The Walking Dead wrapped up its ninth season earlier this year, and it was eventful even by this show's standards. The hit AMC horror series has seen plenty of change in its near-decade on the air, but Season 9 was particularly packed with new developments. Rick Grimes left the series for a still-mysterious new life in his own spinoff movies, leaving the show to initiate a years-long time jump to show us a grown-up Judith Grimes and the future of the survivors as they face off against a horrific new enemy known as The Whisperers. It all culminated in a stunning episode set in a blizzard that saw the fall of the Kingdom, the return of Carol to Alexandria, and an act of heroism by Negan that means he might just have a shot at freedom, plus a mysterious voice on the radio to close it all out.
After all that, what comes next? Well, the show's creators and cast took to Hall H at San Diego Comic-Con Friday to let us in on some of Season 10's secrets. To kick things off, executive producers Angela Kang, Scott Gimple, Dave Alpert, Gale Anne Hurd, Robert Kirkman, and Greg Nicotero joined moderator Chris Hardwick onstage, and right away Kirkman decided to address a very specific fan concern. Just weeks after he chose to end The Walking Dead comic book series with a surprise finale in issue #193, Kirkman reassured fans that the same kind of ending is not in store for the show.
"The comic book is something very special to me, and you can see how it became Rick and Carl Grimes' story," he said. "This show is about the world and so anyone concerned that the comic book wrapped up and that Season 10 is going to spontaneously end on Episode 4, don't worry because there is a lot more story to tell."
Then the executive producers transitioned into talk of new cast members, revealing two new faces for the show: Thora Birch (Ghost World) as Gamma, a new member of the Whisperers who is fiercely protective of Alpha, and Kevin Carroll (The Leftovers) as Virgil, a survivor desperate to return to his home and family.
The creative team then revealed that Season 10 will kick off Oct. 6, with an episode written by Kang and scripted by Nicotero that promises to change things up right from the start.
"The opening 3 minutes is unlike anything we've ever done — you're not gonna be sure what show you're watching for the first 30 seconds," Nicotero said.
After that tease, it was trailer time. Extended Comic-Con trailers for The Walking Dead have become a Hall H tradition, and Season 10's trailer brought with all manner of frightening new sights and intriguing new directions. Daryl and Carol are heading west, there's a battle of some kind by the ocean, Alpha (Samantha Morton, who sent along a video greeting during the panel) is making threats, and Negan is indeed making his way back out into the world. Check it out.
Following the trailer, Kang — entering her second season as showrunner — returned to the stage with the show’s cast, including stars Danai Gurira, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Melissa McBride, Norman Reedus, Cailey Fleming, Avi Nash, Ryan Hurst. Eleanor Matsuura, Nadia Hilker, and Cooper Andrews. When talking about what to expect from Season 10, Reedus was among the first to chime in.
“A lot of people are losing their sh*t this season,” he said. “Daryl is trying to be a supportive person and get along with everyone."
Like Daryl, Gurira’s Michonne also has to step up and be a supportive figure after inheriting both a daughter in Judith and a leadership position from Rick. "The healing that she starts to find last season because of her kickass daughter and awesome friend Siddiq is a responsibility now because healing requires opening up... stepping into that next phase of opening up and leading all these people is what it's all about,” Gurira said.
In keeping with both that leadership spirit and the mother-daughter bond between Gurira and Judith, Fleming said she’s had to step up her combat training for Season 10 to include more sword work.
"Every time I have to train, I have to make it look like Danai taught me, because Michonne is the teacher of Judith,” Fleming said, and added that she wouldn’t be opposed to taking on another new toy in the future.
"I love the weapon I have already, but if I had to have another one, I think it would be cool to have Norman's crossbow... or Lucille.”
Then it was time to talk about the redemption of Negan, which Kang has already teased in previous interviews. Asked what he thinks of freedom for his character, Morgan reacted with caution.
"I think that Negan's relationship with Judith is as genuine as can be,” he said. “But Negan is always gonna be Negan, and now that he's out of that cell a little bit, we'll see what happens if he gets a weapon in his hands."
If Negan does get freedom, and he does get the privilege of a weapon, that means new tensions could arise with all manner of people who knew him in his previous incarnation, including Daryl, but everyone’s favorite crossbowman notes that there could be more peace there than we might think.
"I think there's a mutual understanding between them that they might need each other,” Reedus said.
Of course, The Walking Dead is a show known for its goodbyes, and after saying goodbye to Rick Grimes last season, Danai Gurira confirmed that Season 10 will be her farewell.
"I can confirm that this is the last season I will be on this amazing show as Michonne,” she said. "This has been one of the purest joys of my life. It was a very difficult decision and it's not connected to my heart — my heart stays here. But it was connected to my calling.
"I'm filled with a lot of pain about leaving and a lot of gratitude. I love you guys and I love this show."
After her emotional remarks, directed as much at the fans as at her castmates, Hall H erupted in a standing ovation for Gurira. Following Gurira’s confirmation of her departure, Kang discussed the challenges of saying goodbye to Michonne.
"It's hard. Danai has been here since Season 3 and her importance to the show cannot be overstated. Her excellence, her professionalism, her passion — it's been a remarkable journey.. This is a character is important to us, important to the fans, and in the same way we approached it with [Andrew Lincoln], I hope we did right by her and didn't screw it up,” she said.
"I can't wait for people to see the depth and beauty of her work [this season]... [but] we'll miss the hell out of her."
After a few fan questions, at which point Kang teased a “left turn” for Ezekiel and Morgan talked more about Negan’s apparent affinity for children, it was time to leave, but not before Hardwick dropped a surprise teaser for the upcoming Walking Dead movie, featuring the return of Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes. For more on that, check out our coverage.
The Walking Dead returns Oct. 6 on AMC.
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