The Walking Dead season 9 recap is a last resort for those who simply don’t have the time, energy, or willpower to get through all 16 episodes of the latest chapter in AMC’s long standing zombie serial show. While this season is a new highpoint for The Walking Dead at large, it’s still exceptionally long winded and meandering compared to the shorter, snappier shows you often find on Netflix and other streaming services nowadays.
With that in mind, our easily digestible episode-by-episode summaries found in The Walking Dead season 9 recap can get you caught up on everything that’s happened so far in a matter of minutes, months before The Walking Dead season 10 trailers began to surface later in the summer this year. From Rick Grimes’ exit to the war with The Whisperers, spoilers are abound as we go through the entire narrative of The Walking Dead season 9 (in consecutive order) in just a handful of paragraphs.
The season 9 premiere kicks off with a trip to Washington D.C., as Rick, Maggie, Daryl, and several others scavenge the city for vehicles, farming tools, and more. The only fatality of the trip is Kim, a character who we’ve never met before and is quickly killed off after the double whammy of being bit by a Walker and kicked in the chest by a horse. On the way back from Washington, Ezekiel casually proposes to Carol, who resolutely declines the offer.
Back at home, trouble is brewing at Sanctuary after pro-Negan graffiti is found scrawled across the walls, while Rick has trouble persuading Maggie to help out her neighbouring communities by sending more of Hilltop's workers and fighters. Speaking of Hilltop, we learn that Maggie is now the town’s official leader following an election against Gregory, who is extremely bitter about the situation. He plays the snake in the ear to Kim’s grieving parents, inebriating the father, Earl, and egging him on to make a play for Maggie’s life while she’s out with her baby Hershel(!) at night. The assassination attempt fails, and Hilltop’s leader responds by imprisoning Earl and hanging Gregory at the gallows, with Rick, Michonne, and Jesus watching on in horror.
The Bridge focuses on the survivor’s collaborative efforts to rebuild the damaged bridge first seen in A New Beginning. It’s proving difficult to get Saviours to cooperative in the project, however, especially as one particular thug is causing trouble, first by bullying young Henry and then failing to do his part in Walker crowd control, leading a herd straight into Daryl, Aaron, and a few other saviours on log-lifting duty. During the panic, Aaron’s arm gets crushed by falling log, forcing Enid to amputate it completely back at camp. Daryl is pissed at the saviour responsible for the disaster, beating him repeatedly and trading verbal blows with Rich, who instead decides upon banishment as the most appropriate punishment. Alas, before he can make it very far, the exile is murdered by an unknown assailant.
Meanwhile, Anne and Gabriel develop a burgeoning romance but, during her night shift, the former spots that same helicopter she tried to flag down in season 8, and is visibly worried by its presence. Michonne travels to Hilltop to bargain with Maggie, who’s angry that the Saviours still haven’t turned up with her shipment of fuel. In the end, she releases her blacksmith and would-be killer Earl from imprisonment, which in turn allows Hilltop to spare more resources for Alexandria, Sanctuary, and The Kingdom. Oh, and Negan shows up right at the end, taunting Rick from his Alexandria-based prison cell with predictions of doom and destruction. Welp.
Rick decides to take some time off from being a weathered leader to enjoy some R&R with Michonne and Judith, but when a riot threatens to break out in the woods, his vacation is cut short. The Saviours are getting agitated about the mysterious deaths of several members of their team, forcing Rick to investigate potential suspects. Many are suspicious of Anne, who sneaks off to her old Junkyard to reestablish contact with the helicopter she spotted in the last episode, and strikes a deal for an evac. Gabriel follows her there, and upon discovering her intentions to flee, tells Anne that he plans to inform Rick about everything. In response, Anne knocks out her lover, presumably to use him as her bargaining chip for safe passage with the chopper.
