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The Walking Dead season 10 release date, trailer, cast and story

The Walking Dead has had a tumultuous journey so far. Over its earlier seasons, the flagship series of Robert Kirkman's post-apocalyptic world grew into an unstoppable juggernaut that plowed over the competition and boasted millions upon millions of viewers at its peak. 

While the ninth season saw a significant drop in viewership from those glory days — a decrease that ended with a rock-bottom finale — the still-impressive numbers continued to show how incredible the show's success truly was. In other words, even at its worst, the show was still netting a better viewership than nearly any of its competition. 

With such a massive and loyal fanbase, it came as no surprise when the show was confirmed for a tenth season. The natural decision to continue cashing in on one of the most lucrative fictional catastrophes in TV history was a no-brainer. With the new season officially on the horizon, we've gone ahead and pulled together everything you need to know heading into the tenth year of dramatic, complex, gruesome zombie madness.

What's the premiere date for The Walking Dead season 10?

From day one, The Walking Dead has always launched in October. In fact, the very first episode aired on Halloween night in 2010. The premieres that followed haven't always happened right on the 31st, but they've definitely been timed for that spookiest time of year. Season 10 will be no exception — the first installment of the bunch is slated to hit AMC on Sunday, October 6th

If history has taught us anything, there will likely be a bit of a break (probably accompanied by a dramatic mid-season cliffhanger) sometime around the holiday season. After that, the show will lay low for a while, until the second half of the season kicks things off again in February 2020. From there, it will wind its way to a finale in late March or early April. Again, that's if they follow the example of previous seasons — which seems likely, considering the release schedule has been reinforced with ten years of practice.

The Walking Dead's tenth season trailer

For those wondering what The Walking Dead has in store for its tenth season, an extensive trailer — clocking in at over four minutes — was released at Comic-Con in July 2019. And we're not just talking about a four-minute "exclusive clip" from an episode, either. The trailer flashes numerous scenes, characters, hints, and potential storylines clearly aimed at whipping up the fan base before the rubber hits the road again in October.

One of the primary themes of the trailer was fear — not of the undead, but rather of the very much alive Alpha and her army of Whisperers, both of which featured prominently throughout season 9. The still-looming threat of the animalistic villains appears to be a central part of the new season. It's likely to spark both continuing interpersonal conflicts between the members of the commonwealth, and even a probable all-out war at some point down the road. 

Along with the broad-stroke themes like fear and war, the trailer also highlighted major developments for several individual characters. Alpha's liberated daughter, Lydia, for instance, is shown, serious and sober, practicing with a staff that looks an awful lot like Henry and Morgan's weapon of choice. The busy string of sequences also reveals a quick clip of Michonne and King Ezekiel sharing a moment that ends with the pair locking lips, signaling the heroine's first chance to find love after the loss of Rick Grimes.

Which Walking Dead characters have survived to season 10?

When most TV shows begin a new season, fresh additions to the cast are often the focus of fans' interest. However, The Walking Dead tends to have a bit of an opposite effect. The show has such a continual tendency to kill off characters that it's often more important to know who isn't alive rather than who is. In fact, before we dive into any new additions to the cast, it's worth taking a quick trip down memory lane in order to remember the primary characters that the show lost in the catastrophically violent (even for The Walking Dead) course of season 9.

Rick Grimes may not be dead, but he disappeared early on, in the season's sixth episode, after he successfully blew up the bridge the communities had been building, all in order to stop a horde of zombies from gaining access to their neck of the woods. On top of that, there was the mysterious disappearance of Maggie Rhee. Again, far from dead, the show squirreled the character away by literally physically removing her from Hilltop partway through the season with little to no explanation. 

Adding to the list, we also have Jesus, who was killed off in the fading moments of the mid-season finale. And finally, there's season 9's penultimate episode, "The Calm Before." The horrific installment ended with ten — yes, we said ten — heads on pikes on Alpha's creepy new border wall. Among the slain were Tara, Enid, and Henry.

