‘The Walking Dead’s Fiery Season 10 Premiere Is Every Bit as Good as Season 9 (RECAP)

Spoiler Alert
Jackson Lee Davis/AMC

[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 10 premiere, “Lines We Cross.”]

For anyone wondering whether TWD’s jump in quality last season was a flash in the pan, I’m elated to say—at least from the first episode—that’s not the case.

“Lines We Cross,” in telling several simultaneously unfolding stories in separate blocks of time and weaving them all together at the end, expertly navigates character development and plot. It’s an hour of TV that sets up Season 10’s narrative beats and is entertaining, emotional, suspenseful and even surprising.

That “surprising” element kicks off right away with the crash of a satellite. This is the first time we’ve seen a hint of the apocalypse beyond Earth on TWD (on Fear, Strand has a brief conversation with a Russian cosmonaut. It’s one of the show’s best scenes and well worth the few minutes it takes to watch), but the impact of that explosion isn’t seen right away. Don’t worry—it’s coming.

Signing With a Southern Accent

On the beach at Oceanside, many of the main “crew” are performing training exercises on the beach. In a world where guns and bullets are becoming scarce, these folks are learning to kill walkers with spears, slingshots and spiky shields. The whole thing almost reaches a tragic end when the dead break free, but the group battles back and vanquishes the biters.

From there, a few character beats are established. Kelly (Angel Theory)’s having hearing trouble. Daryl (Norman Reedus) comes over to see Connie (Lauren Ridloff), so they’re at least good friends—though Kelly’s suggestive eyebrow wiggling might imply more. They go to wait at the dock for an arriving ship and talk about Dog and Daryl’s proficiency with ASL (“You sign with a southern accent,” Connie tells him).

Head Out West

Who’s on the ship? Carol (Melissa McBride), of course! She shares an awkward moment with Ezekiel (Khary Payton), says hi to Connie and gives Daryl a hug. “Did you miss me?” she laughs. She’s apparently been gone for months.

Carol and Daryl spend plenty of quality time with each other. They ride into the forest on his motorcycle and joke around, but things get serious when they come across a deer on Alpha (Samantha Morton)’s side of the border. Carol wants to kill it and bring it back, but Daryl stops her from crossing over into Whisperer territory. Walkers get the animal before she can.

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That doesn’t go over well with Carol, and Daryl eventually apologizes. They sit and talk about the world, and whether life now is just “surviving one fight to the next.” Carol asks him to come with her the next time the boat leaves, but when he says living in those tiny cabins isn’t “him,” she suggests they can take the bike and head out west. He agrees and tells her they should go to New Mexico, where there are “people who weave bracelets”—much like the friendship bracelet he hands her. As she smiles and ties it around her wrist, the satellite streaks across the sky.

Jackson Lee Davis/AMC

Are We The Good Guys?

Elsewhere, paranoia sets in when RJ and Judith (Cailey Fleming) find a skin mask among the things they scavenged at the river. Michonne (Danai Gurira) and Aaron (Ross Marquand) disagree on whether to tell everyone about it, but Michonne tells Alexandria not to go on lockdown. To get more information, they get groups together to search for any sign the Whisperers might have returned. They eventually get that sign in the form of peeled off skin at a campsite in the woods, but they still don’t know how long it’s been there.

Michonne and Aaron head back to Oceanside, and she tells him, in response to his earlier question, that they are the good guys. “The minute we question that is the minute that answer starts to change,” she says. She goes to spend time with RJ and Judith, and as she does, the satellite streaks across the sky… and she’s told Eugene needs to speak with her, urgently.

Jackson Lee Davis/AMC

Watch Your Back

Earlier in Alexandria, Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) gets Michonne’s recommendation that they don’t go on lockdown. Again, character beats are established—Eugene (Josh McDermitt)’s charting various data about Rosita (Christian Serratos)’s baby, and Siddiq (Avi Nash) thanks him (Siddiq, as it turns out, isn’t doing very well—he’s having flashbacks to what happened with Alpha, and Dante, a new doctor with attitude and charisma to spare, helps him out).

Father Gabriel interrupts Lydia (Cassady McClincy) at school, where she’s trying to learn to read. It’s clear someone let her know her mom might have come back, because in the next scene, she’s out in the courtyard swinging a stick around like Henry once did. She and Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) have a chat about how the place is now on “alert” because of the skin found in the woods, and Negan gives her some advice: “watch your back, kid.” Negan also gives Gabriel a bit of advice, when the latter comes to see him in his cell: “You ask me, you gotta make them feel secure. Even if it’s just for show.” He tells Gabe that if that omitting information is what it takes to keep people safe, “what’s the harm?”

Gabe goes outside and tells his people to double security at the gates, and he sees the satellite streak across the sky.

Jackson Lee Davis/AMC

I Need You to Stay

Carol and Daryl meet back up with Michonne and the rest of the Oceanside group, and they all work together to put out the fire. This leads them all to Alpha’s side of the border, which is a big no-no, but considering the immediate danger they opt to cross and take the risk of getting caught. As they work to exterminate the blaze, the group is surrounded by the dead. This leads to some pretty badass walker-killing shots; Carol uses her bow, Daryl, his crossbow, Michonne, her katana. The people from Alexandria arrive just in time, and eventually, the fire is extinguished and the biters are put down.

Jackson Lee Davis/AMC

Eugene gets Michonne and a few others to help him transport the satellite, which he says they need for the technology. Michonne wonders aloud where Daryl and Carol are. As it turns out, they’re on the same ridge where Alpha once showed Daryl her walker horde; The valley is now empty. He asks her if she still wants to run away together, and she says, “Yeah. Tomorrow.” He tells her he needs her to stay (“Otherwise I’m gonna have to punch holes in all them boats”) and turns to leave, but Carol lingers a little longer.

As she looks down into the clearing, she sees a most unexpected and unwelcome sight: Alpha. And the leader of the Whisperers, as she looks up and meets Carol’s murderous glare, doesn’t look too pleased to see her, either.

Other Observations

  • The Walking Dead is back. It’s incredible how fresh and engrossing Angela Kang has managed to make this show, 10 seasons in. If this is the level of quality we can expect from the next 15 episodes, we’re in for another treat of a season. Bring on the Whisperer War!
  • It’s nice to see more of Aaron so far this season. Ross Marquand hasn’t gotten nearly enough to do these past few seasons, and given how much his character now looks like the comics version of Rick, it’d be nice if he was given a larger role to match that appearance.
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  • “Caryl” or “Donnie?” I could see the show going either way after this episode. Daryl’s learning ASL and joking with Connie about Dog, so there might be a spark there. On the other hand, he’s ready to run away with Carol after a few hours of being reunited with her, so… make of that what you will. Either way, I think this’ll be the season we get a definitive answer as to who Daryl is interested in.
  • Somehow this show has managed to make me like Negan, and that wasn’t an easy feat. I resented him in the Gimple era because I found him unbearably cartoonish and his humor rather forced. Kang-era Negan still has that humor, but there’s heart to him now whereas before he felt somewhat empty—at least to me. I think Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s portrayal is well suited to this current iteration; the more subdued, but still intriguing, antihero.

The Walking Dead, Sundays, 9/8c, AMC