The Walking Dead showrunner explains the season premiere trip to space
SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you have already watched Sunday’s season 10 premiere of The Walking Dead.
The Walking Dead was out of this world on Sunday’s season premiere — in more ways than one. The episode began not on this earth, but out in space where a Russian satellite was plummeting toward our planet. And not just toward our planet, but right toward our heroes at the Hilltop and Alexandria.
But fighting the fire to keep it from spreading meant crossing the border that Alpha had marked, and the episode ended with a stare-down of epic proportions between Alpha and Carol. Why go to space? And what does that moment between Alpha and Carol mean moving forward? Those were just a few of the questions we asked showrunner Angela Kang, who also weighed in on the big Daryl and Carol scenes as well as a possible romance between Daryl and Connie. Read on for all the insight and intel, and also make sure to check out our season premiere Q&As with episode director Greg Nicotero and star Norman Reedus.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So, Angela. This is a question I never thought I’d be asking you, but: Why outer space?
ANGELA KANG: We were talking in the writers’ room about: What is stuff that happens over time? When years pass, what goes on? And somebody was just talking about, “Well, you know satellites and stuff, they have to be maintained otherwise they start to fall.” So there was this idea that, wouldn’t they see things start to fall from the atmosphere after time? We thought that was just an interesting way to do something a little bit new at the beginning of the season. And there’s also this technology that they’ve gotten from the satellite, which comes into play within the season as well. We just thought that was a fun way to try something new for the show while still reflecting a reality that would happen as time goes by.
And then obviously you follow that up with this training sequence. What is that setting up in the rest of the season in terms of the story you’re telling and the importance of what’s happening here with all these communities coming together and doing that at Oceanside?
Last season we’d set up this promise between Tara and Rachel at Oceanside before Tara unfortunately was killed by the Whisperers. And they said, “We should train together. This should be part of the pact now that all the communities are united again, let’s work together.” And Rachel offered up Oceanside, so we’re paying off that promise they made to each other and showing that in the time that’s passed, our people have not been sitting idle, even though they haven’t seen the Whisperers in a while. They’re actively working on becoming stronger as a community.
And it’s also playing on this idea of the intercommunity militia from the comic book. It’s part of the transition from satellite into the training. People may feel this or not, but satellites are often used to communicate, but also they can be used to spy. So much of the season is this threat of these people who may be watching them at all times, that just seem omnipresent, and there’s this element of paranoia. Here’s what they’re doing to try to fight that off. That that all plays into the theme for the season.
Tell me where you came up with this format of repeating the same time frame three times to show what’s happening in three different spots at the same time. Where did that idea come from?
We’ve done versions of structures like this before. What’s fun about working on the show is that there’s no formula as to what an episode looks like. Sometimes we’re in linear time, sometimes time is sitting on top of itself, sometimes we do flashbacks. We do all kinds of things with timeline. And, in this case, it felt like we were dealing with different little groups that were dealing with this kind of paranoia that is stirred up, but it’s in slightly different ways. So it just felt interesting to do them as these little chapters that start in the same place and then end with the same conflict. But, in the meantime, here are these slices of life. So it’s just fun and experimental. Hopefully it works. We never know, but we’re always trying to tell the story in the best way that it feels for what people are going through in the episode.
Carol has been living out at sea, but then she and Daryl joke about just taking off out west on his motorcycle. They both over the past few years have wanted to be on their own, so what’s stopping them from doing that?
Carol and Daryl, they’re certainly characters the audience has really responded to, but also we as writers have really enjoyed writing for because they’re both so interesting. They’re interesting on their own, but they’re also really interesting together. They both have this aspect that’s a lone wolf aspect to them. And yet when they’re together it feels like, yeah, these two are bonded in some really special way. I think ultimately, even though both of them at times feel like they’d be better off alone, they love the people that they’re with so much, and it’s to the point where it’s painful. And I think that in some ways, neither of them have run off for good because what that means is really abandoning everybody else, and that’s hard for them.
Even when Daryl was off in the wilderness last season, he was still maintaining ties to the community. It’s just that it had been a long time and Carol felt him slipping away. I think Daryl being a little bit in a different place emotionally right now feels that fear that maybe Carol is slipping away. And then on top of that, she might be slipping away into something really dark. His fear is that she is just on a revenge quest, and that she’s not just at sea trying to heal and being off and having this moment of just being away from it all.
He’s afraid that she’s hunting Alpha. She said that’s not the case. We’ll see whether or not that’s true. But I think for both of them, having that lone wolf mentality means that draw of just going out there is always very strong for them. And they go through a push and pull of whether they should stay, whether they should go, whether they’re better off alone with just each other, with the group. That’s just what I think is interesting about them, both as characters and as people who are being asked to step up to leadership by their communities.
And obviously that’s not the only interesting thing going on with Daryl this episode. You know I’m going to ask about Daryl and Connie. I mean, you know that when you put that stuff on the screen, that once you talk to me, that I’m going to be asking what’s going on here. Are they in a relationship? What’s happening?
What I really enjoy about those two together, they have such an interesting dynamic and chemistry, which just has popped from the beginning. I think what we’re showing is that they certainly have a blossoming friendship and connection. We see that Daryl has been teaching himself sign language, which certainly says something, that in the mildest form he is doing his best to welcome somebody who needs to use ASL to communicate.
But I do think that even amongst the characters, there’s this really fun moment that I love, and this was not scripted. This is just what the actresses did and we kept it in because it was such a fun moment. Kelly sees Daryl coming up and Connie’s talking to him. And she just gives that little eyebrow raise, like, “Huh, what’s going on there?” And then Connie responds by doing a “Stop it,” which I thought is really great. I think even amongst the characters in the show, they’re wondering if there’s something more here, and that’s just part of the story for the season.
Well, will there be more story there for the season with those two?
I can’t spoil anything. You’ve just got to watch for that. I think the audience and the characters are very much in the same place, is what I’ll say.
The very last scene is Alpha and Carol locking eyes. Alpha’s seeing Carol has crossed the border and Carol is seeing the woman who killed her adopted son. What does that mean moving forward?
This really gets our people right back into more of a head to head conflict with the Whisperers. And you’ll find out that there’s a lot of weird stuff that’s been going on with the Whisperers, within their camp. But certainly Carol, who had been planning to leave on the next boat, it’s like now she’s there and she’s seeing this woman, and the fact that they cross into their borders have consequences. And the fact that Carol saw Alpha there, it just reignited every feeling of hatred and desire for vengeance that she had. That has consequences and that really sets up a lot of the main conflicts of the season going forward.
AMC's zombie thriller, based on the classic comic book serial created by Robert Kirkman.