This is a spoiler-free review of Episode 1 of Season 10. Already seen the episode? Read on for full spoilers after its UK broadcast.
Lines We Cross is a stonking opener for a television show going into its tenth season. Opening with an action sequence that feels like it was ripped straight out of a movie – Tarrantino-esque chapter cards, Zimmer-like, string-slicing score and, ironically, Zombieland-inspired slow-mo-hacktion – it’s dripping in Greg Nicotero’s direction. The Season 10 opener sets out its stall early: even if the walkers are ageing, growing fungus and withered this far into the apocalypse, the series still comes off as bright, shiny and new. With set-pieces drowning in blood and cinematic beauty, the drama concise and well-paced, this is The Walking Dead that Angela Kang built.
We left our survivors dealing with a winter storm that tore through them after Alpha (Samantha Morton) gave them the lay of the land with bloody markers. Rejoining them several months later, it becomes obvious they have been changed from their experience, more so than with any other evil-doer they’ve encountered. They respect the borders set for them but not through fear; at least that is what they tell everybody to keep them calm. No, they choose to live intelligently. There is no need to start a war needlessly just by crossing over a border. This is smart, and something somebody may have ignored in seasons past.
Living smart does frustrate some survivors more than others and they begin to question themselves and the lives they are living. It‘s almost tongue-in-cheek that two of viewers’ biggest criticisms of the series are raised: why is it that all they seem to do is go from one fight to the next, wondering if there is nothing more to life? But it is Aaron (Ross Marquand), sporting a new attitude as well as an impressive beard, who asks the important question: who are the real bad guys in this story?
This is something that we have touched upon before when Alexandria faced threat from the Sanctuary, but now, as Alexandria houses two former “villains” in Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and Lydia (Cassady McClincy), it might become more prevalent. It goes back to the morality debate: is it bad if what you are doing is for the greater good? And is it bad to bend the truth, if it means people feel safer? This is one seed planted by Negan, still a prisoner but one who has never lost his cocky attitude and who will hopefully have a greater arc this season. Jeffrey Dean Morgan is still the most charismatic character on the show, even though he has been caged like a bird for too long. While other cast members have all stepped up and delivered in the wake of Andrew Lincoln’s departure last season, none of them have the je ne sais quoi of Negan.
With Danai Gurira’s Michonne only featuring for a handful of episodes this season, together with Lauren Cohen’s Maggie still M.I.A., the landscape is very different on screen than that in the pages of the graphic novel. Gurira’s exit is just as tough to stomach as Lincoln’s, as she has been an integral character and a reliable and stable leader in the group. Michonne’s badassedness is unquestioned and she shows that in this episode, but we also get to see a scene with her as the mother figure and it feels as though the show has already begun to paint her exit.
Three movies planned, another new spin-off in production, and an opening episode of a new season that feels as fresh as that first fleshy bite. It’s hard to believe that this series is 10 years old: nothing appears to be able to slow The Walking Dead down.
The Walking Dead Season 10 premieres on FOX UK at 9pm on Monday 7th October. Don’t have pay-TV? You can also stream it live and on-demand on NOW TV, for £7.99 a month (until 9th October 2019, when the price rises to £8.99), with no contract and a 7-day free trial. Seasons 1 to 9 are available on Sky Box Sets and NOW TV until November 2019.
Entrails and innards (spoilers)
– The survivors must deal with a fire in the woods, caused, in an odd decision, by a Russian satellite crashing out of space – with visuals that hark back to Lost and something so crazy it might have felt better suited to Z-Nation. Although an unusual McGuffin, it is unlikely to be much more than that. Unless Eugenius (Eugene – Josh McDermitt) can salvage enough parts from it. The communities already have radio communication which will make the world smaller. What other technology could they use to further advance their civilisation? E-mail?
– The fire runs the risk of burning down Oceanside so all the communities rush to put it out but, in order to do so, the Survivors must cross the border into Whisperer territory. Under any normal circumstance, a catastrophic event such as this would usually see two waring factions put aside their differences to fight for the greater good, but the Alexandria residents are still weary. This just shows how much damage Alpha has done; not even Negan was able to put this sort of fear into the Survivors. This may hopefully lead to a different sort of war between the factions, rather than proving Daryl’s comments right about them just going from fight to fight.
– Rosita (Christian Serratos) has had her baby and Eugene is playing paediatrician. The peculiar dynamic between them, Rosita’s love interest, Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam), and the father of her child, Siddiq (Avi Nash) doesn’t appear to have changed. They’re all just getting on with things, weirdly. However, Siddiq is suffering from PTSD after the beheadings and, with a screaming child (who only seems subdued by loud music) to look after, things might not bode so well for him. This scene also introduces us to Dante (Juan Javier Cardenas), another graphic novel regular who has been tweaked slightly. In the books, he is a lieutenant at the Hilltop; in the series, he seems to be a doctor for Alexandria. The series has been killing off a lot of its medics lately, so Dante may have a larger role to play as the season progresses.
– We’ve seen it time and time again: characters who find happiness are always destined for tragedy. Therefore, it’s rather disconcerting to see Daryl getting closer to Connie (Lauren Ridloff), who herself looks like she and the rest of her group may have a bigger part to play this season. Every fan’s favourite couple, Caryl, also get to share some motorbike time together, as well as their feelings. Their roles have now reversed: Carol wants to run off to New Mexico with Daryl, leaving the others behind. But Daryl wants to stay with the rest of the group: he has finally found a family. For the record, a Daryl/Carol road trip spin-off would easily be one we’d watch.