The Walking Dead season 11

(Photo by AMC)

Every Episode of The Walking Dead Ranked by Tomatometer

Updated 10/11/21.

The Walking Dead fans have hung with AMC’s zombie series for over 10 seasons now — 161 episodes — and helped the show break several ratings records, including the most-watched cable episode in history when its season 5 premiere aired.

Apparently, the saga of Rick (Andrew Lincoln), Carl (Chandler Riggs), Michonne (Danai Gurira), Daryl (Norman Reedus), Carol (Melissa McBride), Maggie (Lauren Cohan), Glenn (Steven Yeun), Morgan (Lennie James), and the rest of the gang has legs — and feet and arms and decapitated heads — to spare.

We looked at how each of its episodes so far have fared on the Tomatometer and found the most Rotten episodes occurred in season 6, with five of the 16 episodes in that season being deemed Rotten by a consensus of critics (although the season fared well overall — it is Certified Fresh at 76%).

The fifth season is the Freshest of the bunch, with eight TWD seasons overall Certified Fresh, and with the highest overall score at 90%.

Seasons 5 and 3 scored the most episodes in the top 10, claiming four slots each standing at 100%. Season 7’s premiere, “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be,” had the most reviews of any individual episode with 54 — unsurprising, given that it was the episode in which viewers found out which characters Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) had brained.

Where did “For Blood,” episode 8 of season 11 land? Read on to find out!

What was your favorite episode of The Walking Dead? Tell us in the comments.

Critics Consensus: "Start to Finish" fails to live up to The Walking Dead's potential with a midseason finale that is both dull and frustrating.
Synopsis: After a few moments of peace, trouble finds its way to Alexandria again with a threat that may be too... [More]

Critics Consensus: "Diverged" focuses on fan-favorites Carol and Daryl, but this wheel-spinning installment adds very few fresh layers to these already well-established characters.
Synopsis: At the lowest point in their friendship, Daryl and Carol come to a fork in the road and head their... [More]

Critics Consensus: "The King, The Widow, and Rick" spreads itself between too many storylines, and thereby doesn't accomplish much in the process.
Synopsis: With things looking up for Rick and the group, an argument breaks out at the Hilltop; the consequences of the... [More]

Critics Consensus: Despite Jeffrey Dean Morgan's deliciously evil turn as Negan, the meandering "Last Day on Earth" -- and its manipulative cliffhanger ending -- make for a disappointing season finale.
Synopsis: To save one of their own, Rick's group must venture outside the walls; their experience changes their lives forever.... [More]

Critics Consensus:
Synopsis: As the Governor's impending attack looms, Rick and the others consider whether the prison is worth defending; Andrea struggles to... [More]

Critics Consensus: "Now" provides deeper portrayals of some of the Alexandria crew -- but at the expense of furthering the stories of the Walking Dead characters we actually care about.
Synopsis: The sheltered citizens inside the walls of Alexandria must face a grim reality that might be too much for them... [More]

Critics Consensus: "Cherokee Rose" is an episode that seems as stuck as the characters in the story, but has a few touching moments.
Synopsis: Shane makes a deadly sacrifice that inspires unusual behavior and self-distancing; the rest of the group struggles to find the... [More]

Critics Consensus: "Dead Weight" continues season four's midseason narrative drift, idling through a subplot that will leave some fans eager to move on to the next chapter.
Synopsis: At the camp outside the prison, the addition of new members threatens the peace; something new unfolds as the Governor... [More]

Critics Consensus: With "Heads Up," The Walking Dead offers the resolution to a major cliffhanger, but with frustrating results.
Synopsis: Alexandria is finally able to begin pulling itself back together; peace is embraced between the two groups.... [More]

Critics Consensus: While the simmering grudge between Maggie and Negan continues to provide tension, "Hunted" finds the The Walking Dead stumbling with choppy pacing and cheap storytelling shortcuts.
Synopsis: Maggie's mission team gets separated and hunted by the Reapers; Carol, Rosita, Magna and Kelly attempt to catch horses for... [More]

Critics Consensus: "The Damned" stumbles after the season opener, with the unexpected return of a forgotten character, and a whole lot of action -- but not a whole lot of thrills.
Synopsis: The plan involving Alexandrians, Kingdommers and Hilltoppers unfolds; as Rick continues to fight, he encounters a familiar face.... [More]

Critics Consensus: Though a necessary breather from the prior episode's climactic tragedy, "Them" is a slower-than-expected demonstration of unsubtle verbosity.
Synopsis: The group feels beaten after living life on the road, but must continue to trudge along in spite of the... [More]

Critics Consensus: Despite featuring significant deaths and action sequences, "Monsters" struggles to make meaningful progress in the season's overall story.
Synopsis: Conflict with the Saviors leads to unintended consequences for the Hilltop, the Kingdom, and Alexandria; morality proves tricky in wartime.... [More]

Critics Consensus: "Twice as Far" has a few powerful moments, but overall lacks enough focus or depth to make up for jumbled storylines, a pointless death, and a frustrating finish.
Synopsis: Two separate groups leave Alexandria for supplies, and while both worry over the future of the community, they will face... [More]

Critics Consensus: Focusing on different characters and presenting a new walker threat, "Dead Or Alive Or" is an entertaining episode -- though one that struggles to build suspense.
Synopsis: Daryl finds himself in bad company as his group heads to the Hilltop; Maggie makes difficult decisions at the Hilltop;... [More]

Critics Consensus: An okay capper to a strong half-season, "Coda" alternates between electrifying tension and a meandering plot.
Synopsis: New enemies disregard rules and morals; although Rick wants to find a peaceful agreement, the enemies seem to prefer a... [More]

Critics Consensus:
Synopsis: Rick and the Governor convene for a tense negotiation of a peace treaty between their respective groups, hoping to prevent... [More]

Critics Consensus: Although its focus on a secondary character often leaves "Swear" feeling like a diversion, the discovery - and impending danger - of a new community is a refreshing development.
Synopsis: Someone stumbles upon a brand new society unlike anything seen before.... [More]

Critics Consensus: Though the pace is slower than desired, "Service" systematically sets a foundation for a frightening future while furthering the story of life under Negan's rule.
Synopsis: The remaining members of the group try to keep it together in Alexandria; they receive a sobering visit.... [More]

Critics Consensus: The promise of bigger moments to come helps to liven up the deliberate pace of "Judge, Jury, Executioner," while strong work from the cast elevates its talky script.
Synopsis: Rick sides with Shane causing Dale to worry that the group is losing its humanity; Carl's actions have unintended consequences.... [More]

Critics Consensus: "East" meanders quite a bit, but it also makes room for some thrills and leaves viewers with a huge cliffhanger leading into the season finale.
Synopsis: When someone goes missing in Alexandria, the community goes on alert, and search parties venture out.... [More]

Critics Consensus: "Splinter" doesn't move this season's story forward in any meaningful way, but Paola Lázaro's performance and some hallucinatory flourishes keep this character-focused installment from being wholly redundant.
Synopsis: Eugene, Ezekiel, Yumiko, and Princess are captured and separated by the mysterious troopers that surrounded them at the rail yard;... [More]

