Ezekiel Sutton (8/16)
- Samantha Morton as Dee (6/16)
- Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan Smith (9/16)
- Also Starring
- Xander Berkeley as Gregory (1/16)
- Pollyanna McIntosh as Anne (5/16)
- Callan McAuliffe as Alden (8/16)
- Avi Nash as Siddiq (11/16)
- Cooper Andrews as Jerry (10/16)
- Brett Butler as Tammy Rose Sutton (6/16)
- John Finn as Earl Sutton (6/16)
- Sydney Park as Cyndie (4/16)
- Elizabeth Ludlow as Arat (3/16)
- Zach McGowan as Justin (3/16)
- Lindsley Register as Laura (6/16)
- Traci Dinwiddie as Regina (6/16)
- Rhys Coiro as Jed (4/16)
- Kerry Cahill as Dianne (10/16)
- Nicole Barré as Kathy (4/16)
- Nadine Marissa as Nabila (6/16)
- Kenric Green as Scott (3/16)
- Eleanor Matsuura as Yumiko Okumura (10/16)
- Dan Fogler as Luke (7/16)
- Nadia Hilker as Magna (10/16)
- Lauren Ridloff as Connie (10/16)
- Cailey Fleming as Judith Grimes (7/16)
- Matt Lintz as Henry (10/16)
- Cassady McClincy as Lydia (8/16)
- Ryan Hurst as Beta (4/16)
- Angus Sampson as Ozzy (2/16)
- Jon Eyez as Potter (1/16)
- Macsen Lintz as Younger Henry (1/16)
- C. Thomas Howell as Roy (2/16)
- Steve Kazee as Frank (1/16)
- Rutina Wesley as Jocelyn (1/16)
- Special Guest Stars
- James Chen as Kal (7/16)
- Matt Mangum as D.J. (8/16)
- Chloe Aktas as Tanya (1/16)
- Gustavo Gomez as Marco (5/16)
- AJ Achinger as Kenneth Sutton (1/16)
- Courtney Patterson as Mel (1/16)
- Briana Venskus as Beatrice (4/16)
- Aaron Farb as Norris (3/16)
- Mimi Kirkland as Younger Rachel Ward (2/16)
- Chloe Garcia-Frizzi as Younger Judith Grimes (5/16)
- Tamara Austin as Nora (3/16)
- Mandi Christine Kerr as Barbara (2/16)
- Jennifer Riker as Mrs. Robinson (1/16)
- Angel Theory as Kelly (8/16)
- Anabelle Holloway as Gracie (3/16)
- Antony Azor as R.J. Grimes (4/16)
- Karen Ceesay as Bertie (2/16)
- Anthony Lopez as Oscar (4/16)
- Jackson Pace as Gage (4/16)
- Kelley Mack as Adeline (5/16)
- Joe Ando Hirsh as Rodney (3/16)
- Scarlett Blum as Younger Lydia (1/16)
- Javier Carrasquillo as Matias (1/16)
- Quinn Bozza as Cyrus (1/16)
- Ashlyn Stallings as Amanda (1/16)
- Caroline Arapoglou as Rose (1/16)
- Jerry Mortel as Lamar (1/16)
- Jason Graham as William (1/16)
- Ethan Patterson as Rasmus (3/16)
- Emily Lane as Frances (1/16)
- Benjamin Keepers as Sean (1/16)
- David Ury as Zion (2/16)
- Allie McCulloch as Helen (1/16)
- Evan Cleaver as Whisperer Guard (1/16)
- Kristin Erickson as Whisperer Lookout (1/16)
- Ben VanderMey as Bitten Whisperer (1/16)
- Terri James as Whisperer Tracker (1/16)
- Victor Cordova as Whisperer Warrior (1/16)
- Elyse Nicole DuFour as Frankie (2/16)
- Joey Simon as Mitchell (1/16)
- Luke David Blumm as Linus (1/16)
- Jessi Goei as Gina (1/16)
- Elle Graham as Winnie (1/16)
- Jonathan Billions as Marcus (1/16)
- Emma Coulter as Female Whisperer (1/16)
- Avianna Mynhier as Rachel Ward (1/16)
- Caroline Duncan as Hilde (1/16)
- Jansen Panettiere as Casper (1/16)
- Brian Sheppard as Miles (1/16)
- Jason Kirkpatrick as Alek (1/16)
- Josh Ventura as Martin (1/16)
- Peyton Lockridge as Hershel Rhee
- Scarlett & Sophie as Younger Gracie
- Marvin Lee as Kyle
- Lennie James as Morgan Jones (Voice Only)
- Sarah Wayne Callies as Lori Grimes (Voice Only)
- Emily Kinney as Beth Greene (Hallucination and Voice)
- Michael Cudlitz as Abraham Ford (Voice Only)
- Quandae Stewart as Quan
- Andrew Douglass as Troy
- Micah King as Ezra
- Autumn Azul as Aliyah
- Maya & Delaney Timber as Mariam
- Seven as Dog
- Alex Hill as Richie
- Terri Joe Kennedy as Theresa
- Jaydin McCollum as Young Alice
- Ryan Newman as Jonah
- Thomas Downing as Russ
- P.J. Henley as P.J.
