‘Evolution’ Marks A Huge, Heartbreaking Turning Point for ‘The Walking Dead’ (RECAP)

Spoiler Alert
Gene Page/AMC

At long last, the Whisperers have arrived.

It’s remarkable that the first proper appearance of the season’s “big bad” is just one key point for the episode rather than the biggest revelation, but The Walking Deads “Evolution” is packed to the brim with plot twists, mysteries and strange interactions between characters who once considered each other family.

It also features one of the coolest fight scenes the show has ever had, and a heart-pounding final five minutes with a genuinely stunning, shocking twist that’s likely to be controversial among longtime fans of the show and the source material.

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Little Talks

The episode opens with Aaron, Jesus and Daryl watching the horde mill around in a field — something they don’t typically do. They decide to stay the course and go find Eugene. As they leave, one of the “walkers” stops walking and turns its head, seeming to sense that the rescue crew is leaving.

Back at Alexandria, Father Gabriel is trying to get through to Negan with meditation techniques. As one might imagine, it’s having little effect. Negan tells Gabe he’s accepted he’s never getting out of the cell, and that he enjoys listening to people talk through the window; apparently, he’s heard Rosita talking recently. Father Gabriel says he doesn’t need to know what she’s said about him — Negan implies she wasn’t talking about him. Uh-oh!

At Hilltop, a scout rides through the camp and signals the community that “riders are coming!” This leads to a tense standoff between Michonne and the community members guarding the gate, who force them all to drop their weapons outside the walls and don’t seem too pleased to see Alexandria’s leader. She’s given a nasty surprise when she’s told that not only is Rosita injured, but Eugene’s missing and Aaron’s was at Hilltop and is now on a search party. Apparently, no one tells Michonne what’s going on!

Tara — reluctantly — says Magna and her people can stay, but they will have to earn their keep. They seem pretty frosty toward Michonne, and though Siddiq thinks it’s good they’re there, Michonne isn’t too elated.

A “Damn Good” Leader

Magna and co. get settled, and Michonne asks Siddiq what else she wasn’t being told. They run into Carol, who smiles and gives Siddiq a hug, but her greeting for Michonne is a little more reserved. She greets the rest of the group, then she and Michonne have an awkward conversation about their families. Carol tries to convince Michonne to let Alexandria join in on Ezekiel’s fair, but it’s a no-go; Michonne says they need to “take care of their own” now.

Out in a field, Aaron and Jesus have a conversation about the latter’s leadership role. Aaron wants him to step up and take it, and says he thinks his friend would be a “damn good leader” if he’d stop fighting it. Like Daryl, Aaron implies both men are good at finding people but they keep trying to keep their distance. The horde is getting closer, and Daryl pulls a timer out of his backpack and throws it into the field as a distraction.

Henry and Carol share an emotional goodbye, and she sheds a couple of tears as she tells him to keep out of trouble. He tells her he’ll make her proud; she says he already has. Henry then gets to work at blacksmithing with Alden and Earl Sutton, and Enid comes to talk to the former Savior. Henry is noticeably distracted as his boss tries to make plans with him for “after dinner,” but Henry is crushed when he sees Enid kissing Alden. Poor Henry!

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No Idea What They’re Dealing With

Negan and Father Gabriel have a kind of stand-off in his cell, spurred by the fact that Rosita’s at Hilltop and Gabe has no way of reaching her when he’s meant to be responsible for Negan. Negan tries to apologize, but Gabe’s not having it. “It’s bad enough I have to clean up your shit. I don’t need to listen to it, too.”

Henry meets a group of teenagers who convince him to hang out later that night and have some “fun.” If Fear The Walking Dead taught me anything about post-apocalyptic teenagers hanging out, this will involve drugs, alcohol and/or walkers. And unsurprisingly, it does! The group gets drunk on moonshine and eventually leads Henry to a pit with a walker, which they throw ropes around and darts at for fun. Henry doesn’t think that’s a fun game and kills the walker, which angers the group. They leave him in the pit.

