From all out war to all out of Rick, season nine of The Walking Dead opened the floodgates for fans in its opening eight episodes with the loss of Lauren Cohan and Andrew Lincoln from the survivors gallery, as well as another character axe in November’s mid-season finale that is still too raw a spoiler to mention. The abundance of farewells to series regulars raised suspicion that George R. R. Martin had slipped behind the scenes to raise the death toll, but instead was  banished by shiny, new showrunner Angela Kang who has reinvigorated the show and boosted ratings. Now returning for S9B, can this double-tap savvy political drama continue its run of good form after premiering the creepiest and most idyllic zombie sequence in its eight years on air that finally included a graveyard.

Having survived the walker-free winter whilst keeping mindful of the two time jumps in 9A, the show’s return has been heavily promoting the unveiling of The Whisperers; the next group of antagonists to exert their dominance after the capture of Negan last season. Samantha Morton will lead the Leatherface enthusiasts as Alpha, squeezing her tribe into suits and masks of rotting flesh to blend in with zombie hoards as they hunt their prey. The Whisperers have cranked the fear factor up tenfold by threatening Alexandria, Hilltop and The Kingdom with unaccustomed behaviour that’s calculated and sinister, unlike the previous egotistical megalomaniacs they have had to bring down to size in the past.

Kang has rejuvenated TWD’s ninth year with fresh western-styled opening titles featuring several nods to Robert Kirkman’s graphic novels for the hardcore fan to collect all the easter eggs. The narrative lightened in 9A by resurfacing out of the depths of long-winded character monologues that burdened season 8 and awoken the fast-paced action sequences we grew to love in seasons 3 and 4. Blossoming romance swirls around Carol and Ezekiel’s looming  wedding and cute but tough Judith Grimes also sweetens the tone against the oppressive backdrop of The Whisperers. Michonne is still recovering from the loss of Rick (aren’t we all?) while Daryl has moved on to a new bromance with Dog the dog, that only brings extra concern for furry baby lovers. Stray survivors have reluctantly been accepted into Hilltop, who we are still a little shifty about and it looks like Negan is starting to bat for the good side, in line to become the next mayor of Alexandria. Rick will be fuming… wherever he is.

While fans are debating The Walking Dead’s survival past season ten, producer Scott M.Gimple revealed last year of his plans to produce three feature films starring Sheriff Rick Grimes and the continuation of his story outwith the show. He also revealed to Chris Hardwick on The Talking Dead that he plans to revisit characters old and new for origin stories and stand-alone pieces that promises televisions number one zombie franchise to expand in a phenomenal way. The recent renewal of season ten by AMC was bittersweet as it came with the news that the tenth season would be the last for Danai Gurira’s Michonne. Hopefully, the mystery of the scars on her back will be solved before her departure. Still holding a 93% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the remaining eight episodes of the possible penultimate season reclaims it’s reign at the top of the TV game.

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