- Louis Zehner as Bernie
- Margot Bingham as Max Mercer (Voice Only)
- Unknown as Adam Sutton
- Unknown as Alex (Stand-In)
- Unknown as Alice
- Gerard Mason as Hilltop Resident
- Jason White as Jonah's Father
- Jessica Cudnik as Jonah's Mother
- Alexis Marshall as Hilltop Resident
- Bethany Kasulas as Hilltop Resident
- Bill Herald as Hilltop Resident
- Bob Melton as Hilltop Blacksmith
- Brad Bradley as Hilltop Resident
- Brandon Pagel as Hilltop Resident
- Chikako Nakajima as Hilltop Resident
- Chris Sanchez as Hilltop Resident
- Dalton Baxter as Hilltop Resident
- Darren Baylor as Hilltop Resident
- David Aird as Hilltop Resident
- David Jones as Hilltop Resident
- David Lee Marshall as Hilltop Resident
- Jake Gallaway as Hilltop Resident
- Jennifer Angel as Hilltop Resident
- Jessica Marshall as Hilltop Resident
- John Gettier as Hilltop Resident
- Joshua Seymour as Hilltop Resident
- Kathy Herald as Hilltop Resident
- Kevin Harrison as Hilltop Resident
- Kinney M. Lee as Hilltop Resident
- Laura Kelly as Hilltop Resident
- Maggie Holmes as Hilltop Resident
- Maria Z. Wilson as Hilltop Resident
- Marvin Scott as Hilltop Resident
- Matthew Czarnowsky as Hilltop Resident
- Melissa Kay Glaze as Hilltop Resident
- Meredith Hale as Hilltop Resident
- Natasha Reeves as Hilltop Resident
- W.F. Bell as Hilltop Resident
- Jimmy McAfee as Alexandria Resident
- Amy Stormant as Alexandria Resident
- Anne McBrayer Childress as Alexandria Resident
- Brennan Kerr as Alexandria Resident
- Casey Miracle as Alexandria Resident
- Charish Elaine Smith as Alexandria Resident
- Christina Cobbs as Alexandria Resident
- Christopher Gaynor as Alexandria Resident
- Chuck Hollywood as Alexandria Resident
- Daniele Lyman as Alexandria Resident
- David L. Marston as Alexandria Resident
- Jack Orrell as Alexandria Resident
- Jeff Stancil as Alexandria Resident
- Jon Arthur as Alexandria Resident
- Kristen DeSantis as Alexandria Resident
- Leslie Henry Fox as Alexandria Resident
- Mandi Mazonkey as Alexandria Resident
- Mario Williams as Alexandria Resident
- Mason Beard as Alexandria Resident
- Natalie Zimmerman as Alexandria Resident
- Ruslan Kh as Alexandria Resident
- Russ Milheim as Alexandria Resident
- Ryan Dorman as Alexandria Resident
- Scott Lomas as Alexandria Resident
- Teri Stewart as Alexandria Resident
- Tia Davis as Alexandria Resident
- Tonia Wienecke as Alexandria Resident
- Adam Pickren as Kingdom Soldier
- Adrian Myrick as Kingdom Resident
- Angel Bonilla Jr. as Kingdom Resident
- Barry Jerald Jr. as Kingdom Resident
- Bob Lusher as Kingdom Resident
- Bobby Buls as Kingdom Resident
- Brenden Eason as Kingdom Resident
- Brian Jones as Kingdom Soldier
- Carol Parente as Kingdom Resident
- Cathy Hope as Kingdom Resident
- Daniel Howard as Kingdom Resident
- Darlene Shannon as Kingdom Resident
- Dennis Melton as Kingdom Resident
- Elizabeth Fox Moore as Kingdom Resident
- Eric Haley as Kingdom Resident
- Erin Szuch as Kingdom Resident
- Glen S. Wade II as Kingdom Resident
- George McLean as Kingdom Resident
- Jarek Nalewak as Kingdom Resident
- Jennifer Krajcirovic as Kingdom Resident
- Joey Renfroe as Kingdom Resident
- Joshua Robinson as Kingdom Resident
- Justin W. Hardin as Kingdom Soldier
- Kim Pugh as Kingdom Resident
