Sunday's penultimate episode of The Walking Dead Season Nine, "The Calm Before," lays the groundwork for Season Ten, already in the works for an October debut on network AMC. Not only will the survivors become further entrenched in the growing conflict against Alpha (Samantha Morton), Beta (Ryan Hurst) and the Whisperers, the communities will first be forced to contend with a never-before-seen threat introduced in the closing moments of 915.
"We wanted to play with some of the rhythms of our storytelling," showrunner Angela Kang told EW of next week's season finale. "So there's a lot of really exciting things that we do and some things that we have not done before on the show."
When asked if Season Nine will go out on a cliffhanger — like the infamous guessing game that followed Negan's (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) Lucille-victim lineup that closed out Season Six — Kang said of 916, "It will feel like there are certain character arcs, certainly, that have a bit of a closed end to them. It will feel like part of a chapter in a character's journey, if that makes sense."
Kang also teased carryover into Season Ten, expected to play out the massive Whisperer War from creator Robert Kirkman's comic books. "As far as plot goes, there are certainly some things that will be carrying over into the next season," Kang said. She added, "Some new things may introduce themselves at the very end."
Daryl Dixon star Norman Reedus at PaleyFest in Los Angeles Friday characterized the last two episodes of the season as "Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots," explaining, "There was a war... now the two teams are going at each other. It does feel like a western." And after the penultimate Season Nine episode, which some stars say ties Game of Thrones' infamous Red Wedding massacre, characters previously believed safe find themselves in greater danger than ever before.
"It's kind of cool actually. It keeps the show sexy. You know that no character is safe all the time, you know there's always danger around the corner," Yumiko star Eleanor Matsuura said during PaleyFest. "I think that's why people love the show so much and why they tune in."
Teased Connie star Lauren Ridloff, "The Calm Before" is "a huge episode and it will have a huge impact on what happens in Season Ten."
Fans can expect the upcoming season to delve into the backstory of Beta as Hurst previously teased discussions with Kang that would reveal more of the towering Whisperer lieutenant who is promoted to the role of a leading villain. In addition to the potential limited return of Maggie (Lauren Cohan), The Walking Dead Season Ten will send off Michonne (Danai Gurira), who will appear intermittently next season in just a "handful" of episodes before exiting the series.
Reedus and Carol star Melissa McBride are expected to stay on as series leads as both stars recently inked three-year franchise deals. While Reedus hopes to be the last man standing, the star said in recent weeks The Walking Dead would be wise to begin eyeing an endgame.
Until the series reaches that point, Reedus praised Kang on The Tonight Show for taking the series "in a new, fresh direction" after the mid-season exit of Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln). "And going into our tenth season, that's hard to do," Reedus said. "It's really good. And you can tell from the crew, the crew is super pumped. That's when you know you're doing it right." For the remaining two Season Nine episodes, "bring some Kleenex," Reedus teased.
"It's gnarly. It's so heavy, yeah. Get ready," he said. "It's brutal, the next episode. The last episode has a look to it that we've never done before. It's a brand new look of the show, it's just phenomenal."
The Walking Dead premieres its Season Nine finale Sunday, March 31 at 9/8c on AMC. Season Ten is due out in October.
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