Critics Consensus: "Find Me" feels like a meandering look back when it should be forging ahead, but Norman Reedus' stoic appeal and striking cinematography keep this installment compelling.
Synopsis: Daryl and Carol find an old cabin that takes Daryl back to his years away from the group after Rick... [More]

Critics Consensus: Few surprises and far too many dumb decisions -- is this really "How It's Gotta Be?"
Synopsis: Every story and battle from the first half of the season comes crashing together in this action-packed, emotional mid-season finale.... [More]

Critics Consensus: While a Beth-centric episode feels unnecessary, "Slabtown" is an example of how the occasional departure from the main story can have its own tension and sense of place.
Synopsis: Another group of survivors is introduced, and although things appear safe and nice, there is a bit of a dark... [More]

Critics Consensus:
Synopsis: The Governor chases a fleeing dissenter; while the Governor is gone, a traitor tries to sabotage his plans.... [More]

Critics Consensus: Daryl is an involving tour guide through The Walking Dead's final batch of antagonists, although "Rendition" won't convince the skeptics that The Reapers are much different than the murderous militias who have plagued the series before.
Synopsis: Daryl and Dog get captured by the Reapers; they are taken to the Meridian and reconnect with a familiar figure... [More]

Critics Consensus: Though it relies on familiar themes, "Nebraska" successfully addresses the fallout of the previous episode and forges ahead slowly but confidently.
Synopsis: Rick and the others try to restore order after a terrible discovery; Hershel takes up an old habit and disappears.... [More]

Critics Consensus: "Bloodletting" introduces several new characters that fans of the comic books will happily recognize, but doesn't feature much of the gore that the title would indicate.
Synopsis: Rick discovers a possible safe haven; Shane must go on a dangerous mission to get needed medical supplies.... [More]

Critics Consensus: Like much of season four, "Live Bait" favors character development over action, although its deliberate pace may test the patience of some viewers.
Synopsis: Following his defeat at Woodbury, the Governor wanders aimlessly until he encounters a family in need.... [More]

Critics Consensus: "Something They Need" overcomes an uneven arc with humor, an upbeat pace, and a classic Walking Dead cliffhanger.
Synopsis: A group of Alexandrians embarks on a journey; one member of the group must make a heartbreaking decision.... [More]

Critics Consensus: The flashback-laden "The Day Will Come When You Won't Be" is slow to deliver the payoff from last season's finale -- but ultimately delivers with sadistic acts of gut-wrenching violence that will push Walking Dead fans to their limit.
Synopsis: As the members of the group remain helpless, Negan takes action that will forever haunt those who survive.... [More]

Critics Consensus: With "Inmates," The Walking Dead continues to jump between separate bands of survivors, maintaining solid tension in the process.
Synopsis: Beth remains hopeful, and she and Daryl search for other survivors of the Governor's attack; the now-divided group faces obstacles... [More]

Critics Consensus: Though some character motivations remain boggling, a dangerous morality shift between hero and villain -- along with a gratifyingly gruesome death -- make "Still Gotta Mean Something" an enthralling lead-up to the final two episodes of this The Walking Dead season.
Synopsis: A Heaps prisoner makes a discovery; Carol searches for someone in the nearby forest; Rick and Morgan find themselves in... [More]

Critics Consensus: By focusing on Daryl Dixon, "Chupacabra" takes a step forward in the story, but still feels like it's the set-up for something larger.
Synopsis: Rick and the other survivors continue searching for Sophia; Hershel disagrees with the group's plan and tells them they are... [More]

Critics Consensus: Talking is not The Walking Dead's strong suit, and "Home" has a lot of it, but the episode is redeemed by an action-packed ending.
Synopsis: The group debates the next step; Rick searches for a lost friend; Daryl and Merle question their choices; the Governor... [More]

Critics Consensus: A serviceable-but-lackluster return from hiatus, "The Suicide King" leaves the zombie-starved viewer wanting more.
Synopsis: Rick tries to save one of his group; Woodbury is in disarray; new guests at the prison raise concerns.... [More]

Critics Consensus: "Alone" is a bit weaker than the last couple installments, but it maintains a balance between character development and suspense.
Synopsis: Daryl and Beth find shelter while another group has a realization about their own protection; Sasha, Bob and Maggie clash... [More]

Critics Consensus: "The Other Side" delves into the sorrowful aftermath of losing key characters with a slow-building narrative that gathers speed -- and gains power -- along the way.
Synopsis: The Saviors visit the Hilltop unexpectedly, surprising everyone, with plans of taking more than supplies.... [More]

Critics Consensus: The Walking Dead delivers another character-driven episode in "The Cell," which successfully delves deeper into the world of Negan and his cronies, even if its attempts to humanize a villain achieve somewhat mixed results.
Synopsis: A new group of survivors seem to have it all in their impressive community; however, there is a price.... [More]

Critics Consensus: "Time for After" improves on TWD's previous episode by focusing on Eugene's emotional struggle.
Synopsis: Negan has to enlist the help of his lieutenants in solving a huge issue facing the Sanctuary; Rick and the... [More]

Critics Consensus: "Do Not Send Us Astray" focuses on a fan favorite and features some exciting battle action -- although with a bit of a mid-episode lull.
Synopsis: Trouble arises when unexpected visitors arrive at the Hilltop and the community is thrust into action; heartbreaking discoveries are made.... [More]

Critics Consensus: Though lacking significant plot progression, "Go Getters" presents a satisfying female perspective, strong character choices, and a rare glimmer of hope.
Synopsis: Saddled with grief and surrounded by enemies, members of the group try to find safety at the Hilltop before it's... [More]

Critics Consensus: "Guts" finds The Walking Dead settling into a gory groove and delivering thrilling action, even when some of its character development feels cliched.
Synopsis: Rick unknowingly causes a group of survivors to be trapped by walkers; Rick must confront an enemy more dangerous than... [More]

Critics Consensus: The Commonwealth gets explored and proves too good to be true while "Out of the Ashes" is a believably fine table-setting installment, befitting a season that has been more solid than gutsy so far.
Synopsis: Aaron, Carol, Lydia, and Jerry go to the Hilltop ruins for blacksmith tools and nearby game; Eugene's group goes through... [More]

Critics Consensus:
Synopsis: Glenn knows too much for his comfort level; Daryl finds a sign of life and tries to make it back... [More]

Critics Consensus: "Triggerfinger" picks up its pace considerably, offering new adversaries, moral quandaries, and gruesome thrills, even if it doesn't finish as strong as it begins.
Synopsis: Enemies trap Rick, Hershel and Glenn, who fight to survive; when everyone realizes she is missing, Shane goes after Lori... [More]

Critics Consensus: "Wrath" begins predictably and ends twistedly as it tidily closes out the "all-out-war" arc that's been creeping throughout TWD season 8, presenting a cliffhanger that goes against the grain of several lead characters and the series itself.
Synopsis: The communities join forces in the last stand against the Saviors as all-out war unfolds.... [More]