- Lance Kilmer as Kingdom Resident
- Lindsay Monihan as Kingdom Soldier
- Marie Dixon as Kingdom Resident
- Mary DoCoteau as Kingdom Resident
- Melissa Deater as Kingdom Resident
- Michael Layman as Kingdom Soldier
- Michelle Couch as Kingdom Resident
- Michelle Hartwig Rich as Kingdom Soldier
- Michelle Morano as Kingdom Soldier
- Nick Couch as Kingdom Resident
- Roger Berard as Kingdom Resident
- Shannon D. Keith as Kingdom Resident
- Stephen Phillips as Kingdom Resident
- Susan Boone as Kingdom Resident
- Taiyen Stevenson as Kingdom Resident
- Tom Taaffe as Kingdom Resident
- Willow Godfrey as Kingdom Resident
- Zachary Vazquez as Kingdom Soldier
- Zack Harper as Kingdom Soldier
- Catherine Jerald as Oceanside Resident
- Eryn Guilmette as Oceanside Resident
- Esther Pittman as Oceanside Resident
- Gloria DeWeese as Oceanside Resident
- Kathryn Spratlin as Oceanside Resident
- Keely McAllister as Oceanside Resident
- Kelsey M. Odle as Oceanside Resident
- Lara Lee Slaughter as Oceanside Resident
- Lisa Shirley as Oceanside Resident
- Marisol Correa as Oceanside Resident
- Mea Tharp as Oceanside Resident
- Missy Massey as Oceanside Resident
- Natalie Corwin as Oceanside Resident
- Rachel Hernandez as Oceanside Resident
- Renah Gallagher as Oceanside Resident
- Robin Cox as Oceanside Resident
- Sara Castro as Oceanside Resident
- Tina Nixon as Oceanside Resident
- Michael Pierino Miller as Savior
- Dan Scott as Savior
- John Dailey as Savior
- Roger Berard as Ritch Darber
- Kevin Knotss as Helicopter Pilot
- Bret McKee as Whisperer
- Kevin Kedgley as Whisperer
- Bob Miller (Confirmed Fate)
- Kenneth Sutton
- Justin (Alive and Zombified)
- Beatrice's Husband (Confirmed Fate)
- Kathy (Alive and Zombified)
- Norris (Alive and Zombified)
- Bernie (Alive, Confirmed Fate; Zombified)
- Paul Rovia
- Richie (Alive, Confirmed Fate; Zombified)
- Matias (Alive, Flashback)
- Rose (Flashback)
- Frank (Flashback)
- Henry and Benjamin's Mother (Confirmed Fate)
- Russ (Flashback)
- Michonne's Mother (Confirmed Fate)
- Jocelyn (Flashback)
- Mitchell (Flashback)
- Linus (Flashback)
- Gina (Flashback)
- P.J. (Flashback)
- Martin (Alive and Zombified)
- Casper (Alive and Zombified)
- Ozzy (Alive and Zombified)
- Alek (Alive and Zombified)
- D.J. (Alive and Zombified)
- Frankie (Alive and Zombified)
- Tammy Rose Sutton (Alive and Zombified)
- Rodney (Alive and Zombified)
- Adeline (Alive and Zombified)
- Enid (Alive and Zombified)
- Tara Chambler (Alive and Zombified)
- Henry (Alive and Zombified)
- At least 19 unnamed Saviors
- At least 1 unnamed Kingdom resident (Alive and Zombified)
- 1 rabbit
- 1 snake
- At least 28 unnamed Whisperers
- At least 1 unnamed dog (Off-Screen)
- 1 unnamed Hilltop Colony resident (Confirmed Fate)
- 6 horses
- 8 unnamed members of Jocelyn's group (Flashback)
- Several unnamed members of Magna's Group (Confirmed Fate)
- Several deers
- Several unnamed shelter refugees (Flashback)
- Several elks
- Several boars
The series was renewed for a ninth season in January 2018. Along with the renewal, it was announced that showrunner Scott Gimple would be promoted to chief content officer for both The Walking Dead and its spin-off show Fear the Walking Dead, while writer and co-executive producer Angela Kang would take Gimple's role for The Walking Dead.
