SPOILER ALERT: Do not keep reading if you have not seen the midseason finale of “The Walking Dead” Season 9, titled “Evolution”

In the Season 9 midseason finale of “The Walking Dead,” fans finally get their first official look at the long-awaited villains, The Whisperers.

But first…

The rescue team consisting of Daryl (Norman Reedus), Jesus (Tom Payne), Aaron (Ross Marquand), and Dog comes across a walker herd that is not moving like a normal walker herd. But the group has no time to worry about the herd’s behavior, as they must find Eugene (Josh McDermitt) before it’s too late.

In Alexandria, Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) sits with Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and tries to instruct him in spirituality. Negan is happy to simply needle Gabriel, particularly about his relationship with Rosita (Christian Serratos). Gabriel eventually leaves in frustration, only to learn that riders from Hilltop have come to report that Rosita has been found injured in the woods.

Michonne (Danai Gurira) has finally reached Hilltop along with Siddiq (Avi Nash) and the new group: Magna (Nadia Hilker), Luke (Dan Fogler), Connie (Lauren Ridloff), Kelly (Angel Theory), and Yumiko (Eleanor Matsuura). In a taste of how frosty relations have gotten between the communities, Hilltop initially seals its gates to those approaching until they all surrender their weapons.

Once inside, Michonne speaks with Tara (Alanna Masterson), who fills her in on what they know about the Rosita-Eugene situation. Tara also informs the newcomers that Jesus will have to decide what happens to them, but they will expected to earn their keep should they stay. Michonne also runs into Carol (Melissa McBride), who is heading back to the Kingdom after dropping off Henry (Matt Lintz). Carol asks that Alexandria send a delegation to the fair, but Michonne once again declines.

Henry, meanwhile, has begun his apprenticeship at the blacksmith. He bumps into Enid (Katelyn Nacon). Henry is smitten with Enid, so he is heartbroken when he sees her kiss Alden (Callan McAuliffe). Later at dinner, Henry barely touches his food. When he goes to clear his plate, he meets three other young residents of Hilltop: Gage (Jackson Pace), Addy (Kelley Mack), and Rodney (Joe Ando Hirsh). They’ve noticed Henry moping around and decide to cheer him up by inviting him to their after-hours activities beyond the walls.

Michonne and Siddiq sit with an unconscious Rosita, who suddenly awakens. Rather than rest, she demands to go out after the search party, saying they have no idea what they are up against.

Back with the search party, Daryl concludes that the herd is still following them. He plans to distract it by chucking an old alarm clock into the tall grass, drawing the herd to the sound once it goes off. Once the herd comes into view, Jesus realizes it has doubled in size from the last time they saw it.

As the hunt continues, a storm rolls in on the search party. They eventually find the barn where Eugene is hiding. Once they find him, he begins to tell them that he and Rosita heard the walkers whispering to each other, and that the herd that has been tailing the search party has been hunting for him as well. The other three don’t believe it, until the herd begins approaching the barn.

Once they get out on the road, Eugene shares a theory that the walkers are evolving, giving them the ability to speak and strategize. Daryl offers to stay behind and distract the herd, giving Jesus and Aaron the chance to get Eugene, who is still injured from his fall off the water tower, to safety.

At Alexandria, Negan continues to poke at Gabriel, leading Gabriel to snap at the former Savior while cleaning up his cell. He tells Negan of his frustration that he cannot help Rosita as he is charged with taking care of him. That night, Negan sits in his cell bouncing a ball. When it rolls beyond the bars of his cell, Negan gets up and realizes the door is unlocked.

Henry parties with the other Hilltop kids at their forest clubhouse, which includes drinking some of their moonshine liquor. The group then shows Henry that they have a walker trapped in a pit nearby. As they taunt and torment it, Henry jumps in and kills it with his bo staff. Later, Tara leads Earl the blacksmith (John Finn) down to the cells beneath the Hilltop main house. Henry is there, sleeping off his drunkenness. He shares his story with Earl, who sympathizes given his own issues with alcohol.

Daryl uses firecrackers and Dog’s barking to again distract the herd, but he is flabbergasted when they ignore the diversion and continue on after Eugene, Aaron, and Jesus. The trio moves as fast they can, eventually taking refuge behind the stone walls of a cemetery. The herd pushes through a small break in the wall and continues after them. They try to open a metal gate they find but it is wedged shut. As the walkers close in, Jesus and Aaron turn to face them.

After they’ve dispatched a number of the walkers, Michonne appears on the other side of the gate and tries to pry it open. Magna and Yumiko arrive just after Michonne, saying they have come to earn their keep. Aaron goes to help with the gate as Jesus continues to fight the walkers. As he goes to finish one, however, it suddenly moves quickly out of the way and stabs Jesus with a hidden knife. As it does, it whispers in his ear, “You are where you do not belong.”

The others are stunned, but more walkers begin attacking out of the darkness carrying weapons. Luckily, Daryl is there to fire off a few well-placed crossbow bolts. They examine the walker that killed Jesus, with Daryl discovering that it is actually a human who was wearing a mask made of walker flesh.