Last season, new showrunner Angela Kang revitalized The Walking Dead. And at the beginning of Season 10, which premieres on Sunday October 6, she's continuing to work her magic with the episode "Lines We Cross." As season premieres go, this one's fairly tame by Walking Dead standards. However, that gives the show room to catch us up on the characters after a brief time jump of a few months. It also lets the show articulate the tension that continues to plague the citizens of Alexandria, Hilltop, and Oceanside in the wake of the Whisperers' actions at the end of last season.
The Whisperers are an ever-present consideration in the premiere, even though they're barely seen. Apparently Alpha and her cronies shambled to warmer climes for the winter and haven't been around since. That's left the three communities unsure about whether or not they should respect the boundaries Alpha drew. Michonne and Daryl don't want to risk stirring up trouble, Carol and Aaron aren't completely on board.
Either way, everyone's on edge and waiting for the Whisperers to resurface. To drive that home, the episode begins with an extended battle training sequence. It also showcases what combat in this new era of The Walking Dead will be like: without guns, the group's had to go medieval with spiked shields, spears and bows and arrows. That means when the Whisperer War comes -- and it will -- it will be a very different kind of conflict from the one with the Saviors.
The episode takes place over a very brief period of time. Each segment focuses on a different community until they all come together in the end to avert a crisis. Until then, though, the structure is designed to catch us up with all the characters. While Oceanside is preparing for war, in Alexandria, Gabriel has taken up a leadership role that he isn't completely sure how to fulfill. Meanwhile, Rosita has had her baby and she, Gabriel, Eugene, and Siddiq have formed an awkward family unit.
Then, there's Carol and Daryl whose friendship is as solid as ever, even though, as usual, Carol isn't so sure she wants to stick around. So while Daryl has resumed a leadership role in the communities, Carol is still grieving the loss of her adopted son Henry and staying fairly isolated. She also seems intent on a clash with Alpha. No surprise there really, but it does suggest that Carol may have a big role to play in the upcoming season. Carol hasn't had as much to do for the past couple seasons, so hopefully season 10 will see this fan-favorite with a juicier character arc.
The Walking Dead has always been a show that's more show than tell, and there are still some great visual sequences in the premiere that demonstrate the group's new fighting style as well as how the characters are spending their time. Yet, the premiere also brings up some interesting philosophical argument and knowing observations.
Aaron seems to be having a bit of an existential crisis as he asks Michonne if they're the good guys. After all, to those they've attacked they're the bad guys. It's a somewhat oddly placed bit of introspection considering Aaron is bringing it up in relation to the Whisperers. But the show uses it as an excuse for Michonne to discuss the need to prevent fear from ripping the communities apart again. One thing seems certain: fear will be a major theme this season. We know from the show's Comic-Con trailer that Alpha will demand it, and many of our heroes are fearful and traumatized. Michonne's concerns about fear may be legitimate but perhaps fear has its use in the zombie apocalypse too. We'll see.
Meanwhile, Carol and Daryl talk about simply living one fight to the next, a knowing observation of the trajectory of the show itself. Of course, the characters agree that they were doing that even before the collapse of civilization so nothing's really changed -- an interesting observation about what fans might get out of watching The Walking Dead. We may not be slaying walkers on a regular basis, but we definitely are all fighting our own battles.
Yet, despite all the dread conjured by the show in its first outing of the season, perhaps the most surprising part is that it's actually kind of funny. No one's going to accuse The Walking Dead of being a laugh riot anytime soon. But the series tends to embrace a relentlessly somber tone. While there are characters who don't adhere to that, like Negan, they're exceptions. In the Season 10 premiere, however, there were several chuckle-worthy moments courtesy of characters that aren't our favorite gardening prisoner, including Ezekiel pondering why animal poop is referred to as guano and a visual gag involving the increasingly decayed zombies.
It's highly unlikely that this sense of humor will become a major element of the show. In small doses, though, it shows a different side of the characters' personalities and demonstrates their familiarity and comfort with one another. Besides, even in a zombie apocalypse you have to smile once in awhile.
The Walking Dead is off to a promising start in Season 10. If things continue in this direction, the Whisperer War will be a thrilling conflict. So if you've stayed away from The Walking Dead for the past few seasons, now is a good time to jump back in.
The Walking Dead stars Norman Reedus, Danai Gurira, Melissa McBride, Josh McDermitt, Christian Serratos, Jeffrey Dean Morgan,Seth Gilliam, Ross Marquand, Khary Payton, Cooper Andrews, Avi Nash, Samantha Morton. It airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on AMC.