Filming for the ninth season began on April 30, 2018, with Greg Nicotero directing the first episode of the season. Michael Cudlitz, who played Abraham Ford, directed the seventh episode of the season.
The ninth season features a redesigned opening credits sequence. The animated title sequence, which is graphic novel inspired, features familiar imagery such as Daryl's motorcycle and crossbow, and Michonne's katana. Kang spoke of the inspiration for the new sequence, saying: "The feel of the season has elements of the Western genre. We're paying homage to some of the iconic moments from the graphic novel. Life is coming out of death. Nature's taking over, while other things are crumbling."
Most of the cast's contracts had to be renewed for the ninth season and beyond; most of the cast re-signed; the notable exception was Lauren Cohan who plays Maggie Rhee. Cohan had sought a pay increase from AMC given her high demand from other networks; while she had signed on to star in a new series, Whiskey Cavalier, for the ABC network, this contract would enable her to participate on The Walking Dead in a limited role. In April, Cohan confirmed she signed on for the ninth season and appeared in the first five episodes.
At the end of the eighth season, former regular Lennie James (as Morgan Jones) was transferred to the companion series of The Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead, as showrunner Scott Gimple felt there were more stories about Morgan to tell that would be more effective with the smaller cast and narrative approach of Fear the Walking Dead. In May 2018, it was announced that Avi Nash and Callan McAuliffe, who joined the series in the eighth season as the recurring roles of Siddiq and Alden, respectively, were promoted to series regulars.
In late May, it was reported that the ninth season would be the final season for Andrew Lincoln, who plays lead character Rick Grimes. Lincoln said that as he lives in England and shooting a season takes six months or more, he believed it was time to leave the series to be able to spend more time with his growing children. He expressed desire to direct an episode in season ten, and shadowed director Michael E. Satrazemis during the ninth season episode "Guardians". In July 2019, it was confirmed Lincoln would not direct in season ten due to scheduling conflicts. Following the broadcast of Lincoln's last episode, AMC announced their plans to create three AMC Original Films to explore events related to Rick's character in the future, starring Lincoln, and with the first expected to begin production in 2019. Besides Lincoln, Pollyanna McIntosh (Anne) will also star in these films.
Lauren Cohan also announced that this would be her last season on the series, appearing in the first five episodes as Maggie Rhee before her departure. Alongside other acting commitments, Cohan felt she had become too comfortable in the role, and it was time to move on. She appreciated the opportunity to explore Maggie in her last few episodes, and has not ruled out returning for future seasons based on her future commitments. In October 2019, it was confirmed that Cohan would return in season 11 as a series regular.
