Moody writing an article on The Walking Dead… That’s new. Actually, the last time yours truly covered anything TWD was during my freelance days for the NY Daily News— so it’s only fitting that a return to the AMC zombie apocalypse would happen in Manhattan this past weekend during New York Comic-Con.
At Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater on Saturday morning, The Walking Dead panel felt as fresh and radiant as ever. While not entirely a packed house (the place is roughly the size of SDCC’s Hall H; a touch smaller, but a 10-minute or so walk away from the Con’s Javits Center), it was close to 3/4’s full, and the audience reception during at least the first hour of the conversation was terrific.
It’s quite apparent that people still love this show. Heck, even Chris Hardwick returned to hosting duties — not only to his longtime Talking Dead wrap-up show, but also to Comic-Con. Aside from a few zingers here and there (hard to pull any punches during all that “love quadrangle” stuff, I noticed that Chris played it much more to the narrow on Saturday, allowing his Walking Dead creator, producer and talent guests to shine and not be the brunt of his often, otherwise appreciated charismatic hilarity.
Mind you, I only caught the first half of the panel and left right before audience Q&A — missing the chatter on a new, as of yet untitled second Walking Dead spin-off and (far worse) Lauren Cohen‘s surprise return reveal the Dead Universe. Yikes! (In my defense, I only had limited time to gander around NYCC‘s exhibit floor before my next and final panel of the 2-day trip).
Thankfully the opening panel conversation was scintillating, definitely the most memorable, informative and personal TWD panel I can remember having attended in years. And after binging the second half of Season 9 earlier last week after taking a year-long “leave” from TWD, I was completely wowed by the opening few minutes of the premiere revealed before the convo…
You can read GHG’s recap and review of the Season 10 premiere just down below. But before that, here are some of the TWD panel highlights from NYCC 2019:
- Showrunner/Executive Producer Angela Kang appears to be the fresh set of eyes needed for a series many thought was.. well.. dead. In coming up with ways to reinvigorate longtime characters, push for new storylines and captivate the deadicated audience, Kang led the way in brainstorming TWD‘s new age, aiming for “the final frontier” as it “plays into the themes of paranoia and always being watched.” Kang also expressed that just making it to a tenth season “is amazing in and of itself.”
- Do not pass go. Do not collect Negan’s $200. Well, damn it, Negan has some-fucking-how earned his Get Out Of Jail Free card this season and actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan — much like many other characters and elements in the longtime TV series — is feeling refreshed. “This [season’s] gonna rock. You’ll get to see another side of Negan: this three-dimensional character. [But] there’s always an edge to him, and that’s not gonna go away.” Oh! And that some-fucking-how was revealed by series creator Robert Kirkman. “It’s [finally] OK for me to admit that Negan’s my favorite.” Kirkman explained that there were more than a few occasions in the comic where the writer was ready to kill off the bat-wielding ballbuster but.. just couldn’t do it. We thank Robert ever so kindly.
- Above all else in the panel’s first hour, it was Danai Gurira‘s time to shine. It’s no secret that Walking Dead‘s cult hero will see her final katana slice-and-dice in Season 10, and Saturday morning Danai confirmed she has been wrapped on the series. Her fellow castmates, panelists and Con attendees also gave Gurira the warm reception she deserves before saying this goodbye. “The beauty of my [and Michonne’s] journey has been all about the amazing fandom. Right from the jump, I was embraced by the fans…that invigorated me to give my all. It’s the fans that really made me want to be a part of this forever.”
- Kirkman also revealed that Paola Lazaro is set to play Juanita Sanchez a.k.a. Princess, from The Walking Dead comic.
Panel (first half only) = 4.25/5 Skybound Bibles
The Walking Dead returned for its’ landmark 10th season last night, in a premiere episode (directed by Greg Nicotero) that finds showrunner Angela Kang hitting her stride in her second season as head honcho. Not many shows make it into the double digits, and even fewer manage to turn things around when the train seems to be running out of steam. In the (for now) post-Rick Grimes era, instead of flailing, the show actually feels fresh again in many ways, with renewed focus on fan-favorite characters who now have the breathing room to really shine and, like Kang herself, come into their own…
The episode lets audiences know right away that things are going to be a little different this season, with an opening sequence that finds a Soviet satellite hurling towards earth. We find much of our core cast engaged in an elaborate training exercise on the beach as they prepare for possible war against the Whisperers, the villains responsible for a number of major character deaths back at the close of Season 9.