Critics Consensus: "The Big Scary U" slows down the action to spend some quality time with -- and thereby humanize -- two of its much-maligned cast members.
Synopsis: A close look at Negan and the lives of the Saviors during the conflict through a familiar set of eyes.... [More]

Critics Consensus: "What Comes After" serves as an emotionally raw and rousing farewell to series lead Andrew Lincoln, though some viewers may find Rick Grimes' ambiguous departure more of a cop out than a relief.
Synopsis: Rick is forced to face the past as he struggles to maintain the safety of the communities and protect the... [More]
Directed By: Greg Nicotero

Critics Consensus: "Hearts Still Beating" corrects course after a frustrating first half to The Walking Dead's seventh season, using an improved pace and some welcome narrative jolts to set up a hopeful, rousing conclusion.
Synopsis: Negan's unwelcome visit to Alexandria continues as other members scavenge for supplies; things quickly spin out of control.... [More]

Critics Consensus: "Say Yes" features an enjoyable side trip with Rick and Michonne, as well as surprises, a few laughs, and some good zombie action.
Synopsis: The group scavenges for supplies; back in Alexandria, someone must make a morally challenging decision.... [More]

Critics Consensus: Something of a filler episode for The Walking Dead, "Always Accountable" comes to life in its final moments with an exciting cliffhanger.
Synopsis: Daryl, Abraham and Sasha encounter many obstacles and a new threat while trying to return to Alexandria.... [More]

Critics Consensus: "The Lost and the Plunderers" takes a segmented approach to focus on individual characters -- albeit with mixed results.
Synopsis: Groups unite their forces and converge on the Hilltop; Aaron and Enid search for allies; Simon takes matters into his... [More]

Critics Consensus: "Sing Me a Song" propels TWD forward by returning to multiple storylines and revealing substantial layers of Negan's character and influence.
Synopsis: A deeper look at the Sanctuary and the world of the Saviors; members of Alexandria look for supplies.... [More]

Critics Consensus: "Save the Last One" provides a welcome return to serious scares and also manages to find some humor among the horror.
Synopsis: The group awaits Shane's return; Shane finds himself trapped in a school; Daryl and Andrea search for someone in the... [More]

Critics Consensus: "Stradivarius" efficiently sets the board for promising developments and provides a welcome spotlight for Daryl Dixon, but some viewers may feel The Walking Dead is sacrificing organic narrative development and stalling for time with contrivances.
Synopsis: Carol seeks out an old friend living alone in a wilderness teeming with walkers; survivors make the perilous trek to... [More]

Critics Consensus: "Bounty" rekindles The Walking Dead's knack for a lighthearted shaggy dog story and hair-raising horror set-piece, but some viewers may come away dissatisfied with the installment's teasing of a clash that never materializes.
Synopsis: The savage group led by Alpha confronts the Hilltop in a harrowing attempt to retrieve her daughter; a supply run... [More]

Critics Consensus: "Omega" utilizes an unreliable narrator to flesh out the zombie skin-clad fanatic Alpha and succeeds at making her all the more unnerving, but some viewers may find the episode's flashback structure and side plots to be more laborious than revelatory.
Synopsis: A new arrival at the Hilltop opens up about the leader of a group of mask-wearing savages; a search party... [More]

Critics Consensus: "The Grove" starts slow but finishes strong, concluding with one of the most affecting moments in The Walking Dead's twisted history.
Synopsis: After finding and establishing a new shelter, members of the group consider things returning to how they were before; Carol... [More]

Critics Consensus:
Synopsis: Realizing they're running out of supplies, the group must make a choice when security is threatened; Andrea goes to the... [More]

Critics Consensus: Focusing on the farewell of one of the series' original characters, "Honor" delivers an emotional mid-season premiere.
Synopsis: Rick faces new difficulties after a battle; the fight continues in other communities as core members face hard decisions.... [More]

Critics Consensus: The introduction of new characters and a face-off (or eye-off) between The Governor and Michonne make "Made to Suffer" a gripping episode as season three enters its mid-season break.
Synopsis: Andrea steps up when the people of Woodbury are thrown into uncharted territory; a new threat arises at the prison.... [More]

Critics Consensus: "The Distance" is an improvement over the previous episode with an exciting new direction, even if the plot itself is somewhat confusing.
Synopsis: After withstanding a spectacular storm, Rick and the others meet what appears to be a friendly person, but find themselves... [More]

Critics Consensus: "TS-19" closes out The Walking Dead's debut season by offering the answers to key questions while advancing the show's overall arc.
Synopsis: Rick and the group are allowed into the CDC by a strange doctor; all is not what it seems in... [More]

Critics Consensus: "Guardians" presents dual stories of tested leadership with thematic resonance and provides the malevolent Alpha a plump opportunity to demonstrate her villainy -- although The Walking Dead is still withholding crucial context from viewers longing to understand the motivations of their heroes.
Synopsis: While one community struggles to ease tensions that threaten to divide from within, the true nature of another group comes... [More]

Critics Consensus: The Walking Dead delivers an unnerving midseason cliffhanger -- and a new and terrifying threat -- although some viewers may feel that the ghoulish Whisperers are a retread of the same old antagonists with a new, rotting face.
Synopsis: A small rescue mission braves a dangerous herd in their hunt for a missing comrade, only to discover a surprising... [More]

Critics Consensus: Though its myriad of lingering questions will no doubt frustrate fans, the introduction of the outrageously entertaining Princess breathes new life into TWD as "The Tower" finds the series switching gears to great effect.
Synopsis: The communities prepare for the final battle of the Whisperer War; meanwhile, Eugene's group encounters Princess.... [More]

Critics Consensus: "Who Are You Now?" swiftly establishes a new world order in The Walking Dead without Rick Grimes, effectively conveying the progression of the survivors, but some viewers may feel adrift in what feels like the umpteenth re-set for the series.
Synopsis: The survivors encounter unfamiliar faces outside the safety of their community's walls and must decide whether or not this new... [More]
Directed By: Larry Teng

Critics Consensus:
Synopsis: The group learns that a truce with the Governor must come with a huge sacrifice on their part; Rick decides... [More]

Critics Consensus: Michonne is given an admirable, mostly successful departure from The Walking Dead as "What We Become" delivers a series of fascinatingly trippy "What If" scenarios from her past.
Synopsis: Michonne takes Virgil back to his mysterious island to reunite with his family; in exchange, Virgil promises weapons that could... [More]

Critics Consensus: "After" finds The Walking Dead in a more contemplative mode, and provides a fascinating glimpse into Michonne's backstory.
Synopsis: Rick and Carl look for shelter while Rick deals with old wounds; those left at the prison consider whether survival... [More]

Critics Consensus: "Conquer" addresses some unresolved issues with suspense and, as a good finale should, paves the way for season six, even if it leaves a few threads untied.
Synopsis: Daryl finds trouble while on a run; Rick and the group feel like outsiders in Alexandria, where trouble approaches the... [More]

