(Spoilers ahead for the ending of the Nov. 4 episode of “The Walking Dead” on AMC)
The fifth episode of season 9 of “The Walking Dead” was one hell of an eventful one, as it functioned as a goodbye episode for Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) — though it’s just be a temporary goodbye, since Rick will return in a series of AMC-produced films — as well as closing out the story of the immediate fallout of the war with the Saviors.
And it also gave us a humongous time jump.
After Jadis took Rick away on that mysterious helicopter to who-knows-where, the scene shifts to an unknown group of survivors led by a woman named Magna (Nadia Hilker), who are having a pretty fraught confrontation with a bunch of zombies when they’re rescued by a young girl wearing a familiar police hate. That girl’s name? Judith Grimes.
This Judith is clearly much older than the Judith we know and is old enough to both speak clearly and confidently and also accurately shoot a revolver. Assuming she isn’t lying about her identity, this means that we’ve skipped ahead a few years.
This time skip is one we’ve been anticipating, because it happened in the “Walking Dead” comics between the war with the Saviors and the whole thing with the Whisperers that we have coming up later this season. In the comics that jump was two years. On the show, we don’t yet have enough information to know how much time has passed, but we can presume it’s been at least two years and maybe more than that — in fact, I would think it is more than that.
Unfortunately, it’s way too soon to guess about the state of everything after this time jump. Obviously, Judith is still alive, though it’s certainly odd that she was just out in the woods by herself — even though she’s clearly able to handle herself, she’s still extremely young. And they’re not going to kill major characters off screen, so everybody else is almost certainly still alive as well.
That sequence is similar to how Magna and friends meet up with the Alexandrians in the comics, though it involved Jesus saving them instead of Judith.
So, what should you expect from here? Well, Rick is going to be out of the picture apparently forever — at least for the series itself, though there may well be some crossover events here and there. But with those movies probably a year away, he’s irrelevant for the moment. For now., we’ll probably get a couple episodes catching up on the new post-time skip status quo and a slow burn introduction to the Whisperers, who are survivors who disguise themselves as and worship zombies.
In the comics it takes a little bit for everyone to recognize the Whisperer threat, and so what we’ll probably see is a gradual ramping up of that conflict like what we saw with the Saviors in the last few episodes of season 6 before Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) showed up and got that war started in earnest. And then in the latter half of season 9, which will start next spring, we’ll get fully into a new war between our good guys and the Whisperers.