'Walking Dead' Season 10 premiere: 4 big plot points to remember
From Rick Grimes to The Whisperers. Here's what happened last season.
It’s been 10 years since The Walking Dead first premiered to AMC. A lot has transpired in that time, to be sure. And now, with the tenth season of the series about to touch down on the network, we figured this was the perfect time to revisit the important beats of Season 9 and throw out some speculation on where our heroes — and villains — may go in Season 10.
The story that evolved over the show’s ninth season was built on the foundation of Carl’s dream of rebuilding the numerous communities that comprised the civilization Rick, Michonne, Daryl and the rest tirelessly fought for again and again. With Rick’s son dead, due to a bite from a walker, after saving Siddiq from an attack, that dream held a lot of weight — especially after the previous season’s ongoing battle between the collected forces of The Hilltop, Alexandria, and The Kingdom against Negan and his Saviors.
The first half of Season 9 found the long, drawn-out battle continue. In fact, when looking back, those episodes all relied on Rick’s struggle to follow through on Carl’s wishes while also doubting his role as the group’s leader. Was he better than Negan? Was he the good guy?
That all came to a head once the final face-off between the two men transpired. Instead of murdering the Saviors’ leader right where he stood, Rick slashed his throat (in a non-lethal way, of course) and kept him prisoner at Alexandria. That choice — and an 18 month time jump — helped usher in a new era for the community while setting the stage for an unexpected deadly conflict to emerge in back-half of Season 9.
Spoilers for Walking Dead Season 9 below.
Goodbye, Rick Grimes
Here we were, a year and a half later, and Rick’s leniency towards Negan left his community fractured. You’ve got Maggie, who replaced Gregory as the leader of the Hilltop, whose growing resentment against Rick would blossom into an internal conflict. Then there’s Gregory, who tried to have Maggie killed, only to get publicly hanged as punishment. The Oceanside folks were not at all happy that they had ex Saviors walking among them. And a portion of Negan’s former crew found themselves missing their old way of life.
Tensions were high, and the lack of rations for everyone living in these communities only added to it. Rick had an idea to bring cohesion to things. But his notion to build a bridge that would bring everyone together pretty much backfired, leading more people to become angrier.
Throughout these episodes, Rick continued distancing himself from his people. But it was Carl’s letter — his dream for a new utopian way of living — that ended up bringing him back to reality. Unfortunately for Grimes, things took a dark turn.
He had been trying to divert a gigantic herd of walkers from shambling into his community. In the process, he was thrown from his horse and landed on a bit of rebar, getting impaled in the gut. It was an emotional journey for Grimes, and the audience, as we watched his life flash before his eyes. Ultimately, it seemed as if he made peace with past transgressions and his present situation.
So, as any logical person would, he blew up the bridge — the same bridge they had been building to connect the communities. It’s a big sacrifice, but one that ultimately saved the people of Alexandria. To make matters worse, the whole thing was witnessed by his people, including his lover Michonne and Daryl.
The impact of Rick’s loss reverberates throughout the rest of the season. But as they mourn his death, it was revealed that Grimes doesn’t actually die. The mysterious helicopter we’d seen show up randomly throughout the season picks Rick’s body up from the riverbank. Jadis was inside to tell him he’s a “B” — not the “A” he was previously labeled as in Season 7. What exactly does that mean? We’ll probably find out once the Rick Grimes standalone movie is released.
A lot can change in six years
The Walking Dead after Rick Grimes feels different. His perceived death was needed to bring in a soft reboot. It was a risk, to be sure. But the changes featured in the series have helped push it into some engaging, dangerous territory. The stakes were high, once again.
Six years had gone by. Judith Grimes is now old enough to holster and shoot a gun. She sports her dad’s Sheriff’s hat and has a brother, RJ, who Michonne carried to term once Rick left. While that reveal alludes to progress in the community, it becomes clear that the loss of Grimes — and a close call Michonne had in almost losing her son and a group of Alexandria kids — has left her with major trust issues.
When Judith discovers new survivors Magna, Yumiko, Connie, Kelly and Luke, and brings them back to Alexandria, they’re all met with a pensive Michonne who eyes them all with heavy suspicion.
Instead of welcoming them with open arms, the group is taken to the Hilltop where it’s revealed that Maggie has abandoned her leadership post — leaving with Georgie, the woman who offered her blueprints to rebuild her community after the big Saviors battle from earlier in the season. Jesus had filled her shoes as the new interim leader, but he was reluctant in taking the position, unhappy with the life he had found himself living.