Critics Consensus: "New Best Friends" balances absurdity and dramatic tension as it introduces a bizarrely entertaining new community, even if some moments feel forced and contrived.
Synopsis: While searching for a missing Alexandrian, Rick and his group encounter a mysterious collective, its inhabitants unlike any they have... [More]

Critics Consensus: "The First Day of the Rest of Your Life" overcomes sporadic doldrums with an action-packed battle sequence, satisfying and innovative storytelling, and impressively imaginative use of a tiger.
Synopsis: The stakes continue to grow higher as paths cross; the group enacts an intricate plan.... [More]

Critics Consensus: Continuing the slow burn of The Walking Dead's fifth season, "Crossed" highlights the whole cast in preparation for what should be a humdinger of a mid-season finale.
Synopsis: The group is spread thin with some members holding down the church and the others on a rescue mission.... [More]

Critics Consensus: Opening with some of TWD's most unsettling imagery to date, "Ghosts" ratchets up the tension with a heady, psychologically-driven story.
Synopsis: The threat of the Whisperers return leads to paranoia sweeping over Alexandria; in the meantime, Carol battles with the need... [More]

Critics Consensus: Thanks to a more focused narrative and effectively scripted character work, "18 Miles Out" is one of the strongest episodes of the season.
Synopsis: Rick and Shane are in conflict over the fate of an outsider; Andrea helps Hershel's daughter face a crucial decision.... [More]

Critics Consensus: An emotionally lacerating installment of The Walking Dead provides crucial backstory for the series' new status quo with a flashback structure that culminates in a shocking set-piece that will leave even the most hard-bitten fans shaken.
Synopsis: An outsider's arrival forces Alexandria to rehash devastating old wounds; eye-opening secrets from the past are revealed.... [More]

Critics Consensus: Rick's meltdown in "Try" creates a compelling setup for season five's finale, even if comes off a bit extreme.
Synopsis: When life within the walls begins to mimic life outside, the group realizes that sheltered life may not be possible.... [More]

Critics Consensus: "The Key" injects interesting new characters and action into TWD season 8's ongoing arc of betrayal, though the series sorely needs to break some predictable patterns.
Synopsis: Hilltop's leadership faces a difficult dilemma after the arrival of unexpected visitors; Rick comes face to face with an adversary.... [More]

Critics Consensus: Moving performances by Lennie James and Melissa McBride as their characters get their mojo back move the season's arc forward in "Bury Me Here," though the pacing is slow and their journeys seem relatively implausible.
Synopsis: Things do not go as planned when a group of Kingdommers delivers goods to the Saviors during a routine supply... [More]

Critics Consensus: In the Robert Kirkman-penned "Isolation," the prison survivors start to pick up the pieces while Tyreese and Carol are pushed in interesting directions.
Synopsis: A group leaves the prison to search for supplies; the remaining members of the group deal with recent losses.... [More]

Critics Consensus: Jeffrey Dean Morgan's chemistry with real-life partner Hilarie Burton adds a bittersweet authenticity to "Here's Negan," a strong season finale that brings shades of humanity to one of The Walking Dead's most irredeemable characters.
Synopsis: With Maggie back at Alexandria, Carol takes Negan on a journey to minimize the increasing tension; here, Negan reflects on... [More]

Critics Consensus: Slow-burning and suspenseful, "Claimed" also further develops the deepening friendship between Michonne and Carl.
Synopsis: Rick faces a number of threats while Carl and Michonne look for supplies; Glenn and Tara meet strangers on an... [More]

Critics Consensus: While it may slow the season's pace, "Hostiles and Calamities" takes a tense look inside previously unexplored Savior lives, advancing one character's logical and much-needed moral transformation.
Synopsis: An Alexandrian discovers they must navigate the mysterious, confusing and terrifying world within the Saviors' compound.... [More]

Critics Consensus: "Four Walls and a Roof" maintains the brisk pace and suspenseful tone that the The Walking Dead has established in its fifth season.
Synopsis: Rick and the others find themselves pitted against a nasty group but may have a plan to gain the upper... [More]

Critics Consensus: With the shocking loss of two main characters, "Killer Within" doesn't hold back on delivering finale-level action.
Synopsis: The group becomes severed, putting lives in jeopardy; in Woodbury, Merle approaches the Governor to make a request.... [More]

Critics Consensus: "Spend" dismantles any false sense of security obtained by its characters by reveling in blood splatter with a fatal, jolting disruption of the status quo.
Synopsis: While trying to secure a new home, Rick and his group face challenges, and question the utopia they find themselves... [More]

Critics Consensus: It remains murky whether these bonus installments will have a life of their own, but "Home Sweet Home" gracefully returns Lauren Cohan into the fold.
Synopsis: Maggie returns, to the dismay of Negan; the trials she endured since leaving have made her harder in order for... [More]

Critics Consensus: "Look at the Flowers" dives back into the conflict between the Hilltop crew and the Whisperers with a richly introspective episode that explores the far-reaching impact of Alpha's demise.
Synopsis: Heroes and villains reckon with the aftermath of the Hilltop fire; Eugene takes a group on a journey to meet... [More]

Critics Consensus: "Too Far Gone" delivers an epic mid-season finale, offering a forceful charge of pace that adds new emotional undertones to the characters' journey.
Synopsis: Things finally begin to calm at the prison until Rick and the group face imminent danger when the Governor arrives... [More]

Critics Consensus: "Indifference" takes it to the street as survivors search for supplies, in an episode successfully driven by human drama and culminating in a high-stakes choice between Rick and Carol.
Synopsis: Daryl and a small group set out on foot in search of medicine, but their mission faces obstacles; Rick and... [More]

Critics Consensus: Incorporating a growing sense of optimism into the bleakness of its continuing arc, "Rock in the Road" is an energized and amusing setup for a climactic, imminent war.
Synopsis: Rick and the others are led to a new community, where they meet the residents and their ruler; a familiar... [More]

Critics Consensus: The Whisperers are finally shushed for good in "A Certain Doom," a tidy climax that efficiently dispenses with old enemies while teeing up a fresh crop of antagonists.
Synopsis: Beta engages the final battle of the Whisperer War.... [More]

Critics Consensus: Tense, atmospheric, and slow-burning, "Consumed" occasionally overdoses on flashbacks but manages to convey psychological depth while making the most of its urban setting.
Synopsis: Stakes are high when members of the group must go on a heroic rescue mission in a previously known location.... [More]

Critics Consensus: Although mainly another hour of moving pieces into place, "Hounded" sees the prison and Woodbury plotines converge, setting up an exciting collision course for the mid-season break.
Synopsis: Andrea and the Governor grow closer while Michonne makes a decision about Woodbury; Glenn and Maggie go on a run;... [More]

Critics Consensus: "Internment" is highlighted by a great twist ending and Scott Wilson's performance as Hershel, who experiences a powerful emotional arc.
Synopsis: Assorted enemies pressure Rick and the group; the survivors and the prison may reach a breaking point.... [More]

