It’s hard to imagine an episode of The Walking Dead more horrifying and terrifying than Evolution. Despite an uneventful secondary plot, the big reveal made for one of the best episodes of the last few seasons. Basically Evolution felt like watching a horror show version of The Walking Dead.
Let’s knock the small stuff out of the way first…
Henry’s Drunken Adventure
Henry was adjusting to life as a blacksmith’s apprentice. Henry has largely been sheltered and he’s got the headstrong nature of his mother Carol, but he’s a good kid. He was hoping to follow through on his crush on Enid, but she’s already coupled up with Alden. Apparently the Hilltop/Alexandria constitution is a little loose on the legal dating age…?
No worries as Henry is resourceful and finds a couple of bros and their gal pal, Addy (Kelley Mack) to goof off with and have bootleg moonshine. And as far as bros goes, these guys are fairly harmless as they’ve caught a walker in a hole and are using it for darts and horseshoes. Henry shows his decent side and kills the walker, but he’s got to face the music for disorderly drunken conduct.
Even at The Kingdom, Henry knows snitches get stitches and he refuses to name names. At least blacksmith Earl Sutton cuts him a break. Earl remembers not so long ago when he was in that jail cell sleeping off a drunken rage. Henry can think about his poor decision making — who drinks moonshine and goes into a pit with walkers? — and sleep it off in the prison.
Hanging at Hilltop
Michonne brings Yumiko’s crew to Hilltop. No one seems thrilled to see her due to whatever it was that got everyone pissed. Michonne has no regrets since they’re still alive to be mad at her. Carol seems more talkative than Tara or Enid, but it’s more to try and convince Michonne to involve Alexandria in the fair.
This must be some fair or an incredibly stressful one if everything rides on Kingdom getting the other communities to participate. Honestly, I’m ready for Michonne to switch to decaf and start opening up about this incident. She’s been on pissed off mode since the flash forward started.
A Bat Murdering Psycho Talks to a Priest
It’s Gabriel’s turn to spend time with Negan. These guys had a nice bonding moment while trying to survive the walker invasion at Sanctuary last season. It’s nice to see Gabriel step up more as a character this season and his little edge makes him a lot more interesting.
Negan is doing what Negan does best, getting under Alexandria leadership’s skin as he taunts Gabriel about Rosita. After learning of Rosita’s injuries, Gabriel has no time for Negan. I highly doubt Gabriel will ever get a better line than ‘It’s bad enough I have to clean up your sh!t. I don’t have to listen to it too.’ Of course, Gabriel probably should have paid more attention to his cell locking technique as he failed miserably. Sure, maybe the random Alexandria guard with him should have double checked since he was the last one out, but he didn’t even get a name. And now Negan is back on the loose.
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Henry’s subplot was OK in the long game sense of establishing him as a worthwhile next generation hero. Gabriel’s big screw up allows Negan to get free, but the main plot was incredible.
Daryl, Aaron and Jesus spot a continually increasing herd of walkers following them. I loved this ominous sense of dread that something bad was about to happen at any moment. Is it bad that my first concern was Dog and then everyone else? We can always find another mangy tracker, one-armed man and hippie ninja, but a dog? Priceless.
Dog and his human sidekicks find Eugene cowering in a barn trapdoor. He tells them about the walkers whispering to each other and makes the very intelligent case that the walkers have evolved. It makes sense.
Daryl and Dog try and distract the herd, but they’re after Jesus, Aaron and Eugene. The rare use of fog makes this scene even more uneasy. Eugene is the dumb, busty blonde who managed to break her high heel with the horror movie villain in close pursuit.
The walkers are closing in and eventually Jesus and Aaron stop trying to run and lug Eugene. It’s time to kick some walker tail! As a last stand this one is pretty impressive. Eugene frantically tries to loosen the gate that’s stuck in the dirt while Jesus and Aaron kill walkers. As reinforcements arrive, so does the cavalry in Michonne, Yumiko and Magna. They manage to turn the tide while Jesus bats cleanup showing off some nifty moves. Just as he goes to casually kill the final walker…it pivots, whispers a warning and kills him.
This is troubling and even moreso when Daryl kills the walker and reveals it’s a human wearing a walker’s skin as a mask. Michonne was realizing something was off when her sword was coated in red and not walker guts black. There’s a new enemy on the horizon and the whisper in the wind promises the second half of this season is going to be just as intense and crazy as the first half.
Evolution left me rattled and genuinely concerned for the fate of the heroes for the first time Negan and his Saviors showed up. The Walking Dead pulled off a major course correction this season and is back to being the show it was when it dominated in the ratings. It’s going to be a very long wait between now and February.
Rating: 9 out of 10
Photo Credit: AMC