In true blink-and-you’ll-miss-it fashion, The Walking Dead midseason nine premiere paid tribute to the late Glenn Rhee (Steven Yeun) and Abraham Ford (Michael Cudlitz) in subtle but powerful fashion, all through the unlikely avatar of the man who smashed their heads in with a baseball bat: Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan).
Sunday’s episode, “Adaptation,” primarily focuses on escalating tensions between the main cast of survivors and their new nemeses, the Whisperers, led by Alpha (Samantha Morton). Simultaneously, another story plays out, focusing on an old foe slowly turning into a begrudging friend: Negan, who was last seen in the midseason finale stepping out of his prison cell in an Alexandria basement, the place he’s called home for nearly a decade.
Throughout “Adaptation,” Negan walks through the zombie apocalypse for the very first time since he was taken down by Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) at the end of season eight’s “All-Out War.” It doesn’t take long for Negan to discover he no longer has the same stomach of steel — quite literally, in fact, as he drinks water from a river, prompting him to violently vomit in the middle of a clearing.
And not just any clearing, as it turns out. It’s the Clearing, with a capital “C,” the same place where Negan killed Glenn and Abraham.
“The Clearing,” as it’s come to be known within both the Walking Dead crew as well as fan circles, is a location on the Riverwood Studios set where Walking Dead films in Senoia, Georgia. It’s been used for a number of filming purposes, such as housing Father Gabriel’s church in season five. Most famously, it’s where the Walking Dead cast and crew members bid a painful farewell to Yeun and Cudlitz as Glenn and Abraham respectively, their brains bashed into oblivion, launching the zombie drama forward into a period of divisive darkness.