The Walking Dead Midseason Report Card: Best Episode, Worst Twist, And More!

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While everyone is still digesting The Walking Dead's shocking midseason finale, I couldn't think of a better time to analyze the first half of what has been a revitalizing season.

There were some significant changes going into The Walking Dead Season 9, some of which left some glaring question marks on the very future of the series. Not only was Scott M. Gimple stepping down as showrunner and passing to the torch to Angela Kang, but it was also announced that both Andrew Lincoln and Lauren Cohan would be leaving the series.

Since that announcement, fans have struggled with the thought of how this series would stay afloat without its central character of Rick Grimes. However, through Angela Kang's unique vision and direction, The Walking Dead has -- so far -- delivered one of its best seasons and found a way to utilize its core cast to create intriguing stories in spite of Andrew Lincoln's absence.

Is The Walking Dead really the best that it's been in years? Check out our midseason breakdown of what worked and what didn't.

If you can't wait until February, you can watch The Walking Dead online right here at TV Fanatic.

1. Standout Performance - Andrew Lincoln

Standout Performance - Andrew Lincoln
Andrew Lincoln has delivered some incredibly mesmerizing performances during his tenure on The Walking Dead, but the actor laid everything out on the table for his character's swan song. Given the fact that filming his final episode was incredibly emotional ordeal, it ended up only aiding and enhancing Andrew Lincoln's performance.

2. Best Episode - What Comes After

Best Episode - What Comes After

Do you see a pattern forming here? It's fair to say that we can all be in agreement on this one. "What Comes After" was easily the best episode of the first half of the season on numerous fronts. Not only did Greg Nicotero bring his A game with stunning cinematography and storytelling, but it also provided plenty of callbacks and fan service while marking the return of Scott Wilson and Jon Bernthal to the series.

The appearances of Hershel and Shane as Rick slipped in and out of consciousness made for some incredibly engrossing moments, and culminated in a perfect tribute and sendoff for Rick Grimes' final episode.

3. Worst Episode: Stradavarius

Worst Episode: Stradavarius

"Stradavarius" is hands down the weakest entry of the first half of the season. That's not to say the episode itself is bad per se, but considering the influx of quality episodes that preceded it, this one just didn't quite measure up with the rest of the season.

Most of the blame falls on the episode attempting to follow too many stories at once, which is an issue this series has dealt with in the past. At least it did mark the return of Michael Cudlitz to the series who directed the episode. Oh, and Daryl finally got a haircut so it had that going for it.

4. Most Intriguing New Character - Magna

Most Intriguing New Character - Magna
Out of the new group of survivors introduced this season, Magna is by far the most intriguing of the bunch. While her sketchy past remains unclear, she does appear to genuinely want to contribute and earn her keep. Look for Magna to become a key player when the season resumes.

5. Worst Character - Henry

Worst Character - Henry

No surprise here! Henry was probably one of the most hated characters throughout The Walking Dead Season 8. From his blatantly dumb decisions to poor life choices, it was difficult to not root for Henry to wander right into the gnawing jaws of a walker.

While The Walking Dead Season 9's time jump forced Macsen Lintz to hand the character off to his older brother, Matt, it hasn't done anything for Henry's likability. And since it appears that Henry is beginning to receive some of Carl's arcs from the comics, it's likely Henry will be sticking around for a while.

6. Most Interesting Development - The Whisperers

Most Interesting Development - The Whisperers

The Whisperers arrival had been subtly teased throughout season eight, but their debut this season has been met with horror and intrigue. We don't know much about this new group other than they wear walker flesh camouflage as they walk among the dead and influence herds. They also appear to be extremely territorial.

One of the things we're most looking forward in the second half of the season is learning more about this distrubing new group which is quickly solidifying itself as the most terrifying villain ever introduced on The Walking Dead.

7. Biggest Letdown: Maggie's Abrupt Departure

Biggest Letdown: Maggie's Abrupt Departure

We knew that Lauren Cohan would be leaving at some point during The Walking Dead's ninth season. However, the manner in which her character's exit was handled is a bit puzzling.

It was incredibly jarring to come to the realization that Maggie left the group to join Georgie at some point during the six years following Rick's "death." Instead of learning what transpired first hand, we were merely given some lazy exposition from Jesus and Tara. While that's all fine and dandy, we've followed Maggie through so many hardships in her character's arc, and learning that we weren't a part of such a pivotal moment was disappointing.

It's been confirmed that Lauren Cohan will return at some point in Season 10, so perhaps we'll get some more insight or a flashback episode explaining Maggie's departure. But at that point will anyone really care?

8. Best Twist - The Second Time Jump

Best Twist - The Second Time Jump

After already jumping ahead a year and a half at the start of the season, the closing moments of "What Comes After" threw us a huge curveball by revealing that there had been yet another time jump. This one, however, a six-year jump and the series' biggest to date.