Critics Consensus: While packed with several gripping plot threads, a rewarding showcase of Negan is what truly makes "What It Always Is" a stand out episode of the season.
Synopsis: Supplies go missing from Hilltop; Negan is idolized by an Alexandrian; Ezekiel holds a secret.... [More]

Critics Consensus: While heavy on flashbacks, "We Are the End of the World" unveils a dark, thoughtfully constructed exploration of the Whisperer's origins.
Synopsis: A flashback reveals the origins of Alpha and Beta; Alpha attempts to toughen up Lydia as they prepare to walk... [More]

Critics Consensus: "Still" focuses entirely on Daryl and Beth, and the result is one of the most intimate and character-driven installments in the series' run.
Synopsis: In the woods after fleeing the prison, Beth makes a request that sends her and Daryl on an enlightening mission.... [More]

Critics Consensus: "Worth" briskly cleans house to varying degrees of satisfaction, setting the stage for what could be one of the series' most explosive finales -- assuming the show finally follows through on its promise of All Out War.
Synopsis: With the threat of the Saviors still looming, Aaron continues searching for allies; Daryl and Rosita take action and confront... [More]

Critics Consensus: An early climax for The Walking Dead's final season, "For Blood" stages a rousing confrontation against the Reaper threat - with a couple of gruesome surprises thrown into the mix.
Synopsis: The Reapers defend Meridian from an incoming herd; Pope suspects Maggie is behind the attack, while Daryl treads carefully; Alexandrians... [More]

Critics Consensus: A somewhat anticlimatic and uneven effort, "The World Before" still manages to leave the door open for a engaging slate of plot threads in the second half of TWD's 10th season.
Synopsis: A fight causes tensions in Oceanside while the Alexandrians set out on a high-stakes mission.... [More]

Critics Consensus: "Us" has labored moments but proves a necessary episode overall, with newly introduced characters woven into advancing storylines.
Synopsis: Daryl struggles to fit in with his new group while Glenn finds Maggie's messages and races to catch up to... [More]

Critics Consensus: Hell freezes over in a wintry The Walking Dead finale that takes full advantage of "The Storm" with some chilly scares and a meditative, mournful tone -- although this elegiac installment arguably would have best worked as a preamble instead of a denouement.
Synopsis: In the aftermath of an overwhelming loss, the communities must brave a ferocious blizzard; as one group deals with an... [More]

Critics Consensus: "Chokepoint" brings a welcome dose of crunchy action to The Walking Dead, spotlighting Norman Reedus' physicality while introducing an intriguing new gang of rogues into the mix.
Synopsis: Daryl's daring rescue mission forces Alpha to unleash a group of her own to retrieve what belongs to her, even... [More]

Critics Consensus: "The Obliged" continues the season's streak of excellent episodes, bolstered by a bittersweet performance from Andrew Lincoln.
Synopsis: Rick's vision of a civilized future is threatened by a sudden reckoning with past sins that remain unavenged and unforgiven.... [More]

Critics Consensus: A finale that feels like a fresh start, "A" raises the narrative stakes without taking itself too seriously - and brings the season to a tense, fast-paced conclusion.
Synopsis: Many paths collide on each group's travels; Rick remembers the past and faces sheer brutality; the group struggles to survive.... [More]

Critics Consensus: A big ending on "What Lies Ahead" gets the second season of The Walking Dead off to a strong start.
Synopsis: Rick leads the group out of Atlanta; the group is stopped by a threat unlike anything anyone has seen before;... [More]

Critics Consensus: By keeping its focus on a fan favorite, "Some Guy" delivers a compelling -- though ultimately heartbreaking -- episode.
Synopsis: A new weapon in the Savior arsenal proves to be a giant hurdle as fighting continues between Rick's forces and... [More]

Critics Consensus: Maggie veers into the dark side in a tense episode that features a show-stopping set piece on a train and intriguing shades of moral gray.
Synopsis: Maggie's mission takes the team through a subway tunnel, challenged by lurking walkers and a recalcitrant Negan; with Eugene's group,... [More]

Critics Consensus: "Vatos" establishes an early Walking Dead benchmark, with plenty of action, rising character arcs, and a final scene that packs a wallop.
Synopsis: Another group of survivors threatens Rick, Daryl, T-Dog and Glenn, sending Rick's mission to Atlanta awry; Jim becomes unhinged back... [More]

Critics Consensus: With "Wildfire," The Walking Dead continues to prove it isn't your average horror story, with a focus on three-dimensional characters in a well-rounded drama.
Synopsis: Rick leads the group to the CDC hoping to cure an infected Jim, who must make a terrible life-and-death decision.... [More]

Critics Consensus: "The Calm Before" exemplifies everything that The Walking Dead does best - bittersweetly affirming the bonds of a makeshift community and finding glimmers humanity in a nihilistic landscape before dropping a horrifying twist that will leave viewers reeling long after.
Synopsis: The fair at the Kingdom is underway, with all four communities coming together in celebration for the first time in... [More]

Critics Consensus: "Mercy" mixes mysterious time-hopping sequences with explosive action to create a more hopeful premiere than previous seasons of The Walking Dead.
Synopsis: Rick and his group, along with the Kingdom and Hilltop, have banded together to bring the fight to Negan and... [More]

Critics Consensus: "Here's Not Here" is a stand-out installment of The Walking Dead, using Morgan's backstory as a powerful reminder of what it means to be human.
Synopsis: Morgan recalls his travels from King County to Alexandria, where he encountered a solo survivor who taught him a new... [More]

Critics Consensus: This installment of The Walking Dead doesn't contain a whole lot of chomp, but it effectively entwines disparate plot threads in a way that promises a big payoff soon enough.
Synopsis: Maggie and Elijah learn a new survival tactic from Negan; Eugene's group clears walkers to pay their fines; Yumiko interviews... [More]

Critics Consensus: "Tell it to the Frogs" restores the show's focus on character-driven drama, getting a groundbreaking season of unique horror storytelling back on track.
Synopsis: Rick goes back to Atlanta to save a man's life; Lori and Shane deal with the surprise return of someone... [More]

Critics Consensus: "Beside the Dying Fire" is a suspense-filled finale that balances narrative twists and zombie action while rounding out one arc and setting up another.
Synopsis: Rick and Carl find the farm in jeopardy; the group is split up in the chaos; Rick's leadership is questioned.... [More]

Critics Consensus: Maggie and Negan's longstanding feud takes center stage in "Acheron: Part One," a solid premiere that kickstarts The Walking Dead's final season with some bite.
Synopsis: Daryl leads a mission team to scavenge the military base he discovered; Maggie tells her story, prompting a new mission... [More]

Critics Consensus: "Adaptation" creepily fleshes out the Whisperers beyond their rotting camouflage to chilling effect and teases that redemption for the irredeemable Negan may be possible -- adding up to a solid and satisfying return for The Walking Dead.
Synopsis: The communities thought they could build a better future separately, but the recent loss of one of their own drives... [More]

Critics Consensus: A knockout opener to The Walking Dead's sixth season, "First Time Again" has everything one would hope for - including intense plot development, entertaining character interplay, and more zombies than ever before.
Synopsis: Rick and the others have a difficult time assimilating into Alexandria; a new threat arises that could bring the group... [More]