In June 2018, it was reported that Jon Bernthal would reprise his role as Shane Walsh for a guest appearance in the ninth season. In July 2018, it was reported that Lauren Ridloff, a deaf actress, would join the series in the ninth season playing Connie, a deaf survivor who communicates through sign language. Also in July 2018, during San Diego Comic-Con, it was announced that Samantha Morton was cast in the series regular role of Alpha, the leader of the Whisperers, a villain from the comic book series. Several other recurring roles were announced as well, played by Brett Butler, John Finn, Rhys Coiro, Dan Fogler, Zach McGowan and Angel Theory.
On October 6, 2018, the day before the season premiere, the showrunners affirmed Bernthal's return as Shane, as well as Sonequa Martin-Green and Scott Wilson returning to reprise their roles as Sasha Williams and Hershel Greene, respectively, at the New York Comic Con. Wilson died later that day due to leukemia; however, according to Comicbook.com, Wilson had filmed his scenes previously to be broadcast during the first half of the season.
The ninth season also features the departures of series regulars Xander Berkeley (Gregory), Tom Payne (Paul "Jesus" Rovia), Katelyn Nacon (Enid) and Alanna Masterson (Tara Chambler). Berkeley's character is killed off in the first episode of the season, which was adapted from the comic book. Payne's character is killed off in the mid-season finale, which introduces the Whisperers. This was a major departure from the original comic, where Jesus is still alive; the actor explained: "It's an amazing show and I was so honored to be a part of it, but at the same time, being the same character without anything fun to do is a bit frustrating." Nacon's and Masterson's characters are killed in the penultimate episode of the season; their deaths were adapted from the comic book in which Rosita Espinosa and Ezekiel Sutton are among several killed by the Whisperers.
Angela Kang stated that the season would include a time jump, which coincides with the comic's narrative after the "All Out War" arc. She stated that they were aiming to give the series a "fresh look and feel", and "focusing a lot on the core character relationships in the show that have kind of been long-lasting, as well as all of our wonderful series regulars". Kang said that the season would "explore what happened as man made objects and structures break down" and "what happens as resources are getting low", giving the season a Western feel. Actor Tom Payne, who portrays Paul "Jesus" Rovia, said the first major time jump is about a year and a half from the end of the eighth season, giving enough time for survivors to re-establish farming and livestock raising.
A second major time jump occurs towards the end of episode 5, after a helicopter whisks a wounded Rick to safety. The next scene takes place six years later, when a now much older Judith saves a group of survivors from a ring of walkers.
This season introduces the Whisperers, a group of human survivors that have created skins and masks out of walkers that allows them to move among and manipulate walker hordes. For these masks, director Greg Nicotero wanted to change the appearance from the way they are shown in the comic, which gave the masks a type of melting look. Nicotero also did not want to give these masks a look similar to Leatherface's from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Instead, they opted to make the Whisperers masks immovable similar to Michael Myers' from the Halloween franchise, which according to Nicotero, "you cannot judge any kind of emotion".
The teaser for the season was released on July 19, 2018, the first day of the 2018 San Diego Comic-Con. The trailer was released on July 20, 2018. The ninth season premiered on October 7, 2018, and the episode was made available a day early via AMC Premiere, the network's on-demand service. The mid-season premiere was made available a week earlier, on February 3, 2019, via AMC Premiere.
The ninth season of The Walking Dead was generally met with a positive reception, with critics noting its improvement over the two previous seasons. On Rotten Tomatoes, the season holds a score of 89% with an average rating of 7.15 out of 10, based on 22 reviews. The site's critical consensus reads: "Nine seasons in, The Walking Dead feels more alive than ever, with heightened tension and a refreshed pace that rejuvenates this long-running franchise." On Metacritic, the season has a score of 72 out of 100, based on 4 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Reviewing the season premiere, Sarah Moran of Screen Rant wrote the episode "feels like the fresh start the series so desperately needs, trading grim wartime for a more peaceful period of growth and reflection" and praised the changes made by new showrunner Angela Kang. Erik Kain of Forbes called the first episode "the best episode since season 6 and better than many in that season as well".
