The Walking Dead showrunner on that huge Whisperers reveal and what’s next

SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you have already watched Sunday’s “Evolution” midseason finale of The Walking Dead.

Talking zombies? What’s that all about? We finally got our answer on Sunday’s “Evolution” midseason finale of The Walking Dead when Daryl investigated one of the corpses and discovered these whispering, strategically-thinking walkers that were following them were actually humans wearing zombie skin masks on their faces.

First of all, gross. Secondly, what does it mean moving forward, especially with our heroes still trapped in that cemetery? We went to showrunner Angela Kang for answers on that and more — like, why kill Jesus?!? Jesus was the Whisperers first victim when he was caught off guard by their decidedly human tactics. We asked Kang why Jesus had to go and what that means for the story heading into the second half of season 9. She shares intel on what went down and what is to come. Read through both pages for the entire interview, and also make sure to check out our interview with the departing Tom Payne.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Someone had to be the Whisperers first victim. That victim ended up being Jesus. Why him, because obviously that’s a much earlier demise for him here than in the comics?
ANGELA KANG: There ae a lot of factors that go into what characters are the one. I think in this case, Jesus is really somebody whose life has a great impact on the characters both leading up to this point, but also leading forward. These characters are split apart more than they ever have been. Jesus kind of stands for a particular philosophy of togetherness and unity. Hilltop, where he’s been filling in for Maggie, is dealing with challenges of leadership and who needs to step up there while the other communities have their own challenges.

So our characters, they’re survivors and they need to deal with a lot of things. It was really exciting to see Tom, as Jesus, get to do a huge fight sequence and go out with a hero’s death. That character is a heroic character who sacrificed himself for the others, and so it was definitely really gratifying to see how well that all came together in the end on screen.

How does it feel from your end being the executioner now and having to make these decisions?
Killing is actually not very fun on this show, but it is part of the narrative of what these people go through.. People die in the apocalypse, and yet the ripple effects of those characters carry on for a long time afterwards.

So I asked you this last week. I’m going ask you again now, since clearly Jesus and Aaron are not going to be a couple moving forward. That would be a little creepy. But where were they when this all goes down? Were they on their way, maybe, to being that since they became a couple in the comic, or was that just not really in play at all?
They were not a couple at this point. We were trying to portray that these two had developed a really deep friendship and have a kinship with each other. They certainly have a lot in common in terms of their belief systems are very similar. They were both recruiters for their respective communities, and in a lot of ways Jesus and Aaron at this point in the story were carrying the torch of shouldn’t-we-all-be-unified-again? Wouldn’t that be great? But also in a lot of ways, it was a way for Jesus to escape certain responsibilities that he had back at home. And for Aaron it was just a way to stay connected to this other community. They certainly cared about each other. Whether that was romantic, that wasn’t part of the story here.

And then Jesus’s story on the show has ended, although it’s not necessarily the last time we’ll ever see him because we had a six-year time jump. But Jesus, as we’ve portrayed him on the show, is somebody who really had issues with being close to people. Much like Daryl, who has his own version of those kinds of issues, it’s not easy for him to become close to people at all. Jesus has kept his circle relatively tight and part of his evolution over time is that that circle was widening. So that’s really where they were at with each other at the point of the end of the season.

Let’s talk about that big reveal at the end where Daryl takes off the skin mask of the walker and reveals it’s a regular old human under there. Did you come across that pretty early in terms of, hey, this is our midseason ending point?
Yeah, we established this little mystery of, are the walkers evolving? And I felt that we really needed the answer by the end of the midseason. I didn’t want to carry that mystery over as a cliffhanger into the next half of the season. We should at least get one answer, because there are a lot of twists and turns to the Whisperers storyline in general.

So we wanted to at least set the table and have our characters find that there is a human factor at play, but a very strange human factor that’s unlike any that we’ve encountered so far. The masks are really creepy and strange, and coming off of the shocking death of Jesus in the moment, it’s something that our characters are just trying to process so much at the end of the season. So much has happened in the space of just seconds, really, for them.

Let’s start to look ahead a little bit: Will we pick back up in 2019 pretty much right after this moment with them trapped in this foggy cemetery?
We pick things up pretty quickly on top of where we left off, and our people are there and they obviously are gonna have to fight their way out. But they will make yet another strange and shocking discovery along the way within the episode, and the story kind of unfolds from there. We’ll also get to see what exactly is going on with Negan, now that he’s stepped out of his cell. He gets his jail-break, and he goes out there in the world. So I think there’s some really cool stuff coming up with Jeffrey as Negan in the next episode as well as just in that main story having to do with the Whisperers and that unfolding narrative that happens.

I find the Negan stuff post “All Out War” really fascinating in how it played out in the comic. I can’t wait to see what you’re going do with it there, and I’m sure Jeffrey digs it because he’s getting to show a lot of different shades of that character now as well.
Yeah, he’s been doing amazing work. It’s really cool to get to see him do stuff that’s really different from the past year. Because Negan is definitely going through a lot of things emotionally and finding what his place is in this world after many years in a jail cell. So that’s a story that I’m excited for people to see going forward. (Interview continues on next page with more scoop on what comes next.)

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