After Rick fails to find the murderer and soothe tensions, an aggressive trio of Saviours capture Carol and threaten to kill her unless Alexandria gives them back their guns. Thankfully, Rick and Carol are able to get the upper hand against them, but spares the contingent from punishment by death. Meanwhile, Maggie, and Daryl catch Oceanside red-handed, performing an execution on one of the Saviours during the night. Cyndie admits to the killings, but neither Daryl or Maggie do anything to stop them, instead walking away like it never happened, with the former ominously telling the latter that “it’s time to see Negan”.
Michonne is finding it difficult to adjust to life in Alexandria, sneaking out at night to let off some steam by killing as many zombies as she can find. After a heart-to-heart with Negan, who is refusing to eat, she begins to worry whether she’s starting to turn into the former Savior king himself. Meanwhile, Anne decides to spare Gabriel's life, instead knocking him out and fleeing alone, presumably via the mysterious helicopter we still know so little about. Maggie begins her infiltration into Alexandria, while Daryl prevents Rick from stopping her by literally punching him into a giant pit.
Both stuck at the bottom, the pair hash out their differences just in time to stop a massive herd of zombies overcoming the camp in the forest, who have been drawn there after a group of Saviors open fire upon Carol and The Kingdom. Having barely escaped the pit, Rick tries to draw away the herd from his people on horseback, but accidentally leads them into another massive herd along the way. Before he can even do anything to stop them merging, Rick’s horse panics and hurls him onto an open pipe, leaving him skewered and unconscious as the zombies close in en masse. Aaaand cut to black.
After freeing himself from a tricky situation, Rick deliriously meanders back to the bridge with the herd of zombies hot on his tail, experiencing all sorts of throwback hallucinations along the way. Meanwhile, Maggie finally makes it to Alexandria and, after a tense chat with Michonne, reacquaints with Negan with the intent to kill him. But the man in the cell is a husk where Negan used to be, and Maggie decides imprisonment to be a fate worse than death for the former villain, leaving him to wail and rot in his confinement.
Rick makes it to the bridge just before Maggie, Daryl, Michonne and Carol find him, and realises that, in order to prevent the herd making it to Alexandria, he must blow himself, his bridge, and thousands of zombies into oblivion by shooting some conveniently placed dynamite on the floor. The entire thing is sent tumbling in the river, but Rick washes ashore downstream next to Anne, who smuggles him out of Atlanta via the mysterious helicopter she's been in contact with since The Walking Dead season 9's beginning. Flash forward six years later, and we meet a young Judith Grimes saving a new group survivors from a pack of zombies.
Following on from the six year time jump, Who Are You Now? is all about catching viewers up on the highlights that have happened in between. Alexandria is thriving, with its council of OG characters implementing a strict immigration policy following some unknown event that has apparently lead to Michonne being branded with an 'X' on her back and has isolated the three main communities from each other. Speaking of, Michonne is now a single mother to Rick's two children, Judith and the newly introduced R.J., while Carol and Ezekiel are leading The Kingdom as royals, having adopted Henry as their surrogate son.
Meanwhile, Daryl is wandering the earth as a nomadic hermit; Gabriel and Rosita are lovers; Negan appears to be on the path to redemption (despite still being locked up in his cell); the Saviours are all but dead (with Carol burning alive the last remaining remnants); and The Whisperers show up right at the end, pursuing Rosita and a smitten Eugene amongst a large Walker herd. After Alexandria's council votes against accepting the four new survivors from episode 6 into their ranks, Michonne promises to take them to Hilltop, where an unnamed female leader awaits. Carol, Henry, and Daryl are also on their way to the agrarian community, so expect to see a reunion of sorts in episode 7.
Michonne, Siddiq, and new character DJ escort Luke, Connie, Kelly, Magna, and Yumiko to Hilltop, but tensions escalate as Michonne's paranoia results in the accidental slicing of Luke's favourite instrument, the Stradivarius of the title. Eventually, Siddiq reveals to Michonne that Maggie has left Hilltop for The Commonwealth, telling few people outside of the community's walls in the process, and it's implied that the pair were not on speaking terms before she departed.