The realization of the now ten-year-old Judith Grimes saving the new group of survivors left the viewers in shock. And the fact that Lil' Asskicker was sporting Carl's hat, Rick's gun, and a miniature version of Michonne's katana was all sorts of awesome.

9. Worst Twist - Rick's "Death"

Worst Twist - Rick's "Death"

Ever since it was announced that Andrew Lincoln was leaving The Walking Dead, fans went into a speculation frenzy and trying to figure out how Rick's character would be written out of the show. While "What Comes After" was ranked as one of the series' best episodes, it ironically contains the season's worst twist.

After leading the herd to the bridge, Rick makes one final selfless act to save his friends by blowing up the bridge that he fought so hard to build, supposedly sacrificing himself in the process. While it would have been a tad depressing it would have been more befitting of Rick's character in closing out his arc. Instead, Rick miraculously washes up down the river and whisked away to safety by Jadis' mysterious helicopter group.

While it's nice to know that we'll be getting some original AMC movies that will continue Rick's story, it's hard not to feel a bit cheated with the fact that Rick actually survived.

10. Most Predictable Moment - Maggie Not Killing Negan

Most Predictable Moment - Maggie Not Killing Negan

Come on, was there ever any doubt that Maggie would decide against killing Negan? Show of hands, anyone? After Maggie infiltrated Alexandria and found Negan in his frail and pitiful state, she realized keeping him locked up was a far worse punishment than anything she could do to him.

The series has done so much fluffing with Negan's character over the last couple of seasons, and we've only barely scratched the surface. So, there was no way all of that established work would go to waste. That's because the series has some big plans for the character.

11. Most Interesting Character Development - Negan's Redemption Arc

Most Interesting Character Development - Negan's Redemption Arc

Love him or hate him, Negan is one hell of a charismatic character. Sure, he's done some down-right horrific things, but is Negan truly beyond redemption?

Aside from Carl, Gabriel has been the only person who has been able to get through to Negan and peel back some of those layers and find some semblance of a human being. Can Negan actually redeem himself? Will he end up playing a pivotal role in the coming Whisperer conflict? That remains to be seen, but it will no doubt be a fascinating journey to see where his story goes.

12. Most Shocking Moment - The Whisperers Reveal / Jesus' death.

Most Shocking Moment - The Whisperers Reveal / Jesus' death.
The Walking Dead is notorious for its shocking -- and, at times, questionable -- character deaths and the midseason finale was no exception. While Jesus' death came as a surprise, the manner in which the character went out set the stage for introducing the series' next big bad.

While losing Jesus is an unfortunate loss for the group and the series, the surprise Whisperer attack was such an incredibly powerful introduction to this new terrifying group. While Jesus may have become the Whisperers' first victim, their reign of terror has only just begun.

The Whisperers have quickly established themselves as a true force to be reckoned with.

13. Most Surprising Romance - Gabriel and Rosita

Most Surprising Romance - Gabriel and Rosita
With all of the changes we've seen since the start of the season, the relationship between these two has been the most jarring. After getting his heart broken -- and almost eaten -- at the hands of Anne, the man of God has found love again with Rosita.

There's nothing wrong with finding love in the apocalypse, however out of all of the recent relationship developments, this one feels too forced. The only real purpose that I can see for this pairing is to set one of these two up for an inevitable death. And if I had to choose which character is on the chopping block, my money would be on Gabriel.

Gabriel has had numerous close calls and brushes with death ever since he joined the group back in season five. Unfortunately, Gabriel's luck may finally run out this season.

14. Best Scene: Carol's Revenge

Best Scene: Carol's Revenge
Carol has continuously proven why she is the most ruthless and badass woman on this series. After getting ambushed and robbed by Jed's band of Saviors, Carol seemingly let it roll off her shoulder in an effort to protect Henry, only for her to later track them down and set Jed and his group ablaze while they slept.

It was brutal but absolutely satisfying, and a shining example of how cold-blooded and merciless Carol can be when the lives of her friends and family are threatened.

Watch out, Whisperers!

15. Overall Grade: A-

Overall Grade: A-
There's no denying that the first half of the season has, at times, been hindered by the typical issues that have plagued the series in the past, such as inconsistent writing and questionable storytelling choices. But ultimately, with Angela Kang stepping in as showrunner and the rest of the cast being pushed into the limelight, The Walking Dead Season 9 feels like the breath of fresh air that the series desperately needed and is a significant step in the right direction.

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The Walking Dead
The Walking Dead Season 9 Episode 1: "A New Beginning", The Walking Dead Season 9 Episode 5: "What Comes After", The Walking Dead Season 9 Episode 6: "Who Are You Now?", The Walking Dead Season 9 Episode 7: "Stradivarius", The Walking Dead Season 9 Episode 8: "Evolution", The Walking Dead Season 9 Episode 2: "The Bridge", The Walking Dead Season 9 Episode 3: "Warning Signs", The Walking Dead Season 9 Episode 4: "The Obliged"
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