Critics Consensus: "30 Days Without an Accident" uses its deliberate pace to dramatically build tension while advancing character psychology.
Synopsis: The group lives a more peaceful life at the prison and strives to hold onto humanity; problems arise when Rick... [More]

Critics Consensus:
Synopsis: Secrets are told and revealed; Hershel refuses to acknowledge the world's new reality; Andrea comes out of her shell; everything... [More]

Critics Consensus: "Lines We Cross" sets the stage for TWD's 10th season with a fierce momentum that delivers equally on satisfying character moments and tense plotting.
Synopsis: The group in Oceanside continues to train in case the Whisperers return; tensions are high as the heroes struggle to... [More]

Critics Consensus: "Sick" lives up to its title and effectively sets the expectation that this Walking Dead season will be its most harrowing yet.
Synopsis: A medical emergency proves traumatic and leaves a life hanging in the balance; Rick and the group discover a potential... [More]

Critics Consensus: "Silence The Whisperers" offers a meditative focus on the developments of some lesser characters, all while continuing this season's compelling narrative thrust.
Synopsis: Still-paranoid Alexandrians get riled up over the Whisperers and take their fear out on Negan; at Hilltop, the group deals... [More]

Critics Consensus: Before ending with a spectacular cliff-hanger, "Morning Star" pits the Hilltop crew against the Whisperers in a skillfully staged battle that promises a bloody end to this season.
Synopsis: The Whisperers are coming for Hilltop; after Daryl and Lydia's encounter with Alpha, the communities must decide whether to run... [More]

Critics Consensus: Following a swift and violent conclusion to last week's harrowing battle, "Walk With Us" delivers a restless aftermath marked by stunning characters deaths and unanticipated twists.
Synopsis: With Negan's help, Alpha and the Whisperers attack Hilltop.... [More]

Critics Consensus: Vintage-style action and the spark of a hot new romance make "The Next World" a gratifying successor to the shocking mid-season premiere.
Synopsis: A simple scavenging run proves to be more tricky, when the survivors are not the only ones after a goldmine... [More]

Critics Consensus: "Thank You" is an example of what The Walking Dead does best, combining gripping action with troubling existential questions in a heart-wrenching plot twist.
Synopsis: A small group, including Rick, runs into hurdles while trying to return to Alexandria, and some may not make it... [More]

Critics Consensus: Though it ultimately sets up more than it pays off, "Bonds" introduces a contentious dynamic between Negan and Alpha that offers some of this season's more memorable character moments.
Synopsis: Carol and Daryl go on a mission together while Siddiq struggles to solve a mystery.... [More]

Critics Consensus: "Squeeze" returns viewers to the 10th season of TWD with a heart-stoppingly claustrophobic story that finds time to enrich the strong dynamic between Carol and Daryl.
Synopsis: The group must figure out how to get out of a precarious situation.... [More]

Critics Consensus: "Open Your Eyes" fulfills the potential of the foundations laid earlier in this season with a surprising character death and some ingenious twists.
Synopsis: Carol pushes boundaries that make Daryl uncomfortable; Alpha and Beta have reservations about someone.... [More]

Critics Consensus: "The Well" brings a welcome reprieve from the brutality of the season premiere, introducing a colorful new character and focusing on two of The Walking Dead's most fascinating regulars.
Synopsis: For a number of familiar faces, a new, well-established community seems too good to be true.... [More]

Critics Consensus: "Knots Untie" is an excellent, albeit unevenly scripted, foundation for the dangerous and degenerative societal clash it foreshadows.
Synopsis: After realizing that Alexandria may not be as safe as he originally thought, Rick must make decisions about where to... [More]

Critics Consensus: An informational, narrative episode, "Forget" focuses on character relations while an ominous threat looms outside the confines of the core group.
Synopsis: As Rick and the others continue to acclimate to their new surroundings, they consider a return to normalcy.... [More]

Critics Consensus: By returning to its roots, "A New Beginning" pumps fresh blood into TWD and inspires hope for a brighter future.
Synopsis: Rick and his group make a risky run into Washington, D.C. to search for artifacts they will need to build... [More]

Critics Consensus: "Not Tomorrow Yet" tests viewers' patience with slow-building tension -- and delivers with a powerful, action-packed ending.
Synopsis: Rick and the others determine that the only way to keep peace in Alexandria, is to wage a war with... [More]

Critics Consensus: "The Same Boat" takes a strong female focus by continuing Carol's arc while deepening viewer anticipation for Negan's ominous arrival.
Synopsis: After a minor success, two members of the group are taken hostage; Carol struggles morally with the lengths she has... [More]

Critics Consensus: Loaded with thrilling action, "JSS" is a terrific example of The Walking Dead making the most of its varied characters.
Synopsis: When it appears that things are starting to normalize in the settlement, a new problem arises for the Alexandrians.... [More]

Critics Consensus: "No Way Out" is a brutally entertaining rebound from a lackluster first half of the season, re-energized with arresting, jaw-dropping developments.
Synopsis: Now that walkers have shown up inside the gates of Alexandria, Rick and the other survivors are scared and outnumbered.... [More]

Critics Consensus: "Say the Word" takes a step back from the action of the last episode, while driving home major plot points for the season going forward.
Synopsis: Rick struggles after another loss; Michonne grows more suspicious of the Governor, who throws a party for the people of... [More]

Critics Consensus: Seth Gilliam and Ross Marquand shine in a self-contained adventure that lulls viewers with some refreshing male bonding before turning the tables with a shocking twist.
Synopsis: With Maggie's map, Gabriel and Aaron search for food and supplies to bring back to Alexandria; checking out one more... [More]

Critics Consensus: The Walking Dead's debut delivers intense horror set apart by its focus on tragedy and the human condition -- not to mention awesome zombie kills.
Synopsis: Rick searches for his family after emerging from a coma; Morgan and Duane help teach Rick the new rules for... [More]
Directed By: Frank Darabont

Critics Consensus: Supported by outstanding performances, "Better Angels" delivers a superb payoff to one of the show's central conflicts and foreshadows a chilling season finale.
Synopsis: When the group learns that someone dangerous may be loose near the farm, Rick, Shane, Daryl and Glenn try to... [More]

Critics Consensus: While the Reapers have yet to coalesce into a memorable threat, "On the Inside" enthralls with a horror house set piece that will terrify even the most hardened Walking Dead fans.
Synopsis: Escaping from walkers, Connie and Virgil hide in a house occupied by mysterious creatures; Pope tests Daryl's loyalty to the... [More]

Critics Consensus: In The Walking Dead's season five premiere, "No Sanctuary" delivered an action-packed resolution to last season's cliffhanger while deepening our understanding of Rick and Carol.
Synopsis: The true motives of the Terminans come to light when Rick and the others end up in a vulnerable situation.... [More]

