There was a time not that long ago when The Walking Dead was the most-watched show in cable television history. The glory days of AMC’s long-running zombie series, however, have since passed. And with Season 9’s perceived death of Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), the temporary exits of Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh), and the actual deaths of Jesus (Tom Payne), Tara (Alana Masterson), Enid (Katelyn Nacon) and Henry (Matthew Lintz), it felt like the series was shambling off into the woods like one of the many flesh-hungry zombies featured throughout the show.
But something interesting happened towards the back-half of Season 9. Rick’s absence, along with two different time jumps, helped give the series a hard reset. New characters were introduced, filling out our team of heroes at The Kingdom, Hilltop and Oceanside. And The Whisperers — the creepiest villains to appear in the program, thus far — made their presence known in the most savage way possible.
Suddenly, the show felt interesting again, and on October 6, The Walking Dead returned with both a familiar flair and sinister new swagger. Welcome to the new era.
The Season 10 premiere of The Walking Dead, titled “Lines We Cross,” featured another mini time jump. Our group of heroes, led by Aaron (Ross Marquand) and Michonne (Danai Gurira), are shown running battle exercises on the beach against a cavalcade of walkers. Guns and bullets have been replaced by spears, arrows and medieval-style shields.
It’s been many months since the Kingdom fell, leading Ezekiel (Khary Payton) and his people to converge with the Hilltop. And in that time, Alpha (Samantha Morton) and the Whisperers have all but disappeared. But the fear has remained — multiple borders around the perimeter signify her territory, instilling instant terror in anyone who contemplates crossing.
During their zombie beach battle drill, the crew discovers one of the walkers wearing a skin mask — the same type of skin mask Alpha and her people wear to lurk amongst the dead. The threat of a pending Whisperers attack is still very real. And while Daryl (Norman Reedus) and the rest of the crew have followed Alpha’s rules and not crossed into her territory, it seems that at least one of her minions didn’t offer up the same courtesy.
The discovery of this mask sends everyone into a panic. It’s Aaron who first decides to venture to one of her borders on a bridge, prompting Michonne to do her best to reign him in. But when a campsite is found with a human skin resting on a log to dry, panic is further stoked.
As Michonne puts it, fear can be the instigator in tearing their community apart. She should know. It’s happened multiple times before. But with the loss the group has suffered at the hands of Alpha and her group, Aaron provides his own counter-argument: Fear is a good motivator. By the looks of things, he’s done being the nice guy.
Paranoia is contagious. Has a Whisperer infiltrated the community? Is there a spy in the mix? These concerns are felt throughout The Walking Dead Season 10 premiere.
With a sudden explosion in the sky, things come into focus. The crash of an old Russian satellite in the forest pushes the group beyond Alpha’s borders. Their race to put out the fire before it spread shows just how fragile their burgeoning community actually is. They succeed at dousing the flames, basically saving their home and the one The Whisperers reside in. But at what cost?
That same day, Carol (Melissa McBride) reunites with Daryl. She’s been living a life at sea since Season 9 came to an end. It’s a distinct lifestyle change, to be sure. But Dixon wants her back on dry land with them. The besties have a moment in the woods, hunting walkers like old times and sharing dreams of running off together to New Mexico where they could knit friendship bracelets. But now, deep in the fiery maw of a mysterious satellite crash, reality smacks them all in the face.
Does this piece of space machinery have any useful intel for the group? Eugene (Josh McDermitt) seems to think so. But with each minute the group spends in enemy territory, the possibility of an attack — even a war — becomes more and more possible. While Eugene works to pick apart the satellite, Daryl and Carol slip away to pine over what could’ve been and what actually is.
As their dreams of a better life dissipate into the air like the smoke from the previous night’s fire, Alpha emerges from the forest below. The monsters have been there all along.
The Walking Dead Season 10 airs Sundays on AMC.