SEASON 9; EPISODE 8

If you've been keeping an eye on the viewing figures for The Walking Dead over the last few years, you'll know that the decline in numbers has been steady. For a show that's been around for nine years, there is always going to be some level of drop-off but the last two years have seen an acceleration of pace of those giving up on the show. The truth is, there is a lot of dissatisfaction out there amongst former (and some current) viewers and although everyone will have a slightly different reason for throwing the towel in, there are several big factors that have had a big impact. The most notable of which perhaps, is the shedding of the shows best characters - and unfortunately the mid-season finale of series 9 continued that trend. Most fans who have been left frustrated by the long drawn out Saviours storyline were asking for some fresh impetus and ideas to be injected into the show - and to be fair, the writers seem to have attempted a response of some sort. Rick Grimes' departure, a couple of big time shifts and the now very real threat of The Whisperers has meant that things feel a bit different. The pacing and atmosphere has also been a bit better this season too – and we've not really been lumbered with any episodes that feel like a waste of time. However, I can't deny that I feel less engaged with the show nowadays and whilst some of that may be a little bit of fatigue, a large part of it has to do with the fact that I don't care a great deal for most of the remaining characters. That may sound a little harsh but it's a sentiment shared by more than a few. Apart from Carol, Daryl and Michonne, none of the other characters are really particularly interesting or worth rooting for. After the departures of Glenn and Abraham (two fan favourites) if someone had said that within a couple of years we would have lost Rick, Carl, Sasha, Morgan, Maggie and Jesus, you'd have scoffed at the concept. It's not that audiences can't handle losing any of the main characters (as that threat is part of the beauty of the show) but they've cut too hard and fast and we're now essentially left with some of the weaker members of the group. Let's be honest, Rosita, Tara, Enid, Ezekiel and that blacksmith kid etc are just not that interesting. Sure they've added some new characters to the mix, but it's tough to care too much about them at this point. At least they didn't kill off Daryl's dog...

Mid-season final deaths are also just a tad predictable at this point. I had a feeling that Jesus would be the one to get it about half way into the episode and was hoping that my instincts were wrong. Sure, his death scene (and the entire graveyard scene actually) was pretty cool in itself but it just leaves a sour taste in the mouth. What the scene did do however was properly announce The Whisperers as the big bad of the second half of season 9 and beyond. The scenes they've been in so far have all been pretty effective and have brought some much needed horror back to the show. They're a new type of enemy and are going to pose a unique threat to the inhabitants of Hilltop, Alexandria and The Kingdom. At the minute there is a bit of frosty relationship between some of these groups so they're going to have to come together if they are to survive.

Whilst this stuff was all unfolding, we got to see Gabriel lose his shit with Negan. Kudos to Gabe for trying to get him to 'see the light' but if there is one man who isn't going to repent his sins and accept Jesus into his life then it's the Neegster. He did show some 'concern' when he realised Gabriel was worried about Rosita, but is anyone really buying it? Despite being inside for about 7 and a half years, Negan hasn't turned into a whimpering wreck – which seemed a real possibility a few episodes ago. He seems to have begrudgingly accepted his fate – that was until he discovered that his cell door hadn't been locked. There's no way he was going to pass up the chance of freedom so he's now on the loose somewhere and God only knows what his immediate plans are. I'm guessing he won't want to hang around for too long, but then again, he probably won't want to be leaving before finding Lucille. I can't imagine he's going to find his bat and then walk off into the sunset though. I have a feeling that he might be quite a useful dude to have around during the upcoming war with the Whisperers...

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