After ten seasons of fighting the dead and fearing the living, there's still something left to fear in Season 11 of The Walking Dead. More than a decade into the zombie apocalypse, the survivors have defeated frightful foes like Governor (David Morrissey) of Woodbury and the cannibals of Terminus, saved themselves from Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and the Saviors, and silenced Alpha (Samantha Morton) and the Whisperers. For the Final Season of The Walking Dead, showrunner Angela Kang unmasks a new class of threat: an elite squad of human-hunting costumed creeps called the Reapers.
A ghillie-suited sniper (Mike Whinnet) murders Maggie's (Lauren Cohan) friends in the extended Season 10 episode "Home Sweet Home," almost killing Daryl (Norman Reedus) in a vicious attack that ends with the camouflaged Reaper telling Maggie: "Pope marked you." Why the as-yet-unrevealed villain (played by series newcomer Ritchie Coster) "marked" Maggie and her new group the Wardens is a question for Season 11.
"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," Kang said on The Walking Dead 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."
In "Home Sweet Home," Maggie reveals the Reapers razed the village where she lived with her son Hershel (Kien Michael Spiller) and their friends Cole (James Devoti) and Elijah (Okea Eme-Akwari). When what's left of the group is either burned alive or gunned down, Maggie realizes the Reapers have followed her home.
"They are not people who are survivors that were like a teacher or a farmer or whatever and learned how to be tough," Kang said of the Reapers. "They were tough coming into the apocalypse. So they're a different sort of group than our people have ever tangled with before."
Viewers can revisit Season 10 for Easter eggs that hint an old friend will be unmasked as a member of this tight-knit pack of killers who are "incredibly skilled." Don't turn to the comic books for clues: the Reapers are part of an original story exclusive to the television show.
"They were skilled coming into the apocalypse. So every single one of them is like 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," Kang teased at San Diego Comic-Con. "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."
Follow the author @CameronBonomolo on Twitter for all things TWD. The Walking Dead: The Final Season Part 1 premieres August 22 on AMC.