Michonne will exit The Walking Dead during season 10

Season 9 of The Walking Dead was highlighted by the departure of major cast members like Andrew Lincoln and Lauren Cohan, and it turned out that was just the beginning. Months before season 10's premiere, it was already a well-established fact that Danai Gurira, who plays the fearless protagonist Michonne, was leaving the show at some point during the upcoming season. 

Michonne has been a regular on the show since way back in season 3, and there's no doubt that her presence is going to be seriously missed. And we're not just talking about the fans here, either. Her long-time coworkers are already voicing their emotions at the loss, with Daryl actor Norman Reedus going so far as to say that "I've been begging her to stay since we started the season," adding that "she's such a sweet lady, and she's fun to work with, and she's always on point... she's a joy to be around. I'm gonna miss her as much as I miss Rick, to be honest. She's awesome."

At this point, reports seem to indicate that Michonne will be present throughout most of the season (unlike Lincoln and Cohan's characters in season 9), with Angela Kang promising to approach her departure with "the same level of seriousness" as they did with previous high-caliber exits. The trailer seems to back this up, as hints of a romance with King Ezekiel and an ominous shot of Michonne pointing Lucille at the camera indicate she'll still be heavily involved in the action.

The Walking Dead's first season survivors

The world of The Walking Dead is a perilous one. It doesn't matter if you're a pathetic coward, a courageous hero, an opportunist, a villain, old, young... if you're a Walking Dead character, there's a good chance your days are numbered. Case in point: there are only two main characters — not counting Rick — who have made it from the dark days of season 1 all the way to the decade mark: Daryl and Carol. 

While the pair themselves may be old news, their current position within the greater storyline is absolutely going to be new ground worth exploring. Remember, season 9 had that massive six-year time jump. That's when we caught up with the newly-minted "hermit Daryl," who was living off on his own, and "Queen Carol," who had married King Ezekiel and adopted Henry as her son. By the end of the season, Daryl had been drawn back into the unraveling events with the Whisperers and Carol had lost Henry, broken up with Ezekiel, and resigned her crown. 

Season 10 promises some fun times with the survivors of the old guard, as Daryl and Carol are highlighted throughout the Comic-Con trailer. Not only that, but they're alone together in most shots — that's right, the return of the endlessly teased "Caryl" romance is definitely a possibility once again. However things play out, these two originals are likely to provide a solid foundation of drama and entertainment throughout the season.

Carol and Alpha are heading for a showdown

Season 9 had a lot of different plotlines to follow, but one that stood out from the bunch was the interesting parallel between Carol and Alpha. The two mothers have been to hell and back again ever since the apocalypse broke out. Both are powerful, indomitable characters, too. And yet, through their similar experiences they've developed dramatically different philosophies about post-apocalyptic life.

This was already interesting to watch as their children met and became infatuated with each other. But as the season drew to a close, the relationship between the two became much more personal... and bitter. On the one hand, Alpha watched as her daughter was converted from the Whisperer ways and ultimately taken under Carol's wing. On the other hand, Carol faced trauma yet again when her adopted son Henry was abducted by Alpha and then decapitated for her gruesome border wall. 

All of these similarities and grievances set the pair up for an epic showdown, and it appears that season 10 is where that clash of wills is going to take place. Carol actress Melissa McBride has already declared that she thinks there should be a confrontation, as "Carol wants vengeance." On top of that, showrunner Angela Kang has also explained that "there's just some really cool stuff up ahead," adding that "they are formidable forces to go up against each other." Even the promotional material has shown the two actresses side by side, indicating an impending duel. Fight, fight, fight!

Walking Dead villains new and old

Season 10 looks like it's going to be an interesting intersection of ways for The Walking Dead's growing list of antagonists. In fact, there are not one, not two, but three primary villains already in the cards (not including Beta — he comes as a package deal with Alpha). 

First off, there's the bona fide classic. Things have certainly changed since Negan showed up three seasons ago. Season 9 revealed a character that was both humbled and even a bit heroic — remember, he saved Judith's life in the storm. Season 10 promises to continue the conflicted character's storyline, with showrunner Kang confirming that he'll be released from prison, although she added that "He's not the hero. He's, at best, an antihero." Actor Jeffrey Morgan supported this view when he stated that "...I don't know if it's much of a redemption arc, because I think he's always been who he is." Looks like some fun times ahead.

