The Walking Dead will return with the second half of Season Nine Sunday, February 10 on AMC, Talking Dead host Chris Hardwick announced Sunday.
The back half of the season will explore the survivors' war with the territorial Whisperers, a cult of barbaric nomads who wear the skinned flesh of walkers as a form of extreme camouflage.
This new enemy group was revealed in the closing moments of the mid-season finale after Jesus (Tom Payne) was struck down by a Whisperer posing as a walker. Daryl (Norman Reedus) then removed the "walker's" sewn on face, only to discover a fresh human corpse underneath.
"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."
The story will resolve that mild cliffhanger — Daryl, Michonne (Danai Gurira), Aaron (Ross Marquand), and Magna (Nadia Hilkes) and Yumiko (Eleanor Matsuura) surrounded by Whisperers in a foggy cemetery — and the mid-season premiere will "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," Kang said.
"But they will make yet another strange and shocking discovery along the way within the episode, and the story kind of unfolds from there."
Kang also revealed February's mid-season premiere will follow Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), who gets his first taste of freedom in nearly eight years after distracted caretaker Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) inadvertently left his jail cell unlocked.
"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," Kang teased.
"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."
The Walking Dead returns with new episodes Sunday, February 10 at 9/8c on AMC.