Ten years is a long time for any series, and while The Walking Dead has shown signs of becoming a bit long in the tooth, there have been refreshing signs of life in this series involving the undead. Following a couple of seasons involving an all-out war with Negan, last year had its shares of ups and downs, only to be quelled by the arrival of the Whisperers. The series may not have found a whole array of new questions to ask, but this often quite nihilistic series has proved it can tell familiar stories in exciting ways when it steps up in its introduction of new threats. “Lines We Cross” isn’t quite as impressive as this series can be due to a lack of any interesting new threats, but it does work as a good reminder of where things are ten years into this series, and what is still out there, waiting for our heroes.
The season premieres often rely on some major theatrics to get us back in the groove of things. Last year had Rick and the gang wandering through Washington D.C., with a few stops in the National Mall. This season, director Greg Nicotero and writer/showrunner Angela Kang have chosen a triptych method of storytelling, concluding with everyone meeting up to deal with the fire sparked by a crashed Russian satellite. Given the 19 recurring characters that make up this cast, it’s a good choice to make.
Following an opening sequence that finds Michonne and Daryl, among others, helping in a beach training scenario that sees a group of survivors wielding shields and other weapons to take down some very gooey (and likely quite smelly) waterlogged walkers, there’s a look at Oceanside, and what’s going on with everyone. It eventually becomes a trip with Michonne and Aaron, who discuss their role in the world, whether or not they are in the right, and the threat of the Whisperers.
This storyline was fairly middle of the road, as it requires a character to go against what we know about him, and nearly get killed in the process. The questions Aaron asks are pretty boilerplate for The Walking Dead. Things get better when Michonne heads back to find Judith speaking to RJ about “the brave man” who sacrificed himself to save everyone. Regardless of how fond I was of Rick’s farewell to this series, it’s a little moment of reflection that hits the way it needs to. And there’s a bonus in having Judith be less adult, occupying a space that can have me tolerate the littlest Grimes more.
The next storyline that is concurrently taking place involves the folks at Alexandria. This starts as an excuse to see how Rosita, Eugene, and Saddiq are handling little Baby Coco. It’s mostly played for laughs thanks to montage editing with some funky sounds, and Eugene making all kinds of measurements, charts, and graphs. It takes a turn when Saddiq is dealing with the baby on his own while suffering from PTSD flashbacks involving Alpha and her crew slaughtering his people. I guess this will factor in as the season moves forward, but that also probably means will have to deal with Dante the medical assistant more, which doesn’t sound very fun.
Better is the work done in pairing Negan and Lydia. While I can give or take Negan in a jail cell, putting on his big boy talk voice to get a message across in his bravado-filled attitude to others (mainly Gabriel), I am much happier seeing him interact with someone in a similar position. Not hurting is how well young Cassidy McClincy made the most out of her character last season, which only means Negan could end up being more interesting to watch this year as well.
Daryl and Carol obviously get the most enjoyable segment of the show. After a return from being at sea, and getting past an awkward hug with (former) King Ezekiel, Daryl takes her for a ride on his motorcycle. The two have fun bantering and picking off stray walkers. They give each other crap for how they address each other, where things are now, and it’s all as enjoyable as anyone would hope. Things take a turn for the serious when they discuss simply leaving; heading off into the sunset as it were. We know it’s not actually going to happen, and with all of that AMC money going to Norman Reedus, you can bet it’s his character who speaks up for the people they are surviving for.
Each of these storylines is cut short by the sight and sounds of a satellite entering the atmosphere and crashing nearby. As it turns out, it hit on the other side of the border Alpha warned Michonne and the others about. However, the crash has started a fire, and the choice is made to deal with it, stopping it from spreading further and causing a lot more damage. The concept of making a choice like this is a good one, as it speaks to the greater good, the teamwork of these communities, and the possible repercussions. I only wish this sequence was more exciting.
Granted, there are some fun bits, which come in the form of a couple of zombie kills of the week. However, I never felt any real threat in this whole fire scenario. Even when the walkers showed up, nothing ever seemed out of control. The danger was lacking, even if the unique presence of a foreign satellite gave the impression of something quite interesting to come about. However, the final scene did add a lot.
Following all the work done by every to handle the fire, with “Eugenius” working hard to collect what he can from the satellite, the shot of a lone Alpha glaring at Carol was full of all the tension and weight needed to remind me of what to be excited for. While it’s satisfying to see the entire cast of survivors working together and making their communities function amicably (making the departed Rick and St. Carl proud, I’m sure), I’m far more intrigued by what will turn that on its head. I don’t want to see destruction, but at least I know the Whisperers are here to make things interesting.
- Zombie Kill of the Week: A lot of competition this week, from Michonne slicing off a face, to Carol throat-slicing a walker and using its blood to put out a fire. But Daryl kills a tree to take out 5 walkers. That’s a win.
- Dan Fogler has lost quite a bit of weight. Good on him. Now I can only hope Luke gets more exciting things to do than wax about his lost instruments.
- “Are we the good guys.” – Aaron, dude, what show have you been on for the past several years?
- “You sign with a Southern accent.” – Daryl certainly has his admirers on and off the show.
- Carol talking about best friend bracelets and mocking Daryl is the kind of fun this show needs to revel in more often.
- Good thing Aaron was a former volunteer firefighter, I guess? Everyone was really on top of how to deal with this fire in all sorts of technical ways.
- Lots of slick action shots this week. I was into it.
- Welcome back to my coverage of The Walking Dead. I’ve been doing this for years now, and I still look forward to seeing what this show attempts to make work, even in the direst of situations. I only hope I can still make writing about this series interesting as well.
- Thanks for reading and feel free to hear what me and a few other fans of the show have to say about the series on The Walking Dead TV Podcast.