The Walking Dead Season 9 Preview Special delivered enough insight into the new season to hold us over until its return on October 7th. In case you missed it or want a refresher, here are the top things we learned about Season 9 during the show.
The Time Jump Length
We knew there would be a time jump between the end of Season 8 and the beginning of Season 9, but thanks to Jesus actor Tom Payne we now know how long. Payne began saying, “A year and a half after the war has ended…” before host Yvette Nicole Brown told the audience. “that’s a scoop, you guys.” Payne looked worried he spoiled that fact but showrunner Angela Kang assured him it wasn’t a spoiler.
Although the year-and-a-half time jump is about half the time of the one in the comics, it will still be long enough to create huge changes to the characters and their environment.
Season 9 Will Feel Like The First Few Seasons
Going off that, Andrew Lincoln said in a taped segment that Season 9, “feels like the show I fell in love with nine years ago. It feels like we’re making that version again.” Norman Reedus added on, “It’s the same show, but it’s a different show. It has a new soundtrack, you know what I mean? It really, really does.”
They’ll Use The Past To Build The Future
One of the most dramatic changes to come from the time jump will be the unique ways the communities evolve. Angela Kang said, “We are seeing what happens after the war has concluded. We see people trying to rebuild civilization and grapple with what that means and what the future is and how you end up looking to the past in some ways to build up the present and future. Things that are old technologies like a traditional plow…becomes something that’s important again. People who were farmers all of a sudden have a really valuable skill.”
Tom Payne hinted that Hilltop is utilizing these skills more than others. “Hilltop…that was their whole deal. They were growing stuff and tending the farm animals and so that community is maybe doing better than other communities…We’re back to an old school kind of barter system within the groups and the first episodes of the season we’ll get into who’s doing better than other people and who’s not.” Danai Gurira later added, “The world has evolved…we have a whole new normal when we get back.”
The Whisperers Will Get Remixed
Fans got their first taste of The Walking Dead’s next major villain group The Whisperers at the end of the Season 9 Comic-Con trailer. For those new to the group, the Whisperers are a massive crew that wear walker skin over their own to blend in with the undead. And as you guessed from their name, they communicate through whispering as not to tip off the walkers on their true identities. In the comics, The Whisperers are led by a woman named Alpha (who will be played by Samantha Morton in the show) who slaughters a number of Rick’s people during a community fair.
Angela Kang addressed the new group, saying, “…we’ll go into a really great storyline that people are anticipating called The Whisperers, which if you’re a fan of the comic you know exactly what that means. Although the way we do it may not be exactly the way it goes in the comic. We always remix things. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you know, it’s better to learn as you go along.”
The Name of Maggie and Glenn’s Baby
We learned that Maggie’s baby with Glenn will be born during the time jump and named Hershel after her father. “So Maggie has had the baby,” Lauren Cohan said in a taped segment for the show. “And it was a really long pregnancy as we all know. So we have baby Hershel, named after dad. And a big part of what Maggie is focusing on is creating a world that is safe for him. A world where he can see that this works where we can work together…and a big part of her conflict this year is finding peace of mind with allowing Negan to live, and being a good leader, and a good mother, and how she is going to let those two desires co-exist essentially.”
Maggie also names her baby Hershel in the comics, and since there was a longer time jump in the source material, comic Hershel is slightly older than his show counterpart. The preview special also dove into what it was like having baby Hershel on set. Tom Payne revealed, “Well, children on set is always an interesting conundrum…working with a baby is like, ‘Oh God! Roll now, roll now, roll now!’ But there’s some great little moments, I have a great little scene with the baby. And it was really sweet when we finally got it.”
Ezekiel Will Play King and Father
“Oh he’s always the King!” an elated Khary Payton said when Yvette asked if his character was still the king. “I think he’s become more at home with it. Maybe he’s not so over-the-top about it.” He also indicated Jerry helps maintain the facade of his royalty.
