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The Walking Dead returned for Season 10 with a slapper of a premiere. The Angela Kang-penned, Greg Nicotero-directed “Lines We Cross” had the things fans want from the show: zombie action, meaningful character interaction, a bit of formal experimentation (this episode had title cards like “TRAINING DAY” and “NEW MEXICO” turn scenes into little chapters), and Carol (Melissa McBride) and Daryl (Norman Reedus) hangin’ out. Season 9 was no fluke; the quality revival looks like it will hold.
The “Cold War” feel that Kang has been previewing in interviews proved to be an accurate description of the state of things at the start of Season 10. The Alexandrians and the Whisperers have spent the months since the massacre staying far away from each other. The Whisperers haven’t been seen in quite some time, and things are pretty peaceful. The military training they’re doing on the beach at Oceanside (Hi, Sydney Park! Nice to see you again!) is an exercise, not a preparation for war. Then Judith (Cailey Fleming) found a Whisperer mask washed up on the beach, and paranoia started to creep in. The mask could be nothing, or it could be a really bad something.
Aaron (Ross Marquand) interpreted the mask as a threat, because the Whisperers are great at covering their tracks and wouldn’t have left it if someone wasn’t supposed to find it. He was tired of being a “good guy” and kind of wanted to cross the border and give the Whisperers what for. Michonne (Danai Gurira) disagreed and wanted to stay calm and collected and not change anything. Keep respecting boundary and keep the news of the mask — and the full skin found in the woods nearby — within the leadership group so as to not scare everyone.
“We have to choose to be the good guys, even when it’s hard,” she said. “And the minute that we start to question that, we lose sight of it, that’s when the answer to that question starts to change. And that’s scarier than any skin mask.”
Back at Alexandria, Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) heard about the mask, and chose to start laying low for a while, and advised Lydia (Cassady McClincy) to do the same. Because when people are afraid, they start looking for people to blame for their fear, and he and Lydia, Alpha’s (Samantha Morton) daughter, are still outsiders. “Until this whole thing passes, I’m gonna keep my head down so people don’t move me from the proverbial semi-us category to the category of them,” he told Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam).
Carol and Daryl had different ideas about how to deal with the fear, too. Daryl shot a deer with an arrow, and as they tracked it, it crossed the border. Carol — who had just arrived back to the communities after a long fishing trip to avoid dealing with her feelings about Henry’s death and her ensuing split with Ezekiel (Khary Payton) — wanted to follow it, but Daryl let walkers take it rather than risk crossing the line on the off chance a Whisperer was watching. “No reason to start sh– if we don’t gotta,” he said.
Carol was mad at first, because she wanted to move on from what happened and not live in fear, but then he called her his “best friend” and she made fun of him for saying something so earnest. Watching Carol playfully roast Daryl while he sheepishly tried to take back what he said was the highlight of the episode. Norman Reedus and Melissa McBride just have the best friend chemistry.
They also got serious and had a conversation that may foreshadow the introduction of new people. “You ever wonder if this is all there is?” Carol asked. “Just run into people, kill each other, until whoever’s left says ‘enough’?”
“Sometimes I think we’re just surviving one fight to the next,” he said.
“It was like that for you and me before all this,” she said, referencing their pre-apocalyptic pasts as abuse victims.
He agreed — and then said something really interesting: “There’s gotta be people out there like us, right?” People who want to live peacefully and plan for the future and rebuild society, you know? Maybe people who have a helicopter. Or maybe some kids in another part of Virginia. “I get what Maggie’s doing with Georgie. I do.” (Maggie [Lauren Cohan] is still off learning how to run a colony, and they haven’t gotten a letter from her in a while, Carol made a point of mentioning.)
Then a Soviet satellite — even more Cold War connections — fell out of the sky and crashed down on the Whisperers’ side of the border, setting the woods on fire. They crossed over to put it out, which may buy them some goodwill with Alpha, or may provoke her into another confrontation. The Whisperer leader’s stare-down with Carol across the canyon to end the episode seemed to indicate that she would not take the reasonable route, didn’t it?
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.