Critics Consensus: "Infected" kicks the rejuvenated show into overdrive, skillfully contrasting big horror-action set pieces with intimate character development.
Synopsis: Facing a new enemy, Rick abandons his quiet lifestyle so that he and the others can fight to protect their... [More]

Critics Consensus: Season three of The Walking Dead responds to its audience's call to action with "Seed," an action-packed premiere.
Synopsis: As the world grows more dangerous and Lori's pregnancy advances, Rick locates a potentially safe haven.... [More]

Critics Consensus: After an explosive premiere, The Walking Dead's "Strangers" settles into a groove with a more deliberate, dialogue-heavy episode.
Synopsis: Rick leads a risky mission for a possible small reward when the supplies run low and the group's mistrust of... [More]

Critics Consensus: With excellent acting and compelling dialogue, "Self Help" is a rewarding adaptation of the comic book as well as an expertly crafted hour of television.
Synopsis: The group must contend with a new set of issues while out on a mission, and must push through to... [More]

Critics Consensus: "Walk With Me" takes a welcome break from Rick and the prison to introduce season three's highly anticipated new villain, The Governor.
Synopsis: Andrea and Michonne witness an accident that leads them to a new group of survivors, but when tensions arise with... [More]

Critics Consensus: A change of scenery and a stronger sense of story make "Clear" one of seasonthree's best episodes so far.
Synopsis: Realizing they are outgunned, Rick leads an expedition to get more weapons and fortify their group against the Governor and... [More]

Critics Consensus: Fueled by a thrillingly brutal confrontation between Daryl and Alpha, "Stalker" showcases a nerve-wracking flashpoint that brings the tensions of the incoming Whisperer War to a simmering boil.
Synopsis: The group must defend Alexandria from a threatening outside force.... [More]

Critics Consensus: "Warning Signs" balances skillfully built suspense with rare moments of respite to create one of the best installments of The Walking Dead in years.
Synopsis: Rick's vision for the future is threatened by a mysterious disappearance that divides the work camp where the communities are... [More]

Critics Consensus: A slower burn than the premiere, "The Bridge" is a compelling character study that lays necessary foundations for future installments.
Synopsis: The communities join forces to restore a bridge that will facilitate communication and trade; someone is gravely injured at the... [More]

Critics Consensus: "Remember" adds extra elements of excitement and surprise to the season with new characters, new developments, and a surplus of thrilling change.
Synopsis: The group has a difficult time molding to a new lifestyle, forcing them to consider whether they can be the... [More]

Critics Consensus: The anticipation is palpable as "When the Dead Come Knocking" effectively brings Team Prison and Team Woodbury together for a mid-season showdown.
Synopsis: A new guest at the prison forces Rick's hand; members of the group go on a mission to rescue Glenn... [More]

Critics Consensus: A visually impressive episode of The Walking Dead, "What Happened and What's Going On" artfully portrays the psychology of the characters, rather than focusing on its shocking moments.
Synopsis: After facing all of the recent trials, a slight detour may offer the solution that the group has been seeking.... [More]

Josh McDermitt as Dr. Eugene Porter, Nadia Hilker as Magna, Dan Folger as Luke, Lauren Ridloff as Connie, Angel Theory as Kelly - The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 6 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

(Photo by Gene Page/AMC)

Sunday’s episode of The Walking Dead, “Who Are You Now?,” was the first without Andy Lincoln’s name in the opening credits, but Rick Grimes’ presence still looms large with his family and friends, six years after (they think) he died. Michonne is running the show in Alexandria, the baby Daryl nicknamed “Lil’ Asskicker” is growing up to be just that, Carol has become the frighteningly vengeful queen of The Kingdom, and Eugene Porter, spurred on by the last conversation he had with Rick, has become a brave, walker-whacking survivor.


The following includes spoilers for episode six of The Walking Dead season 9 — stop here if you haven’t watched the episode. 


Porter portrayer Josh McDermitt talked to Rotten Tomatoes about Eugene’s new ‘tude, his mullet-less new look, what the big time jump is allowing the show to do with the storyline, and how Eugene is going to overcome his fear to figure out why walkers seem to have developed the ability to talk.

The actor also previews the rest of the season, including the return of his friend and former co-star, Michael Cudlitz, as the director of next week’s episode.


Kimberly Potts for Rotten Tomatoes: Season 9 started with a year-and-a-half time jump, and then this very surprising six-year time jump happened. What did you think when you found out that’s how the storyline was going to move forward after Rick’s “death”?

Josh McDermitt: I loved it, because we’ve told the story many different ways. The war didn’t take place over years, even though it took place over two seasons within our show, but in The Walking Dead universe, it took place over a couple of weeks, maybe — it was a very short period of time. So to do a big time jump like that was exciting. Think about who you were a year ago, two years ago, even 10 years ago. We were different people, so it allows us to change things, and we definitely see in this episode that some things have happened in that six-year time period. We’re still affected by the loss of Rick, but these other things are impacting our lives as well. And so it’s fun to unpack those things and to figure out what’s making these people tick at this point in their lives.

Speaking of changes, Eugene has this spiffy new haircut, and more importantly, this badass attitude now. What’s been most fun about playing that evolution of Eugene?

McDermitt: It’s really cool, because I’ve been sitting on the sidelines in a way, watching everyone else kill walkers, getting their hands dirty, while I’m the corner going, “Protect me, protect me.” I know the technical things you have to do to stab a walker in the head. I know these things, but I just haven’t been able to do it myself. So the most exciting thing was to get a little more physical on the show. And it’s cool to see the evolution of this guy. He’s more confident than he’s ever been in his role as a survivor. He’s using a knife — that’s a very close-quarters weapon, and he’s not afraid of the zombies when we first see him, this new iteration of him. He’s able to go up and just handle business. He takes on three walkers at one time. If it was one walker, that’s not a lot. But as I was talking to Eddie Guzelian, who wrote the episode, and Larry Teng, who directed it, we decided that we need to show that. We needed to go from basically seeing Eugene kill one walker to going, “Holy crap, he just killed three! The last time I saw him, he was running away from them.” So we took that to (showrunner) Angela Kang and she was like, “Yeah, I love it. Let’s do it.” And it was exciting to see that he’s basically a badass now.


We also see that Alexandria is thriving in certain ways; more crops, more organized, new structures and buildings, and they’ve got a pretty well-oiled society going on within the walls. Can we assume Eugene has been a big part of engineering all that as well?

McDermitt: Yeah, we saw that in the first five episodes. He was working on the plans for the bridge. He is the big brain that brings it all together. But the communities are definitely working together to make that happen, not kind of like just one person, which is awesome. Each community is six years older as well, and it’s possible that we have other survivors that we’ve come in contact with that maybe know a thing or two about building a pizza oven or whatever we were going to add. It’s not all just on Eugene, so that’s allowed him to continue to build his confidence as a survivor, learn how to be proficient in knives and that sort of thing.

His last big interaction with Rick was Rick telling him how important he was to their family, to their community, at a time when Eugene was apologizing for not having done more. You could tell, visibly, it meant a lot to Eugene to hear that from someone he respected so much. How much of that evolution of Eugene and this new confidence in him is a result of having gotten that praise, that recognition, that respect from Rick?

