There's a grave new threat on The Walking Dead, and even comic book readers won't know what to expect when the Reapers return in "Hunted." After Maggie Rhee (Lauren Cohan) returns home at the climax of the Whisperer War, Season 10 reveals she's "marked" by Pope (Ritchie Coster), the grim leader of the Reapers: a human-hunting squad of masked marauders who commandeered the Meridian. The community where Maggie lived with the Wardens is a famished Alexandria's last hope for survival, but taking it back means confronting formidable foes unlike any the survivors have ever faced on The Walking Dead.
The comic books pit Rick Grimes and his band of survivors against several enemy groups — Woodbury, the Marauders, the Hunters, the Scavengers, the Saviors, and the Whisperers among them — but the costumed creeps Maggie's people call the Reapers are not from The Walking Dead comics.
"One of the beautiful [things] about getting to adapt something is that the comic books will always be there. That story will always exist as [Walking Dead creator] Robert [Kirkman] wrote it," executive producer Denise Huth told TWDUniverse about the new villains created for The Walking Dead's Final Season. "But as you're doing a television series based on that, and the fact that we've gone so many years, we're not in that early year headspace of, 'Okay, we've got to do this, we've got to do this,' because we knew those moments that the comic book fans really wanted. It allows us a little more opportunity to breathe and introduce some storylines that aren't in the comic books, and that, I think, is always really exciting for us."
The Walking Dead adapts the endgame of Kirkman's zombie comic book saga with the introduction of the Commonwealth, an advanced community defended by General Mercer (Michael James Shaw) and the white-armored soldier cops of the Commonwealth Army. The Reapers are a "complete clean slate," Huth said. "That's exciting for us and the characters because [viewers] don't know where it's going either."
When a ghillie-suited sniper (Mike Whinnet) attacks Maggie and Daryl (Norman Reedus) in the Season 10 episode "Home Sweet Home," gunning down her friends Maya (Brianna Butler), Ainsley (Haley Leary), and Gus (David Atkinson), the assassin tells Maggie, "Pope marked you." The Walking Dead will reveal Pope when Season 11 Episode 4, "Rendition," unmasks an old friend now part of the Reapers' ranks.
"We know that the Reapers came after Maggie and that she'd tangled with them before. Daryl was there kind of seeing how dangerous they can be," showrunner Angela Kang teased on TWD Season 11 Preview Special. "I think there's a lot that will be revealed about the Reapers, and so I don't want to get too far ahead of it, but we know that they're incredibly formidable."
At San Diego Comic-Con, Kang said these Halloween-masked villains were already lethal and skilled even before the zombie apocalypse, calling each killer an "incredibly brutal, organized warrior."
"These are the pinnacle of human killers. It's just a very formidable type of enemy to go up against," continued Kang. "They don't rely on numbers and volume of people to fight against in order to kind of survive, so they're a tight-knit group, and they're just really formidable in a way that our characters don't often come across."
The Reapers are on the hunt for Maggie and Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) in Season 11 Episode 3, "Hunted," premiering tonight at 9/8c on AMC. Episode 4 unmasks this new enemy group when "Rendition" premieres Sunday, September 12 on AMC, or watch now on AMC+.
Follow the author @CameronBonomolo on Twitter for all things TWD. The Walking Dead Season 11 airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.