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Everything You Need to Know About That Wild ‘Walking Dead’ Mid-Season Cliffhanger, Explained

Here’s what you need to know about the new bad guys our heroes are facing off against, the Whisperers

(Spoilers ahead for the season 9 mid-season finale of “The Walking Dead” on AMC)

The excellent first half of season 9 of “The Walking Dead” has come to a close, and it did so with one hell of a bang. We got a climactic showdown in a foggy graveyard in the middle of the night, a major character death and a new foe finally revealing itself.

Those of us who have kept up with the major storylines in the “Walking Dead” comics know exactly what just happened, but those who have not might be a little bit confused as we head into the show’s hiatus. So for the sake of those folks, let’s break down that ending real quick.

To recap the situation: the entire episode sees Daryl (Norman Reedus), Jesus (Tom Payne) and Aaron (Ross Marquand) trying to rescue Eugene (Josh McDermitt) while dodging a herd of zombies that seems way smarter than any group of walkers they’d ever encountered before. Plus, as Eugene notes, some of these zombies had been talking as they stalked him.

Daryl goes his own way to try to draw them off while Aaron and Jesus try to escape with the injured Eugene, but Daryl’s schemes don’t work and the other three men end up cornered in a creepy graveyard in one of the best locations the show has ever spent time in. Aaron and Jesus end up having to fight, but Michonne (Danai Gurira), Magna (Nadia Hilker), Yumiko (Eleanor Matsuura) and Daryl eventually catch up to them.

It looks like they’re going to get away, and then suddenly one of the zombies actually dodges Jesus’s blow and stabs him through the back. This shockingly spry zombie then whispers to Jesus as he dies: “You are where you do not belong.”

Our surviving heroes then take down that “zombie” and several of his actually still living compatriots, ending the battle. Then Daryl, inspecting one of the bodies, reveals that this zombie is wearing a masking — tearing it off, we see just a normal-looking dude who had been pretending to be a zombie.

Then the whispers start up again, everyone looks around in terror, and  the episode ends.

Holy crap. So there is your answer for why those zombies were talking — they actually were not zombies at all. These fake zombies are instead part of a group called the Whisperers, people who essentially worship zombies as the purest form of humanity.

The Whisperers do have a society, albeit a primitive one. They live in camps as nomadic hunter-gatherers, operating under a brutal survival-of-the-fittest brand of law. Basically, the person who proves to be the strongest is the leader, and all sorts of criminal behavior is permitted — if you can’t defend yourself, then you don’t deserve to be defended, more or less.

In the comics there’s more than a hundred of these guys, and they pose a pretty significant threat, thanks to their ability to blend in with and steer zombie herds in whatever direction they want. And now they’re going to come after all the good guys.

This certainly looks like it will be very different from the wars that Alexandria and the Hilltop have fought before, though, with this mid-season finale episode taking a full-on horror story approach that the show really has never quite had before.

However this war plays out — it’ll probably take significant liberties from the comic books since Carl and Rick were front and center in that version — this is certainly an exciting new direction for “The Walking Dead.”