An event meant to foster friendship? What could go wrong?
Warning: This post contains spoilers for The Walking Dead up through Season 9’s midseason finale, “Evolution.”
The first half of The Walking Dead’s Season 9 was overflowing with “stuff and things.” There were two time jumps, a couple of kids grew up, Gabriel kept making out with people, a handful of new characters entered the mix, gruesome new foes The Whisperers claimed their first victim, and some major characters exited stage left. And buried inside all of this were occasional mentions of… a fair?
Yes, as if King Ezekiel didn’t already feel ripped from a Renaissance Fair, he’s calling for an actual fair, seemingly as a way to heal the tensions between the communities. For whatever reason – since we don’t know the strained history yet – The Kingdom needs this fair. More than, say, Hilltop and Alexandria. Somehow, when the lines of communication and cooperation broke down, The Kingdom possibly got the worst end of the deal. We already know their facilities are crumbling, in a state of decay, but are they low on food and supplies as well?
So what is the fair, exactly?
Well, they haven’t said on the show. Not specifically. But from the comics, and our own best guesses, we know that it’s basically a big farmer’s market-slash-swap meet. It’ll have booths and stands with produce and wares on display. It’s a big event where the townships can converge and present the best of their cooking, crafts, and overall ingenuity. It’s a place where people can meet each other for the first time (or the first time in a long while) and chip away at the zompocalypse isolation. Ideas can be shared. Revelry can be had. You get the gist.
The “fair,” as it stands, is also a rather big tipping point in the comics (because what isn’t, really?). Due to this, we’re going to delve into potential future spoilers here, so if you want to shield your eyes, we understand. It won’t get too specific, if we can help it.
Season 9 is mirroring the big moments from the comics as best it can. As always, there are deviations, both big and small. Lining up with the books is: Gregory getting hanged, Negan’s cell door being open, Rosita being in a relationship (they just swapped her suitor), and the Whisperers finally descending on the gang. But things are also super different. Rick and Carl are gone. That’s huge. Maggie’s also off somewhere. Oh, and Jesus got killed off. These don’t sync up with the books at all, so it’s not like we can predict the future on this series exactly – but all signs point to this fair, which will happen somehow, despite Michonne’s staunch anti-fair opinions (Siddiq will probably talk her into it), being as big a deal as it was in the comics.
Over the course of issues #143 and #144, the fair brought the denizens of these scattered communities together for mirth and comm-irth. Goods were traded, the populace prospered – even Earl got to show off his smelted spearheads. But there were wolves in their midst.
And like all best-laid plans on The Walking Dead, the fair took a nasty turn. Things went south, hard. Yes, the event that was supposed to bring the communities together ultimately birthed more chaos and horror. In the comics, the gruesome acts happened off-page, twelve people died. Some of whom were major characters.
Do we expect the show to kill off twelve characters? Well, maybe not twelve, because the series doesn’t have as many people to play around with as the comics did – though there are definitely enough random nameless people within the communities to facilitate this body count (including those horrible Hilltop Teens!). The real question is: Who’s getting killed off? Will they stick with the big names from the comic story or will they shake things up a bit and “mix tape” the tragedy?
Also, given the pace of the series and how it has a tendency to drag things out, do we expect this big harrowing reveal to happen in the season finale? That’s eight episodes of build-up, for sure, but if any show can stretch story beyond its proper elasticity, it’s this one.
So let’s assume, for now, that the fair is half a season away. We still have to learn about, or get a flashback episode about, the events that caused the big communal rift. Someone still has to talk Michonne into the fair. There are the Whisperers to deal with – and officially meet. Negan will Negan his heart out. Henry’ll probably do a four or five stupid things. Yeah, we can see how things might play out.
If you want to know Samantha Morton as Alpha, Ryan Hurst as Beta, and Cassady McClincy as Lydia, when the Whisperers get introduced as an official ferocious faction.
The Walking Dead will return for the second half of Season 9 on February 10, 2019. Check out our interview with Tom Payne about Jesus’ last stand and watch our explainer on The Whisperers below.
Matt Fowler is a writer for IGN and a member of the Television Critics Association. Follow him on Twitter at @TheMattFowler and Facebook at Facebook.com/MattBFowler.