This Walking Dead review does not contain spoilers.
The Walking Dead Season 10 Episode 1
The Walking Dead season 10 kicks off with the most audacious opening scene in the show’s history. It’s the kind of risk you don’t normally see on a series going into its 10th season, but it’s just what The Walking Dead needs after a couple of tired years. The era of Angela Kang, who made her debut as showrunner of last year’s much improved run of episodes, has fully arrived in “Lines We Cross” sans the Scott Gimple baggage that weighed down the first half of season 9.
Much of “Lines We Cross” goes where you don’t expect it to, such as with an early action sequence that feels of a different time — in a good way. If The Walking Dead has ever flirted with medieval fantasy, it’s in this action scene that sees all of the communities come together against a common threat. Gone are the guns, relics of the old world, as the heroes rely on swordsmanship and archery. It’s an exhilarating battle from start to finish, and I can’t wait to see how war continues to evolve on the show as it descends into “simpler” times.
Of course, there’s nothing simple about the communities’ situation in the aftermath of season 9’s “Red Wedding.” Many of the characters are still mourning the death of loved ones, while the Kingdom remains a ghost town. Worst of all, the Whisperers are waiting just beyond their border, daring Daryl, Carol, and Michonne to cross it. Will the heroes risk the wrath of Alpha? Well, the title of the episode is significant in this case.
While past season premieres have mostly been content with serving up big action sequences, bombastic calls to war, and a fake out or two, “Lines We Cross” gets to the meat of the story quickly and efficiently, setting up some of the major conflicts that will undoubtedly drive the first half of the season. Even when the episode drags a little (mostly in the middle), it’s always in an attempt to go somewhere interesting or fun, such as when Eugene shows off his nanny skills back at Alexandria.
Daryl, Michonne, and Ezekiel are all given time to shine in the episode, but “Lines We Cross” really belongs to Carol. No one is better on this show than Melissa McBride, and this year her character carries with her a quiet rage and a thirst for revenge that will only be quenched by Whisperer blood. But whereas past Walking Dead showrunners might have had Carol brooding alone in a cabin in the woods, Kang finds something much more interesting to do with her that’s still true to the character. You won’t be reunited with Carol in the way you think.
Norman Reedus gets more lines than he ever has in a single episode, and it’s delightful to watch the evolution of a character who’s best known for grunts and somber facial expressions. There’s a real warmth to Daryl, who is finally embracing the role of leader, even if his instinct is to always go solo. He has a soft spot for one or two characters this season, and there’s even the tiniest tease that there might be a love interest in his future. One scene in particular will probably make a few shippers pass out. (Also, we get to watch Dog be the goodest boy, which is what really matters!)
Season 10 will be Danai Gurira’s last on the show, and “Lines We Cross” begins the work of bidding farewell to Michonne. While Gurira is set to appear in a “handful” of episodes this season, closure definitely feels in sight, especially during a quiet moment with her children. Oh, and Cailey Fleming, who plays Judith, is as heartwarming as ever in this particular scene.
All of these characters unite in the premiere’s climactic sequence, which I won’t spoil here. All I can say is that it’s a good one, even if the payoff is a little too convenient for my taste. Still, “Lines We Cross” wants to get things moving as quickly as possible, and it accomplishes that, giving the season the forward momentum and exciting pace that has eluded it in past years. Overall, the episode is a great success.
The Walking Dead season 10 premieres on Oct. 6 at 9 pm on AMC.