(Spoilers ahead for the season 9 mid-season premiere of “The Walking Dead” on AMC)
Ever since Carl (Chandler Riggs) died during season 8 of “The Walking Dead” I’ve been wondering how exactly AMC planned on handling the Whisperers storyline without him. In the comics, Carl is sort of the main character of the early part of this plotline, if anyone could be considered such a thing in an ensemble like “The Walking Dead.”
So I assumed that with Carl’s death there would be a pretty significant shakeup in how the Whisperers story is told, especially given how dramatically different that last year or so has been from the comic book source material — in addition to Carl’s death in season 8, season 9 has seen the premature exits of Rick (Andrew Lincoln), Jesus (Tom Payne) and Maggie (Lauren Cohan), other key players in this story. But that may have been an erroneous assumption. We’re now one episode into this new arc, and we’re on course so far for it to go pretty much the way it went in the books.
That does not, of course, mean “The Walking Dead” absolutely will closely follow how the story of the Whisperer War went in the comics. It just means that, despite Carl’s death, it can keep his arc in place for the most part. And that’s because it looks an awful lot like Henry is stepping into Carl’s place for this story.
The show got the ball rolling this week when Michonne (Danai Gurira) and Daryl (Norman Reedus) captured one of the Whisperers on their way back to the Hilltop, and put this teenage member of the nefarious new group in the jail cell next to the one Henry is still in after his drunken incident from before the mid-season break. Henry got to watch as, first, Michonne and Tara (Alanna Masterson) interrogated her, and then Daryl continued the interrogation later on.
This girl, Lydia, (Cassady McClincy), said only that they had just killed the only other living members of her group and that she’s the only one left now. They don’t buy this story, of course, and keep pushing. The girl gets increasingly frantic and upset as the questioning session continues. Until eventually Henry pleads for Daryl to leave her alone.
And after Daryl leaves the jail, he sits outside and listens as Henry tries to comfort the girl. It’s easy to see where this is likely going, and it looks an awful lot like Carl’s part of this story in the comics. Carl befriended Lydia and eventually sympathized with her and even broke her out of lockup and went back to the Whisperers camp with her.
Rick and co. then go searching for Carl, eventually making their way to the Whisperer camp themselves and have a kind of summit to discuss this conflict between the communities and the Whisperers. The meeting does not go all that well, and later after Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) makes his big play the war begins in earnest.
How far in this direction that “The Walking Dead” will actually go remains to be seen, of course, but at this moment it looks very much like Henry is going to fit the role on the show that Carl had in the books. This part of the arc would likely play out over the remainder of this season, so I guess we’ll find out how heavily Henry is going to be involved in the very near future.