‘The Walking Dead’ Promises Unity and Battle for Season 10 

Season 10 of “The Walking Dead” begins with “Lines We Cross,” and the series pole-vaults over the first delineation in the very opening scene. An orbiting Soviet satellite mixes conspiratorial paranoia with “It Came From Outer Space” science fiction, while basic survival tactics pepper the series with elements of HBO’s “Rome.” “The Walking Dead” will be shuffling at a faster pace. They have to because the survivors ran out of whatever modern weaponry was available and they’ve regressed to the Bronze age. Except for the newly added chyron separations between segments, which is new to the series’ arsenal.

The episode’s segments are separated by communities, as the final conflagration comes from three directions before landing on the fourth. Like Jim Jarmusch’s “Night on Earth,” each segment concludes at the same point in the overall action as the trajectory sucks everyone into the wake. Each survivor group plays catch-up to where the others are, while avoiding the boundaries between the united survivors and their contentious neighbors.

The Whisperers did a number on the collective last season, ridding the Hilltop of Jesus’s command, and leaving Aaron (Ross Marquand) to utilize his marching band skills to coordinate a phalanx attack, a mass military rectangular formation popular in the other Jesus’ time. It keeps the zombies at bay and the action on treacherous ground. The series is very effective at maintaining constant peril during even some of the most seemingly mundane routines. Imagine what director Greg Nicotero can do with a forest fire, which the survivors have to contain to save Oceanside while the Whisperers yell “get off our lawn.” And we thought machine guns were getting old.  

Ezekiel (Khary Payton) is in his element with the newly archaic weaponry regression. His kingdom may be a ghost of its former self, but the King inside still has a regal bearing, and a sense of sportsmanship. He knows there can be no survivors among the already-dead when Training Day begins, but there is the glint of the game in his eye. 

With her trusty vorpal sword, Michonne (Danai Gurira), of course, never needed a gun. She also has no use for lingering ethical questions. “Are we the good guys,” Aaron asks. Every hero is a villain in someone else’s story and Michonne is so prominent in so many she could have her own nursery rhyme. Angela Kang debuted as showrunner last season and her script takes the time to wrestle the bigger philosophical questions. It is also not afraid to play to the heartstrings. Michonne gets a quiet moment with Judith (Cailey Fleming) which is so adorable you just want to eat them up. This is something the zombies have felt for a long time. 

Siddiq (Avi Nash) is dealing with post traumatic trauma, survivor guilt and arachnophobia. He was the only survivor of a Whisperer offensive, sees reminders everywhere, and drops out occasionally into the netherland of dissociation. He’s got a much stronger bond with Rosita (Christian Serratos), Gabriel (Seth Gilliam), and Eugene (Josh McDermitt), who has become the ultimate nerd nanny.

Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) has made the greatest turnaround on the series. At one point we were all Negan, now he is the everyman character. He tends to the gardens and takes out the trash. He dispenses free advice to the insiders running the council which governs Alexandria as well as the outsiders who may be forced to run from the increasingly nervous citizens. He tells the former priest Gabriel to pad the truth of possible Whisperer infiltration with encouraging facts which make people feel good. He tells Alpha’s daughter Lydia (Cassady McClincy) to watch her back during the inevitably upcoming panic. He’s happy where he’s at, for now, which promises tense times coming when he gets bored.

Negan is so damned likeable though, especially for a former ruthless despot who laid waste to the people of the very community he is condemned to do time with. The scene where he gives the lay of the land to Alpha’s daughter has a Charles Manson vibe and we can see the seeds of Squeaky Fromme growing in the former member of the mask-wearing cult of the wannabe-dead. He has the gift of gab, even when he speaks in allegories.

Daryl (Norman Reedus) has more words in this episode than he’s used in some whole seasons. And they’re not all grunts and coughs, these are complete sentences properly punctuated. But he still has the nerve to suggest to Carol (Melissa McBride) that they eat without speaking when she chides him for his fashion accessories. Carol found her sea legs, but she’s barely able to hide her rage for revenge on the Whisperers, or as she calls them, “skin freaks.” Carol still wants her independence and is itching for a one-way road trip. 

The walkers are the biggest party crashers. They hear noise and come ambling into the center of the action. If they wouldn’t ultimately threaten to spread the flames across the forest, it might be a good idea to let them wander into their own cremation. The fallout from the crashed satellite pulls the characters together at the end in a united effort performed in enemy territory. Every group is represented. Eugenious, as he’s been tagged, liberates satellite machinery. Everyone from Michonne and Gabriel of Alexandria to Ezekiel to Daryl and Carol dig trenches and water flames. Carole may be straight off the dock, but she misses nothing.

The sea hawk catches Alpha sunning herself on a rock, and the pair dictate terms of war through their eyes. Like most arcs on “The Walking Dead,” any semblance of a good neighbor policy will deteriorate into protracted battle. Season 10 will be action packed and soul searching. It will also mark a changing of the guards. Michonne is on her way out this year and Maggie Greene (Lauren Cohan) will return for season 11. “Lines We Cross” sets a distinct tone for the season, even in the skinless face of obvious patterns. 

The Walking Dead” season 10 premieres Oct. 6 and airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.