On Sunday night, The Walking Dead abruptly ended its tenth season with Episode 10x15. The last hour of the new episodes was originally intended to be the penultimate showcase with an Episode 10x16 slated to follow but AMC's team was unable to complete the VFX and editing process due to California's shutdown with civilian safety in mind. While the true finale episode will air later in 2020, Season 10 has concluded, as it stands now. Despite Episode 10x15 clearly not intending to be the end of the run, Angela Kang's team crafted a brilliant batch of episodes for Season 10, once again pushing The Walking Dead in the right direction after a high-quality Season 9.
Despite every obstacle, Kang managed to bring emotion, character, and horror to The Walking Dead in Season 10. Where Rick Grimes once occupied the screen, time was given to other characters with opportunities for new cast members to shine and other characters to be brought into the mix. In Season 10, this has been very true for characters like Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam). Gilliam's character has underwent one of the most impressive arcs, not only within the canon of the show, but within the fandom. Father Gabriel was once a hated name for his cowardly actions and abandoning of other survivors but in Season 10 his growth into a decision-making, survival-capable member of the Alexandria Safe-Zone propelled him into the pantheon on beloved characters.
Meanwhile, Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) is finally talking meaningfully again. To conclude Season 10, Daryl carried out a touching conversation with Judith Grimes (Cailey Fleming) which was not only well-written but a showcase of impressive acting from both parties. Reminiscent of early episodes where Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) was trying to prepare his son Carl (Chandler Riggs) for life in their post-apocalyptic landscape, the moment which was the penultimate scene of Episode 10x15 reminded viewers that this show is not just a survival-horror series. Instead, it is a drama centered around family, relationships, and characters. In the wake of Michonne (Danai Gurira), heading out of town with a new group of characters for a journey separate from the one seen on the TV series.
Perhaps the most impressive accomplishment of Season 10 is the pacing of it all. Despite not offering an action-heavy batch of episodes, the 15-episode run never felt dull. A payoff late in the first half of the season saw Dante (Javier Cardenas), a character many fans had begun to favor, being revealed as a Whisperer, infiltrating the Alexandria community to kill Siddiq (Avi Nash). It was a shocking death but not still a character which the show could afford to lose without a tremendous backlash in the wake of so many beloved cast members departing.
The second half of the season offered cinematic and satisfying sequences, namely in the Michael Satrazemis-directed Episode 10x11. Slow-motion shots lit the Hilltop on fire as a horde of walkers crashed down on the beloved survivors, creating a feeling of claustrophobia which demanded returning for the following episode where the battle concluded.
The biggest misfire of the season was Carol (Melissa McBride) being framed as tremendously unstable to the extent that she endangered the entire family despite McBride flawlessly delivering on the performance front. Eager to serve revenge for the death of her son Henry, Carol acted recklessly as a means to literally take her shots at Whisperer leader Alpha (Samantha Morton). Ultimately, this is a story which was crafted with Connie actress Lauren Ridloff's conflicting schedule between The Walking Dead and Marvel's Eternals in mind. As a result, Carol accidentally trapped Connie in a cave to provide Ridloff the time off of the set to film another role, a move which left fans scratching their heads in regards to Carol's recklessness.
Ultimately, Carol's story ended up paying off when it was revealed she freed Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) from his cell as a means to send him on a mission to kill Alpha. After Negan delivered Alpha's head to Carol, her actions did not make much more sense as she clearly had a bigger plan in place, but she was mostly redeemed assuming Connie is going to return. The biggest benefactor of it all was certainly Negan, though. The character has been dialed in after spending years in prison, a story point which allows for some slightly different dialogue and new perspective on the world from the character. His shining moment came when he teamed up with Daryl to take out a trio of Whisperers in an epic sequence late in the season, ultimately twisting up some of the character's popular story from the comics where he and Rick Grimes save each other's lives while Alexandria is overrun with Whisperers.
Worthy of compliments is the show's inclusion of hard of hearing characters, prompting a conversation late in the year between Kelly (Angel Theory) and McBride. Where the pilot saw Connie calling a hearing impairment a "super power," the series brought the comment full circle when some others were seen using sign language as a means to communicate in dangerous situations along with Kelly using it to encourage Carol's bounce back to the family. Kang seems to have a great finger on the pulse of there being a necessity feeling inclusive for all people.
While the biggest payoffs of the year (including the conclusion of the Whisperer War once and for all and Maggie's highly-anticipated return) are reserved for the still-to-be-aired Episode 10x16, The Walking Dead Season 10 has been an absolute home run. The zombie series is at peak quality right now. Characters are at the forefront and many continue to emerge as major players as the story and universe expands. Going forward, fingers are crossed that the likes of Aaron (Ross Marquand) and King Ezekiel (Khary Payon) don't fall victim to a continued lack of screen time but the balance has overall been quite impressive.
The irony of The Walking Dead's current season being cut short for the same run of episodes which began just after its comic book source material suddenly ended as a whole is worth noticing. The show which once had every advantage suddenly seems to have the cards stacked against it as cast members disappear and ratings hold lower than in years past. However, it has cemented itself as a major player on cable and is more than worthy of being taken seriously, ten years in.