Brandon Davis of Comicbook.com wrote a highly positive review based on the first three episodes, praising the more character-driven narrative. In another review from Comicbook.com, Cameron Bonomolo also praised the first three episodes of the season, writing: "The Walking Dead is now a political drama viewed through the lens of a zombie apocalypse, turning greater focus to more complex character-driven conflict that is at its strongest since the Frank Darabont-led first season." Bonomolo also called the third episode "jaw-dropping" and that it "delivers some of the finest mystery and drama the show has ever seen in its eight-year run". Jeff Stone of IndieWire wrote a positive review based on the first three episodes and gave them an "A-" grade. He called the ninth season a "huge step up for the show" and that the episodes "are as strong as anything the show's done since the heyday of Season 4".
The penultimate episode "The Calm Before" received high praise from critics. In the episode, several characters are killed off, including main characters Enid (Katelyn Nacon) and Tara Chambler (Alanna Masterson). On Rotten Tomatoes, the episode holds a score of 91% with an average rating of 8.6 out of 10, based on 22 reviews. The site's critical consensus reads: "'The Calm Before' exemplifies everything that The Walking Dead does best - bittersweetly affirming the bonds of a makeshift community and finding glimmers humanity in a nihilistic landscape before dropping a horrifying twist that will leave viewers reeling long after." Alex McLevy of The A.V. Club praised the episode, with a qualification of A-, writing: "At best, 'The Calm Before' could be a memorial for what this show has been as it heads toward a new future, a reminder of what it used to look like during its strongest seasons, before reshuffling the undead chessboard of its major players and changing up the nature of its structure and stories. "Warning Signs" showed this was possible, and the Whisperers are an ideal foil by which to engage in some ambitious new ways of dealing with these characters and communities as they enter a new era of existence. True, this show hasn't demonstrated anything like the kind of consistency that would point to such a maneuver; continuing its uneven mix of soap-opera melodrama and intriguing experiments in post-apocalyptic thrills is the likely progression. But as we close the book on season nine and look to the show's 10th(!) year, this was an excellent reminder of what got us all tuning in in the first place."
For the 45th Saturn Awards, the ninth season of The Walking Dead received six nominations, winning three. It won Best Horror Television Series, Best Supporting Actress on a Television Series for Danai Gurira, and Best Guest Starring Performance on a Television Series for Jeffrey Dean Morgan. The nominations were for Best Actor on a Television Series for Andrew Lincoln, Best Supporting Actor on a Television Series for Khary Payton, and Best Supporting Actress on a Television Series for Melissa McBride.
The season was also nominated for Outstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Television Series at the 25th and 26th Screen Actors Guild Awards for both halves of the season, respectively. Additionally, Andrew Lincoln was nominated for the Online Film & Television Association Award for Best Guest Actor in a Drama Series. For her performance in the episode "Omega", Samantha Morton was nominated for the Women's Image Network Award for Actress Drama Series.
- This season is mainly based on "Volume 22: A New Beginning", "Volume 23: Whispers Into Screams", "Volume 24: Life And Death" and parts of "Volume 25: No Turning Back" from the Comic Series.
- This is the first season in which Angela Kang is the showrunner for The Walking Dead.
- This season features a new opening sequence, which features several easter eggs and references, such as:
- Rick's hat, revolver, red handled machete, and hatchet.
- Daryl's ear necklace, crossbow, and bolts.
- Carol's knife.
- Michonne's sword.
- Carl's handgun.
- Hershel's pocketwatch.
- Philip's eyepatch.
- Cherokee roses, which have been seen in "Cherokee Rose", "Pretty Much Dead Already", "Nebraska", and "Always Accountable".
- Abraham's dog tags.
- The tree with the stained glass window where Rick slit Negan's throat in "Wrath".
- The noose that was used to hang Gregory in "A New Beginning".
- The "FINAL WARNING" sign written by Simon and his group at Oceanside's old home, as seen in "Warning Signs".