Michonne and Siddiq have another mysterious conversation about what happened in the past, and why Michonne won’t participate in the fair. Rosita wakes up and panics when she hears a group went out for Eugene. She says they need to go find them, because “they have no idea what they’re dealing with.”


The herd has over doubled in size since Daryl and crew last checked, but they manage to find Eugene in a barn. He’s freaking out about the herd, and says they need to get away before it comes back — and that the walkers were whispering to each other. Said herd tracks the group to Eugene’s barn, and the team have to think of a new route in order to evade them.

On the way, Eugene offers a new theory. He believes the walkers are evolving. The group scoffs at this idea, but the herd is getting closer again (and if these were normal walkers, they wouldn’t be). Daryl decides to stay and distract the herd, which leaves Aaron and Jesus to take Eugene to safety.

In Alexandria, Negan’s playing a game of “throw the tennis ball at the prison cell wall.” It’s fun until the ball rolls outside the cell, and Negan can’t reach it… or can he? He realizes his cell door is open — Father Gabe must have forgotten to make sure it was closed — and he picks up the tennis ball, smirks, and throws it over his shoulder. Negan is free!

Henry’s boss comes to see him in the same Hilltop cell where he was once imprisoned by Maggie (Hilltop scouts found the kid outside the wall and brought him in). Earl’s none too pleased the teenager lied about his nighttime activities, but eventually lets him off the hook and says he’ll have a lot of work to catch up on once he’s out — the sentence for drunk and disorderly conduct is two days. With that, Henry’s stuck in the prison cell…right where he would need to be to meet Lydia in 9B, if Walking Dead is following the comics.

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Where You Do Not Belong

In the woods, Daryl and Dog have a foolproof walker-distraction plan consisting of firecrackers and Dog’s barking. It doesn’t work. The walkers ignore the fire — something they shouldn’t be able to do — and Daryl looks on, horrified.

Aaron, Jesus and Eugene make their way into an old cemetery, which they think will slow the herd down (there’s only a small gap in the stone wall). They search for another gate inside as walkers file in behind them, and though the gate exists…it’s stuck. They ready themselves for battle, and Aaron and Jesus take down walker after walker.

They get a brief reprieve from the undead, and Michonne and Magna’s group show up. Working together, they manage to get the gate open. But more walkers are coming through, and Jesus stays behind to take care of them. In truly badass style, he spins and kicks them and slices them through with his sword. He battles his way toward the gate and nearly makes it…

…until a walker ducks, turns, and stabs Jesus in the back. “You are where you do not belong,” the walker says.

“What Are They?”

Aaron screams. Daryl shows up and kills the walker that killed Jesus. Michonne, Magna and the rest of the group sprint through the gate and kill the rest of the walkers — which run, not walk, out from the fog — and Aaron kneels by his friend’s side. After the chaos ends, Daryl finds something. Michonne asks the question everyone must be thinking: “These walkers. What are they?”

As the episode ends, Daryl pulls back the walker’s skin to reveal a man — a very much alive man, until recently — underneath. The herd still surrounds the group, and a woman’s voice whispers “Keep them together.” Alpha, is that you?

Other Observations:

  • JESUS! NOOOOOOOOO! I was so excited to see him getting screentime and a real storyline again, and wondered how he would handle his conflict of mandated duty vs. disinterest. I loved his relationship with Aaron, whether it was friendship or something more. Well, at least we got to see him being a total badass at the end.
  • Something big must have happened between Alexandria and Hilltop, for them to barely conceal their dislike for Michonne. That whole greeting was so frosty, and it’s impossible not to notice that Tara and Carol didn’t give her a hug. Something’s up. Something big.
  • Poor Henry. I’d be pretty shaken up after seeing Carol cry, too.
  • *Dobby the Elf voice* Negan has no master! Negan is a free prisoner! That’ll be quite a shock for Michonne to come home to…

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