Negan drama aside, the show also has to deal with the new baddie on the block: Alpha. The horrifyingly calm leader of the Whisperers showed her villainous chops throughout the previous year. The season 10 trailer indicated that there's a lot more where that came from, too, especially when one considers the fact that she's fighting against the people who took in her own daughter. On top of Alpha and her musclebound sidekick, Beta, the new season is also set to debut Gamma, a Whisperer who is "200 percent" loyal to Alpha and her mercilessly animalistic mantra.

The world of The Walking Dead in season 10

While individual character arcs are endlessly fascinating, another obvious question heading into season 10 is where things stand with the story of The Walking Dead as a whole. After all, things have come a long way from those earliest moments featuring one man alone in a hospital room. By the time season 9 rolled around, the all-consuming war with the Saviors was officially in the rearview mirror and, in many ways, the show had found a new lease on life. It jumped around in time, established Rick Grimes' legacy in the form of an older Judith and Rick Jr., killed off and alienated a ton of characters, and brought in the Whisperers.

As the season drew to a close, the threat of their new skin-clad enemies had materialized into a genuine threat, and the Commonwealth of communities officially reunited in order to support each other and resist the new danger. And don't forget that mysterious radio signal. As the finale wrapped up by proudly displaying Eugene's brilliant restoration of radio communication between the settlements, it left us with a mysterious voice saying, "Hello? Hello? Calling out live on the open air. Is anybody out there?" Whatever the heck that was hinting at is a mystery that will hopefully be resolved as season 10 unfolds.

Battling the environment

Along with a host of other changes, season 9 presented one of the first times that weather played a serious role in the Walking Dead storyline. The season finale revealed a picturesque snowy winter landscape, dotted with rotting bodies and shuffling corpses, all of which provided some chilling new territory for the serial thriller. 

The change in scenery was a fun twist to the show's typically hot, southern setting. And the good news is, it's not the last we'll see of environmental challenges. In one interview, after commenting about how the snow scenes were the fulfillment of a long-held desire, showrunner Angela Kang explained that "We're still exploring other kinds of environmental obstacles that we haven't done and seen before, so there will be some other new stuff to look out for."

The promotional material has already hinted at a couple of new natural phenomena, with one scene showing part of the crew standing in front of what appears to be a forest fire. Oceanside and its water-front location also seem likely to factor into the new season, opening up the doors to some aquatic adventures — something that TWD's sister show Fear the Walking Dead already explored in its second season.

Will season 10 feature another time jump?

Looks like time jumps are becoming the norm in The Walking Dead universe. They appeared periodically in the past, like the months that elapsed between the second and third seasons, but the show has never shifted quite as drastically or as often as it did in season 9. Smaller jumps aside (and there were a couple), the massive six-year leap mid-season had far-reaching repercussions. It introduced the mysterious issue of Michonne and Daryl's scars, aged Judith Grimes into a force to be reckoned with, surprised everyone with her little brother, and saw a growing divide among the communities. 

With all of the shifting around, one would think the show would settle down to a regularly paced timeline at some point, but that's not happening yet — and AMC isn't even trying to make it a surprise this time. Season 9 ended with a jump forward into the winter. Now, season 10 is poised to start with yet another jump months ahead into the following spring — for those of you keeping track at home, that's roughly six months in two episodes. 

While the constant shifts are a bit jarring, it does accelerate the age of the younger generation. This could serve as a perfect catalyst to eventually tie things in with the second spin-off series, which will be set significantly in the future and will follow the lives of the first generation of humans to grow up in the post-apocalyptic world.

Rick Grimes is still out there… right?

