Warning! SPOILERS ahead for The Walking Dead mid-season premiere & comics!
The Walking Dead season 9 midseason premiere introduced Lydia (Cassady McClincy), one of the Whisperers who attacked Jesus and the other survivors in the season 9 midseason finale. She was taken prisoner by Daryl, Michonne, and the rest of them. But who is she, really, and what's her purpose on The Walking Dead?
The Walking Dead season 9 marks a moment of change for the long-running AMC series. Major characters like Rick Grimes and Maggie Rhee have left the show, and come season 10, Michonne is expected to depart as well. The show also experienced a time jump this season, and along with the new characters joining the series, child characters like Judith and Henry have grown up and been recast.
And speaking of Henry, with Carl no longer on The Walking Dead (having been killed off in season 8), it's speculated that Henry will now assume Carl's role in the Whisperers arc, leading him to befriend this mysterious young woman as Carl does in the comics.
Lydia In The Walking Dead Comics
AMC's The Walking Dead has never been a strict adaptation of the Image Comics' series on which it's based, but the show does tap into the comic's more memorable moments when it suits them. And in the case of adapting the Whisperer arc, Carl experiences some momentous things - all of which tie back to his relationship with Lydia. The two meet in a similar fashion as to what's so far occurred on The Walking Dead season 9: being among the group of Whisperers who attack the survivors, Lydia is taken back to the Hilltop as a prisoner. She's placed in a cell next to Carl (who, like Henry, is locked up as punishment for foolish adolescent behavior) and once alone, Lydia starts up a conversation with him.
Through both the interrogations of Maggie and Jesus (who, unlike in the show, is still alive) and her conversations with Carl, more about Lydia is revealed. She's not only a Whisperer, but the daughter of their leader - Alpha. She's 16, so a little older than Carl, and she and her mother have been traveling as part of the Whisperers since the early days of the outbreak. Lydia obeys her mother, following the Whisperers' savage code, and while she believes that hiding among the dead has kept her safe, she doesn't really enjoy or buy in to their lifestyle.
As she grows closer with Carl and their relationship becomes a sexual one, Lydia shares with him that she was raped by some the Whisperer men, explaining it's customary in their 'survival of the strongest' society for members to simply take what they want. In time, Lydia gains the trust of the other survivors and comes to think of Hilltop as her home. And eventually, Alpha publicly disowns her daughter and tells Rick to keep her, secretly confiding in him that she believes he's the only one who can protect Lydia.
Lydia In The Walking Dead TV Show
Just how closely The Walking Dead TV show's version of Lydia will adhere to the comic version remains to be seen, but her introduction in the midseason premiere suggests they won't be straying too far. If anything, McClincy's Lydia appears a little less willing to cooperate than her comic book counterpart, initially lying to Michonne and Tara when they try and get information from her. When Lydia's later confronted by Daryl, she's even a bit defiant, sneering as she tells him, "walls don't make you safe."
This change in Lydia's attitude might suggest that the Whisperers aren't as horrific to her as they are in the comics and that she may not be as opposed to their way of life. Then again, it may just be that the Whisperers' brainwashing will be tougher to crack, and it will only be as Lydia grows closer with Henry - who, after trying to intervene in Daryl's interrogation, earns himself an extended sentence - that she will come to understand that the survivors at Hilltop are not her enemy.
The Walking Dead season 9 airs Sundays on AMC.