Outside of being a caring partner to Carol, Ezekiel will also be a father to Henry. “They develop this real father/son dynamic…where a boy is really trying to come of age and it doesn’t feel like a step-father, it’s a father. In this world, the family you find is the family you get. I think he’s just trying to make sure he doesn’t keep stabbing anyone in the head.”
“Yvette don’t be mad,” Angela Kang warned the host before saying, “Ezekiel and Carol will be in a relationship.” It’s true – during the time jump Carol and Ezekiel become an item and their relationship grows throughout the season. Kang went on to explain, “We will see…that doesn’t mean Carol and Daryl don’t have their special time too. There’s lots of good Carol and Daryl stuff this season.” Peeved to hear her Caryl ship isn’t happening Yvette joked, “I’m very happy for Carol and Ezekiel.”
Khary Payton weighed in on his new on-screen bae saying, “Working with Melissa is always amazing. I always say she’s the best acting coach I’ve ever had, and it just happens I don’t have to pay her anything. Whatever I’m feeling about a scene she can say something very simply and my world changes as far as the way that I see everything interacting…she’s an incredibly vulnerable actress but also incredibly knowing.”
Daryl Will Be More Mature
Speaking of Carol and Daryl thousands of fans have clamored for a “Caryl” relationship for years but have continually come up short. Norman Reedus compared his character’s relationship with Carol to his relationship with Rick. “The only person (Daryl) has a really similar relationship with is Carol. That’s it.” He went on to say, “This year (Rick’s) relationship with Daryl is much different. Daryl’s definitely found his voice. He has a mature voice now, which is also a harsh voice. It’s harsh but full of love at the same time.”
Angela Kang added, “Daryl (will be) a little different and we’ll start out the season with him at The Sanctuary and it kind of rolls from there. There will be something new for Daryl.” Additionally, fans were treated to a clip from the new season of Daryl and Carol at the Sanctuary. In it, the two sit close together and talk about Carol’s relationship with Ezekiel. Daryl pokes fun at him (“Does he snore fancy too?”) but ultimately admits he’s happy for her.
Rick Leaving The Show Will Be Like Andrea Leaving The Comics
Angela Kang promised that Rick’s departure from the show, whether it be his death or something else, will be worthy of his character. “Andrew Lincoln is just one of the loveliest, best human beings you could ever meet. To write his exit on the show, which we knew was coming, I just don’t want to mess it up. I want to do service to this character, his journey, and I have a great responsibility to the fans to write him out in a way that’s worthy of his character. I hope that we accomplished that.”
Kang also revealed that the aftermath of his exit will parallel that of Andrea’s recent death in the comics (which causes comic Rick to descend into a deep depression). “This being Andy’s last season on the show we’re going to explore what that does to Michonne and it’s going to be a big part of her story going forward,” Kang said. “Comic readers know that when Rick lost the character Andrea in the comics, that was a huge moment for him. And so we will be exploring the different directions Michonne goes, and it may not be the way that you expect.”
Khary Almost Thought The Show Was Over When He Heard Andy Was Leaving
Numerous fans have seemed dubious about the longevity of a Walking Dead without its star Rick Grimes. Don’t worry, Khary felt the same way. “When I found out about it – honestly I started packing my bags. I was like, ‘Looks like I’m gonna go back to LA.’ And then I started reading the story, and there’s a moment that happens in the story that we’re telling, and I went over to my suitcase and I started unpacking my bags. And I can tell you this is not what I was expecting. I mean, how do you go on without Rick Grimes? And I read this moment, and I’m pretty sure everybody will know what I’m talking about when they see it, and it’s arresting. I thought to myself, ‘Oh my God, we got so much more to do.’ So yeah, my drawer’s back full and we ready to do this.”
The New Characters Will Be More Diverse Than Ever
In addition to the time jump, Rick’s departure, and new relationships Season 9 will also introduce new characters. Angela Kang beamed when discussing the new additions. “We get to see some really cool new characters come in, they’re based on characters from the comic book. Magna, Yumiko, Connie, Kelly, and Luke. One of the really exciting aspects is that Connie, who’s played by the amazing Lauren Ridloff, is a deaf character, which we’ve never had on the show. We thought that would be a really interesting story to tell, and so we have her and her sister Kelly, who is played by Angel Theory. Angel also has hearing loss, so that’s just been a really exciting aspect of the season with these new people…I’m excited for people to see them.”
