Concept art for an unused version of The Walking Dead's revamped title sequence appears to confirm a shocking twist from Robert Kirkman's comic book series will be adapted for the television series in Season Nine.
Showrunner Angela Kang, when discussing the making of the new opening titles with Art of the Title, said she wanted the overhauled credits to reflect and incorporate the themes of the new season, namely rebuilding and rebirth, the reclaiming of the world by nature, and "life out of death."
One unused sequence drafted by titles studio Huge Designs pays clear homage to soon-to-arrive enemy group the Whisperers and one of the more horrifying reveals of the comics. Spoilers:
This concept board is inspired by artist Charlie Adlard's splash page that ends issue #144, which sees Rick discover a border erected by Whisperers leader Alpha. Rick is horrified to find the decapitated and subsequently reanimated heads of some of his closest allies atop the pikes — a dramatic declaration of the Whisperers' territory.
That show of force claimed a dozen lives, including those of notable figures like Kingdom leader King Ezekiel and a pregnant Rosita Espinosa.
The comic book's live-action counterpart has long been expected to adapt the moment for television after it introduces series newcomers Alpha (Samantha Morton), Beta (Ryan Hurst) and Lydia (Cassidy McClincy), who are confirmed to debut this season.
Kang, when appearing on The Walking Dead Season Nine preview special aired on Talking Dead in August, said fans are in store for the "really great storyline" in the new season, but warned "the way we do it may not be exactly the way it goes in the comic — we always remix things."
The comic book bad guys — a nomadic cult of barbaric survivors who use the skinned flesh of the undead as camouflage to move freely among walkers and deceive the living — were previewed in The Walking Dead's Season Nine trailer during San Diego Comic-Con, when mud-covered walkers were seen pursuing a freaked out Rosita (Christian Soratos) and Eugene (Josh McDermitt) while hissing, "Where are they?"
"With the new characters that we saw in the trailer and just that little tease at the end, for me personally I think it's one of the most exciting times that has been on the show in a long time because we have this new threat," longtime director-producer Greg Nicotero said at Comic-Con.
"It was really well-introduced in the comic book and it was something really exciting. Knowing that we did that little bit of a tease, I love that that's where the show is headed. It's just different. It's something we've never done before."
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.