Meanwhile, at Hilltop, Jesus is struggling to rule with zeal as the community's newly elected leader, and often sneaks out for some one-on-one training time with Aaron. It's during this excursion that the pair come across Rosita, who's in bad shape after a run-in with The Whisperers, having lost Eugene somewhere along the way. It's around the same time that Carol and Henry make a pit stop at Daryl's camp in the woods, where he and his new pet dog have been living it rough while still searching for Rick's body. Daryl agrees to look after Henry during his stay at Hilltop, but upon making it there, Jesus asks him to come out with Tara to look for Eugene, at which point the episode wraps up.
Aaron, Jesus, and Daryl go on a search and rescue mission for Eugene, only to encounter a herd of Walkers that is somehow tailing them at high speed. The trio eventually find Eugene hidden up in a barn, and flee to a nearby cemetery to try and escape their undead pursuers. Meanwhile, Michonne and her escorted quartet of new survivors reach Hilltop, only to receive a frosty welcome from Tara, now the community's de facto leader in Jesus' absence.
Henry and Carol are also at the settlement, with the former already aggrieved upon discovering Enid's budding romance with Alden, and subsequently mixing himself in with Hilltop's teenage rebels, who like to trap Walkers in holes for fun. Back at Alexandria, Gabriel accidentally leaves Negan's prison cell unlocked, allowing the villain to make a last minute escape following seven years of incarceration. But back to the cemetery where, upon defending his friends from an onslaught of Walkers, Jesus is killed by a Whisperer with a knife, leaving everyone else to mourn as a the group of zombie imitating cultists descend upon them.
After The Whisperers kill Jesus, the gang quickly make their escape from the graveyard, only to take Lydia - a young girl from the zombie-mask wearing cult - hostage back at Hilltop. She refuses to say much, but strikes up a friendship with Henry, who's also spending time in Hilltop's cells for juvenile delinquency.
Meanwhile, Negan makes his long overdue escape from Alexandria, only to survey his former kingdom at Sanctuary and realise there's nothing there for him anymore, returning to the community that calls him its prisoner alongside Judith. Oh, and we also discover that Rosita (who's dating Gabriel) is pregnant with Sadiq's baby, right after Eugene professes his love to her... cool cool cool. Finally, Luke and Alden - who were searching for their missing friends - get captured by Alpha and her Whisperer gang, thus ending the episode.
Omega is focused mainly on a series of flashbacks told by Alpha’s daughter, Lydia, to Henry in Hilltop’s cells, as we learn about how her mother became the merciless leader of The Whisperers she is today. Turns out this former meek and mild housewife let Lydia’s father be killed by the undead, and has become a cold-blooded disciplinarian ever since. Daryl isn’t swayed by Lydia opening up, but Henry, having developed a fondness for the girl, eventually decides to let her out in the dead of night.
But Lydia is clearly overwhelmed at the sight of a loving, safe community and asks to be locked back up into the comfort of the cell. Meanwhile, Yumiko, Connie, Kelly, and Magna go out looking for Luke and Alden, to find nothing, but on their way back to Hilltop discover that Alpha has decided to show up at the gates, asking for her daughter, which is where the episode comes to a close.
Alpha confronts Alexandria at the gates with a trade; Alden and Luke for her daughter, Lydia. Daryl is willing to make the deal, but Henry - now head over heels for his new Whisperer girlfriend - sneaks her out instead. In the meantime, Alpha shows her true colours by forcing one of her followers to leave their baby to the Walkers, but Connie jumps in at the last moment to save the child, when then gets adopted by Earl and Tammy.
Henry eventually gives up Lydia, and the Whisperers return home, but - angered by the situation - the idiot teenager sneaks out again to go and get her back, with a beleaguered Daryl in tow. Meanwhile, Ezekiel and his Kingdom successfully scavenge a projector from an infested cinema, where literally nothing of worth happens to accelerate the season's overall story.
Henry attempts to rescue Lydia from her mother, Alpha, at the Whisperer camp, but ends up getting caught in the process. As a prisoner, he watches Alpha brutally put down an internal rebellion, before he and Lydia escape her clutches with the help of Daryl, Connie, and Dog.