Badass Jesus Will Return
A lot of fans ask us if we’ll see Jesus kick more ass next season. “I mean Jesus is always raring to go with the playful fighting side,” Tom Payne said in the special. “I think one of the things that might be tough this season for him…I think Maggie wants him to be a more active part of the community and I think he’s there to help her with stuff. But he would rather be doing what he was doing when we first met him on the show, which is out there meeting new people and doing stuff for the community.”
Even though Jesus may be doing more community building than fighting, that doesn’t mean we won’t still see him in action. “I will say there is some fight stuff and its amongst some of the favorite stuff I’ve done on the show,” Payne teased. Angela Kang backed him up. “Tom trains like a mofo. Like I’ve seen some of these dailies that are coming in and it’s incredible.”
Additionally, we learned it’s difficult for Jesus to get close to people because he grew up in a group home and has given away so much of himself to other people that he now protects what’s left.
Maggie and Rick Will Still Have Tension
Season 8 left off with Maggie vehemently opposing Rick’s decision to keep Negan alive following that final battle…so much so that she met in secret with Daryl and Jesus to seemingly conspire against him in the future. Angela Kang expanded on what their beef looks like heading into Season 9. “We’ll come into this season seeing so much of The Hilltop is in such great shape as a community and Rick recognizes that that’s a direct result of her leadership. But we’ll see that Maggie is not going to just fall in line with everything Rick’s doing because she has to take care of her own people now. That doesn’t mean that they hate each other, they still love each other and respect each other deeply. But, they have some real differences in philosophies.”
Rick Will Maintain A Relationship With Negan
Even though Negan’s locked up and other people like Maggie want to see him dead, Rick will still maintain a relationship with his greatest enemy. Angela Kang explained, “It’s part therapy and part gloating. They’re just trying to work their way through it. They both feel in some way like dinosaurs of the war. It’s as Rick is trying to figure out what’s next the next step? What’s the next mission? Negan kind of needles him but Rick needs to be able to justify that ‘this is why I kept you alive. It’s so that we can have a future.’ That’s really what it is, it’s him trying to work it through.”
Andy Had A Non-Comic-Inspired Reason For Cutting His Hair
Season 9 Rick looks a LOT like post-time jump Rick in the comics, but it turns out Andrew Lincoln had other reasons to cut his hair. “Everyone gets a little over-excited I think when people do a time jump. You think, ‘How can I look different, feel different? Scars, hair color, I mean I’ve got no choice in the matter I’m just going grey. But I thought it would be a really good idea to cut my hair.”
“And then we got it cut once, and someone came in and said the wrong word to me. He said, ‘You look really handsome.’ And I said, ‘Rick Grimes does not look handsome. That’s not the point of what Rick Grimes is about. He’s a Sheriff’s Deputy from Atlanta, Georgia. He doesn’t give a f**k about being sexy or good-looking. He’s an apocalyptic warrior who kills zombies for a living.’ Before I knew it I was nearly bald. And I said, ‘Danai’s going to be furious,’ because she loves my long hair.”
Alanna’s Horse Is The Same As Andrew’s From The Pilot
Finally, let’s talk horses, who will play huge roles in this season due to the deterioration of cars and shortage of gas. We got lots of great horse facts in this special, like how well the cast has honed their horseback riding skills and how Danai Gurira’s horse is named Sunday. But easily the BEST nugget we learned is that Tara actress Alanna Masterson is riding Blade, the same horse Andrew Lincoln rode in the pilot! And since that horse’s unique markings could be recognized, they had to paint him a little to disguise it. So there you go, full circle.
The Walking Dead makes its triumphant return on Sunday, October 7th at 9PM.