Ezekiel’s Kingdom, unlike The Hilltop, had become a wreck, pretty much falling apart piece by piece. Negan’s Sanctuary was deserted and barren. While Carol and Ezekiel were still a couple, she had turned into a helicopter parent to Henry. But, in the chaotic world of the zombie apocalypse, one can only shield a child from these harsh realities for so long.
What was with Carol and Michonne’s trust issues? We already know they both were parents before the dead began rising from the grave, each suffering grave losses along the way. But there was also an unfortunate event that put Michonne, Daryl, and the Alexandria kids in mortal danger, that transpired in Season 9.
It was revealed that Daryl and Michonne share a similar-looking scar on their backs. This branding came after the sword-wielding survivor brought an old friend from her past into the community. Alexandria got robbed, children were taken, Michonne and Daryl got branded, and the attackers attempted to murder Judith and the rest of the kids.
No one died, other than the criminals who did the abducting, but this whole thing is what left Michonne with the trust issues she continues to carry with her.
Introducing: The Whisperers
Showing off his epic fighting skills, Jesus was able to take a break from his job as Hilltop’s leader to take down a bunch of walkers in a foggy graveyard. But not all the zombies featured in the scene were the actual walking dead. When he attempted to talk down one of the walkers, the corpse was revealed to be an actual living man wearing a skin mask. Jesus was murdered in the process. The Whisperers had arrived.
Daryl and Michonne succeed at taking one of the Whisperers hostage, and she turned out to be a girl named Lydia — the daughter of their psychologically abusive leader, Alpha. Daryl saw something redeemable in the girl, who ended up being held captive for a bit … just like Negan.
In Lydia, Henry found himself a peer he could bond with, giving him a bit of respite away from Carol. But when Lydia was returned to her mother, Henry wasn’t that far behind. If it weren’t for Daryl and Connie, he’d have been killed for sure. Foreshadowing, much?
Lydia ended up being accepted in the community which is great. But Alpha is definitely one to hold a grudge. The Whisperers’ lead just walked right into the Hilltop disguised as one of their own. In a sign of vengeful power, she picked off a bunch of innocents — including Henry, Enid, and Tara — and left their severed, reanimated heads on a row of stakes, signifying one of her many borders.
Siddiq, who was an expecting father after his romantic interlude with Rosita — even though she was coupled with Father Gabriel — was also taken by Alpha. But he was spared in order to relay the horrors he’d witnessed as a warning to the rest of the community. He lied, though, building up their final hours as a heroic story instead of the violent defeat it actually was.
The collected loss was the final nail in the coffin for the Kingdom, which pretty much collapsed after that. Ezekiel and his people began their trek to the Hilltop through a heavy snowstorm. Their journey led them across the border into Alpha’s forbidden zone. The danger was palpable, but they had no other choice — stay and freeze to death, or keep moving and risk a violent demise at the hand of Alpha and her Whisperers. They went with the second option.
Alexandria was hit just as hard by the snow. Judith, unable to find her dog, ventured out into the blizzard to follow the sound of his bark. She probably would’ve frozen to death if Negan, her father’s former foe, didn’t follow close behind to save her and the pup.
The Whisperers War is coming
With relationships crumbling and the deaths of many still weighing heavily on the communities, we have to wonder where things will be heading in Season 10.
One notion that keeps popping up is that of retribution. It’s been ten years of The Walking Dead and if it’s one thing we’ve learned over the years, it’s that through every period of progress and prosperity comes a new big bad, a fresh collection of battles, and a restored sense of perseverance in our heroes to survive and thrive.
Carol and Ezekiel’s marriage buckled under the weight of Henry’s death. Grief and fear have been huge emotional triggers in the series — they’ve held our heroes back, but have also driven them forward in the pursuit of hope, happiness and love.
In the final moments in the Season 9 finale, a voice crackled through Eugene and Rosita’s radio asking, “Is anybody out there?” A handful of important characters were killed off in Season 9. Obviously, this has left the door open for new faces to enter the mix. Whether they’re a friend or foe, is anyone’s guess.
With Daryl and Michonne possibly taking the reigns in Rick’s wake, we have to wonder if we’ll be seeing the infamous Whisperers War from Robert Kirkman’s comic series transpire finally on the small screen. Rick Grimes may not be present to maintain a sense of law and order any more, but complacency just doesn’t seem to work in this devastating reality. Something has to happen, right?
We’ll hopefully find out when Season 10 of The Walking Dead premieres on Sunday, October 6 at 9 pm ET/PT on AMC/