As you probably recall, season 9 saw Rick Grimes removed from the flagship Walking Dead series, but not killed off. Instead, the intrepid hero found himself washed downstream along with a host of walkers, only to be picked up by a mysterious helicopter and flown off without further fanfare. Since then, the question of what happened to Rick has come up over and over again. Michonne was still struggling with the loss six years later, and Daryl seemed ready to head off into the sunset looking for his friend at any moment.

The hints are likely to continue coming in season 10, as the world gears up for the Rick Grimes trio of films. This is especially likely since the hero's storyline has even been spilling over into the spin-off series Fear the Walking Dead, where the same helicopter (or one just like it) was spotted in one episode and crossover favorite Morgan may be gearing up to head out on his own Rick recovery mission.

Fans are so pumped to see the man again that they're jumping at every move Rick Grimes actor Andrew Lincoln makes. Case in point: He was recently spotted on a movie set in Australia. While fans immediately assumed that he was gearing up for a return to zombie-land, it turned out that Lincoln was actually working with costar Naomi Watts on the much more down-to-earth drama Penguin Bloom. While it may have been a disappointment, it goes to show how excited fans are to see Grimes back in the saddle.

A brotherly reunion?

Whatever the time and place, it's certain that the Rick Grimes saga will continue at some point. Whether it ever crosses back into the flagship series or not, though, that isn't stopping the hint-happy production team from penciling in more clues about the hero's whereabouts.

While the situation remains steeped in mystery, there is one meeting we can hope to see once again, whether it's on The Walking Dead, in Grimes' own trilogy, or somewhere else. We're talking about a reunion between Rick and Daryl. The two brothers in arms shared an emotional (very emotional) last few episodes together, spent tussling, trapped in a pit, and finally making up. 

The connection between the two characters is tried and true, and the possibility of their finally finding their way back to one another again is certainly in the cards at this point. In an interview at San Diego Comic-Con, TWD universe boss Scott Gimple was asked if Daryl would ever see Rick again, to which he answered, "...I can't rule that out. Have you seen a little film When Harry Met Sally? That's how they're going to rejoin again." Of course, the follow-up question was naturally if we'd get a reimagining of that movie's famous diner scene, to which Daryl actor Norman Reedus quipped, "How do you know we haven't already shot that?"

And what about Maggie?

In related news, there's also the juicy potential for season 10 to feature the return of absentee hilltop commander Maggie Rhee. Actress Lauren Cohan's brief excursion to her own show on ABC looks like it may end with a quick round trip right back into the arms of the undead. 

While the failure of her own show to get off the ground isn't necessarily enough of a reason to assume that Cohan will return, Angela Kang went right ahead and poured fuel on the fire by making it clear that they're doing their best to make her return a reality. Clearly, they haven't given up on re-integrating Maggie back into the story. Like Rick, she was never killed off. In fact, she was referenced multiple times throughout season 9 and appeared to be off on other business in an undisclosed location. 

If that's not enough, promotional material for season 10 seems to be pointing to a return appearance. One sneak peek, in particular, directly references "letters from Maggie" that have been received at Oceanside. Whatever the show has in store for Cohan's character, it hardly seems like she's going to shuffle off this mortal coil any time soon.

What can we learn from The Walking Dead's source material (or lack thereof)?

Another factor to keep in mind going into the tenth season is the soon-to-be lack of source material for the show to follow. Just to make one thing clear, there's no doubt that the onscreen version of The Walking Dead has already charted a course all its own. The comics have always served as a grounding point from which the show could draw inspiration, characters, and storylines. But the truth is, the showrunners have never shied away from altering things as they go along. Carl's death, Michonne and Rick's relationship, Shane's extended lifespan, the very existence of Daryl... all cinematic alterations that don't have counterparts in print.

That said, one question worth asking is how things would look if there was no source material in the first place. The answer may be forthcoming sooner than expected. Mere months before the season 10 release date, comics master Robert Kirkman shocked the Walking Dead world with a one-two punch that no one saw coming. First, he suddenly and unexpectedly killed off Rick Grimes only to follow it up with a final installment and the announcement that the comic book series was officially at an end. With this sudden imposition of a hard ending to the source material, it will be interesting to see how AMC handles their ten-year TWD universe plans.