Approximately six months has passed since then, in which time there has been no sign of the skinwalkers as the allied communities grudgingly respect the borders set by the sociopathic Alpha (Samantha Morton). Potential war or not, we see that the communities are finally working together again, forming some semblance of an organized civilization in this post-apocalyptic world. We also see over the course of the episode that these past six months have allowed for many characters to grow and change, with Daryl (Norman Reedus) adapting into more of a leadership role alongside Michonne (Danai Gurira) and Ezekiel (Khary Payton), while others, such as Aaron (Ross Marquand) and Carol (Melissa McBride), find themselves increasingly frustrated with what has become the new normal.
The early-on discovery of a skin mask near the beach is a stark reminder that the Whisperers are still out there, and spurs forward much of the action for the rest of episode. However, while the looming threat of the latest Big Bads in the show is very real, one of the things that is a marked improvement over other recent seasons is the quality of dialogue and human interaction.
Conversations between various characters manage to feel natural, while also frequently making you wonder what else is being hinted at or referred to just under the surface. It’s quite refreshing after a long series of battles and grandstanding that didn’t seem to have a lot to say that wasn’t blatantly stated out loud. Audiences like being forced to think, and it’s promising that Kang has gently pushed the show in that direction again.
In an episode that focuses heavily on relationships between characters, fans of Michonne, Judith (Cailey Fleming), and RJ (Antony Aazor) will be touched by their interactions together, even as they still lament the loss of Rick. Judith and RJ are particularly adorable together as adoptive siblings who do normal things like have storytime, while also working in those deeper meanings. Along with Michonne, the three form a loving family unit that may be living on borrowed time as Gurira’s imminent exit from the series this season grows close, but they certainly make the most of the time they have.
Fans of Carol and Daryl will also be happy that the duo finally get to spend some quality time together again in this episode, after Carol returns from an excursion out at sea on a fishing boat. As the final two remaining cast members from Season 1, they go back a long way, and have always shared a special connection that a significant portion of the fandom has hoped might one day turn into something more. With Carol newly single after her failed “fairy tale” relationship with Ezekiel that perhaps never truly was, the door might be open for these two “soulmates” (as per Kang’s own words) to grow even closer. They both express the desire to stay together in the same place, and even daydream about “running away together,” a phrase that almost always carries romantic connotations.
However, Carol’s desire for revenge against the woman who killed her adopted son is clearly still at the forefront of her mind, along with her guilt over the other children she’s lost in the past. Her mental struggles with these losses seem as though they will be coming to a tee this season, but hopefully this time she won’t have to struggle alone; Daryl seems determined to stick close by his best friend as she ventures down this dark path.
The secondary cast also excels in their fair share of moments this episode, including a comical outing from the love “quadrangle” formed by Eugene (Josh McDermitt), Rosita (Christian Serratos), Siddiq (Avi Nash), and Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam), along with new baby Coco. Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), finally allowed out of his cell for guarded work, seems to be forming a connection with Lydia (Cassady McClincy) over their shared questionable pasts. He also ponders what his place will be if and when the Whisperers do return. However, one of the most moving moments of the episode goes to sisters Connie (Lauren Ridloff) and Kelly (Angel Theory), in a scene spoken entirely in ASL.
We see later that Daryl is also making an effort to learn ASL, something that would have been unheard of in earlier seasons. While some fans might be hopeful about the potential for a deeper relationship between Daryl and Connie, the scene — at the very least — says a lot about the growth of a formerly antisocial character who once called Glenn a “Chinaman” back in Season 1, and it’s an intriguing skill (or “superpower,” as Connie puts it!) for additional characters to have in the plot moving forward.
The final, action-packed sequence of the episode sees the entire cast converging together from their separate storylines to put out a forest fire started by the Russian satellite seen in the opening shot of the episode, a group effort which unfortunately means crossing over lines into marked Whisperer territory. In the course of the struggle, the group is set upon by a large group of walkers, and in the melee Carol inadvertently kills a Whisperer disguised as a walker. She slips away soon afterward, trailed by Daryl, apparently in search of more of them. The episode ends on a cliffhanger, with the promise of two powerful women sure to clash in the very near future.
Overall, “Lines We Cross” is an auspicious start to the tenth season of a show that is still going strong despite the odds against it. If the remaining episodes even come close to the quality of 10×1, as the world even continues to expand with the forthcoming Rick Grimes feature films and the approaching debut of a third spin-off television show, then The Walking Dead may just have a considerable few years of life left in it yet. 3.5/5 Walkers.