Back at Alexandria, Michonne is reluctant to allow the community to take part in the upcoming Fair with Hilltop and The Kingdom, but eventually reneges her power to allow the council to vote on the matter. Sadiq, Gabriel, and Rosita appear to enter a co-parenting arrangement with the former and latter's baby, after a lovesick Eugene pushes Gabriel in the right direction. Meanwhile, Negan is back in his cell, but his attempts to talk his way out of it are met with disdain by Michonne, but a more hopeful Judith may win her round just yet…
On the run from The Whisperers, Daryl, Connie, Lydia, Henry and Dog take their stand in a high rise building, with Beta hot on their tale. After a tense tussle, Daryl leaves Beta for dead (spoilers: he's still alive!) at the bottom of an elevator shaft, and the group gets back on the road to become permanent nomads.
Meanwhile, The Kingdom strikes a bargain with new group The Highwaymen; protect the roads between Hilltop, Alexandria, Oceanside, and themselves, and they'll let them participate in the upcoming trade fair... and give them access to The Kingdom's home theatre. The apocalyptic cowboys make good on the deal, as evidenced by their rescue of Alexandria's delegation to the fair, headed up by Tara.
Mercy takes place in two separate timelines. The first is set a few months after Rick's death, where a new survivor called Jocelyn shows up at the gates of Alexandria. Turns out she's an old friend of Michonne's, and is harbouring several orphaned children in a nearby safehouse. Alexandria enjoys their presence for a time, but when Jocelyn abducts all of the community's younglings and flees, Michonne and Daryl take pursuit. The pair are eventually caught and tortured by her band of manipulated kids, but after escaping, Michonne is forced to commit the unthinkable, killing both Jocelyn and her orphans to save Judith's life.
In the present timeline, Judith is angry with Michonne for not letting Alexandria attend the trade fair or helping Daryl escort Henry and Lydia to The Kingdom. Like father like daughter, the 11 year old decides to take matters into her own hands and head out to save Daryl, but winds up in a Walker shaped hole of trouble of her own. Luckily, Michonne catches up, rescues her surrogate daughter once again, and the pair have a heart to heart before making their way to the trade fair.
The day of the trade fair at The Kingdom. While most are enjoying the festivities, Daryl, Carol, Yumiko, and Magna head out to protect Hilltop from potential attack from The Whisperers. Unbeknownst to them, Alpha has infiltrated the trade fair itself dressed as a normal survivor, and subsequently captures several people (off-screen) before anyone even realises what has happened.
Some time later, Alpha confronts Daryl with an ultimatum on the outskirts of The Kingdom. She'll let Lydia stay with The Kingdom, but cross over into Whisperer territory again, and she'll unleash a horde of Walkers onto the communities. How do you know where the borders begin and end, you ask? She's marked it quite clearly, with the piked heads of Ozzy, Alek, D.J., Frankie, Tammy Rose, Rodney, Addy, Enid, Tara, and Henry atop a hill. A few months later, and we learn that Winter is coming to The Walking Dead, but we'll have to wait for the finale to see what that entails...
Winter has set into the zombie apocalypse, and The Kingdom has fallen to environmental degradation. Michonne and a few others from Alexandria are helping its citizens migrate to Hilltop, but the journey requires crossing over into Whisperer territory. Meanwhile, back at Alexandria, Rosita, Eugene, Gabriel, Sadiq leads the populace (including Negan) into a safer, warmer part of the settlement, but Judith gets lost amidst the storm looking for Daryl’s dog.
Luckily, Negan is there to rescue her and, once Michonne returns from the Hilltop migration (which succeeds without a single fatality), she considers letting him live freely in Alexandria. After Winter has passed, “Kingtop” is now in regular contact with Alexandria, but after Ezekiel leaves the room after talking with Judith, a mysterious voice comes in on the radio: “Hello? Can you hear me? Is anybody out there?” Before you can even ask who it might be, though, The Walking Dead season 9 comes to a finite close. Dammit!
All done? Good, now go check out our thoughts, theories, and questions about what the upcoming Walking Dead movies could be about.