- The helicopter that Rick is taken away in in "What Comes After".
- The windmill that was built in Alexandria between "What Comes After" and "Who Are You Now?".
- The motorcycle that Negan uses to drive back to Alexandria in "Adaptation".
- This season features four time skips:
- "A New Beginning" takes place a year and a half after the events of All Out War.
- The second time skip is about a month long after the events of "A New Beginning".
- The third time skip takes place at the end of "What Comes After", jumping about 6 years into the future.
- With this, the current year of the apocalypse may be deduced to the year 2020, considering the year the outbreak began was 2010.
- The fourth time skip takes place a few months after the events of "The Calm Before".
- Below are the changes made to the main cast in this season:
- This is Andrew Lincoln's final season portraying Rick Grimes.
- His last appearance is in episode 5, "What Comes After".
- Due to other commitments, it is also the final episode this season featuring Lauren Cohan as Maggie Rhee.
- As of "Who Are You Now?", Andrew Lincoln and Lauren Cohan have been removed from the opening credits.
- His last appearance is in episode 5, "What Comes After".
- Katelyn Nacon (Enid) and Tom Payne (Jesus) have been added to the opening credits after being listed under "Also Starring" in previous seasons.
- As of "Guardians", Tom Payne has been removed from the opening credits.
- Lennie James (Morgan Jones) has been removed from the opening credits following his crossover to Fear the Walking Dead.
- Austin Amelio (Dwight) is no longer listed under "Also Starring" due to his character's departure last season.
- Xander Berkeley (Gregory), Khary Payton (Ezekiel Sutton) and Pollyanna McIntosh (Anne) are still listed under "Also Starring", despite being credited as series regulars in previous seasons.
- Following his character's death in "A New Beginning", Xander Berkeley is no longer listed under "Also Starring".
- Following her character's departure in "What Comes After", Pollyanna McIntosh is no longer listed under "Also Starring".
- Starting with "Who Are You Now?", Khary Payton has been added to the opening credits.
- Callan McAuliffe (Alden) and Avi Nash (Siddiq) have been upgraded to series regulars after recurring appearances.
- Despite their status as series regulars, they are listed under "Also Starring".
- Samantha Morton (Dee) has been cast as a series regular for her first appearance this season.
- Starting with "Omega", Samantha Morton has been added to the opening credits.
- This is Andrew Lincoln's final season portraying Rick Grimes.
- Despite only being guest stars, Cooper Andrews (Jerry) and Eleanor Matsuura (Yumiko Okumura) are credited in some episodes they do not appear in.
- This season features the most number of departing regulars in a season, with seven leaving the show.
- This season also features the most number of main characters written out of the series without being killed off, with three: Rick, Maggie and Anne. The previous record was Season 8, where Morgan and Dwight departed the series without being killed off.
- This season is tied with Season 5 and Season 7 with killing off the most main cast characters, with four regulars killed off: Gregory, Paul "Jesus" Rovia, Enid and Tara Chambler.
- Jon Bernthal (Shane Walsh), Scott Wilson (Hershel Greene) and Sonequa Martin-Green (Sasha Williams) returned for a guest appearance in Rick's final episode.
- This is the final appearance of Wilson, due to his death on October 6, 2018.
- Michael Cudlitz, who portrayed Abraham Ford, made his directorial debut and directed the seventh episode of this season.
- The soundtrack used in the Season 9 Comic-Con trailer is "Take What's Mine" by Future Royalty.
- The usage of firearms in this season is very limited, especially during the second half. In stark contrast to previous seasons, no automatic weapons appear in Season 9.
- In this season, the survivors no longer drive vehicles with the only one still running that is seen is Negan's motorcycle. Instead, the survivors use horses and later horse-drawn car shells.
- This is the first season in which Daryl Dixon appears in all of the episodes.
- This is the fourth consecutive season which Robert Kirkman wrote none of the episodes since Season 5.
- This is the last season to have 16 episodes, as the next two seasons will have more than 20 episodes.
- The Walking Dead renewed for a ninth season with Angela Kang as the new showrunner.