McDermitt: I think you nailed it perfectly. I think that’s exactly it. He’s received the recognition from Abraham back in season 6 when Eugene stepped up to take the RV and try to lead the Saviors away. Abraham said, “You are a survivor,” like, you are a person who can live in this world and be self-sufficient. That was huge for them, that moment. And then as we see him get kidnapped by Negan,

Negan starts to (spark) more and more value within Eugene. I think Eugene needs that affirmation; he needs people to say, “Hey, you’re not just this guy that’s annoying me. You actually add value to this group.” And I think to finally get that last piece from Rick was awesome. It was something that he’d never had, and he had been with Rick a long time. Not that Rick was mistreating him or anything, but it was this thing: Eugene said, “If I could have done more —” and Rick said, “Don’t say that. You did all this, and after everything, that is everything.” That’s a huge moment for Eugene. I think without that, we may not have seen Eugene, who he is after the six-year time jump.


Christian Serratos as Rosita Espinosa, Josh McDermitt as Dr. Eugene Porter - The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 6 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

(Photo by Gene Page/AMC)

His new confidence allows him to try to take his friendship with Rosita to the next level, too. Do you think he’s always been in love with Rosita?

McDermitt: I think he’s always been girl crazy, and I think with her, she is probably the person that he’s closest with who’s left within this group of survivors. He’s just always had an eye on her and been attracted to her, but also, they have a brother-sister relationship more than anything, so maybe he’s never really stepped up to do anything. But I think what’s really driving this is seeing that Rosita and Gabriel are together, Eugene maybe feeling left out, like, “How come I didn’t get a chance?” He says, “Look, I get it: Machete-wielding men of the cloth aren’t exactly a dime a dozen. If that’s your thing, that’s your thing. But there’s other people, people who’ve known you longer, people with a different set of skills that —” And as he’s evolving and growing into this bigger survivor who can be extremely self-sufficient — we see Daryl off living on his own. It wouldn’t surprise me if Eugene feels like he could do that, too, if push came to shove.

I think he’s been wanting to not be left out for his whole life. I don’t know that he would necessarily settle down if the apocalypse didn’t happen. He’s just comfortable being him, but he’s grown so much it’s like, OK, maybe I should try a relationship. And who’s the person I know the best? And that would be Rosita.

What do you think Eugene’s romance history is? Do you think he’s ever been in love before? Had he ever dated before? Or as you said, that just wasn’t something that was really important to him before the apocalypse?

McDermitt: I’ve always assumed that he’s never really dated. He was just comfortable being — I always thought he lived with his mother — just comfortable being in his own world, playing his video games and eating Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, and stuff like that.


Is there a possibility that there is going to be a little love triangle with Eugene and Rosita and Gabriel?

McDermitt: I will say that there’s more story to tell as it pertains to Eugene and Rosita and their relationship, and maybe his pursuit of their relationship. We have more story to tell there. I’m not going to mention other characters and what might happen there. But really, what we see at the end of (“Who Are You Now?”) is just that the walkers are starting to talk, and Eugene has injured himself and he’s getting away. And even though he feels like he’s going to die, he still stops to just say to Rosita, “Look, I have to say this now —” and she’s like, “Don’t make this weird,” which I absolutely loved. It’s one of those things where it’s still on his mind, and he just needs to get this out, and he definitely feels like he’s going to die at this point, which is a scary place to be.

That scene with the talking walkers is, in nine seasons, the creepiest, scariest walkers have ever been. What can you say about that new development? Is this an evolving zombiedom, or — something else?

McDermitt: I think we see that it’s something completely different, and it’s throwing them for a loop. It’s a different kind of threat and scare. And I think that Eugene, as comfortable as he’s become around walkers and killing them with his knife — all of a sudden the game’s been turned on its head. Maybe everything that he knew is not true. Walkers don’t move that fast, but what we know of them has changed. He’s trying to get to safety now, but I think there will come a time where he’s going to figure out what’s happening, because he is a man of science, at the heart of who he is.


A lot has happened in six years. Carol has way more hair, Eugene has very different hair. Siddiq is hinting to Luke that something happened to make Michonne and the Alexandrians less likely to take people in. We see briefly Michonne has this giant scar on her back that looks like it might have come from some surgical procedure. Are we going to find out some of the things that the group has experienced in these last six years?

McDermitt: Yeah. We’re just starting to unpack that, and I don’t want to say too much about it, because I don’t know exactly where we’ll get more information. But this isn’t the kind of show that just leaves things unanswered. I know that we will unpack that story a little bit more.

We also don’t know why Daryl is out there in the woods by himself.

McDermitt: Yeah, for sure. And I’m really excited about where the story is headed, because Angela and her writers, they’ve all just done an amazing job with the story. I was a fan of the show at the start, and this feels like the early episodes, even though the world is bigger, the cast is bigger. It feels very rich emotionally, and it’s very story driven and character driven, not necessarily all like, “Kill!” or things like that. Our show has done that in the past, and any other show could easily just go into that full time, but this show’s done a good job of continuing to put the story first, and develop these characters and push them forward, because from that we’re going to get new storylines. That’s the cool thing: It’s like, “Yes, something has happened within this six-year time jump, and all of these people that you thought you knew are different, they’ve changed.” We’re going to see that played out more, and that’s what’s exciting.


Jumping ahead a bit to next week, Michael Cudlitz is returning as the director of the episode, “Stradivarius.” You and Christian Serratos came into the show with him as Abraham, “Abraham’s Army.” I know you guys are close. What was that like to have him back as the director?

McDermitt: It’s so exciting to have him around. This was his first time directing, and he’s great. For the last few years, probably even longer, but as long as I’ve known him, he’s been shadowing directors, learning from people, and he’s been waiting for the right time. And there was a moment where he was shadowing, maybe it was Ben McKenzie over on Gotham, because they worked together on Southland, and I texted him, and I said, “How’s that going?” and he said, “You know what, all my instincts are there, I’m not worried about anything. I’m comfortable. I’m really ready to direct an episode of The Walking Dead.” And so to have him there, a man who’s completely confident in his abilities, was exciting. And everybody who’s seen the episode, I haven’t seen it yet, but everybody who’s seen it says it’s amazing and that he did such a great job. I would hope that we get him back next year for multiple episodes.

And here’s another thing: He knows a lot of the actors, and he knows a lot of their crutches, things that they fall back on, and he can get in there and needle them a bit, and get them to give a different performance at times, instead of falling into the same old rhythm. I’m guilty of it myself, and that’s what’s great about someone who knows the people and knows the show so well: They can do that. So it was awesome that Angela was able to give him an opportunity to come and direct.

Did it feel like especially good timing to have him back? He is such a leader kind of guy. Just as Andy Lincoln was wrapping up his run on the show, did it feel good to have Michael return?

McDermitt: Absolutely. And I don’t know if there are specific episodes that certain directors are requested for. I don’t know if he was specifically requested for episode seven, or if it was just that’s how the schedule worked out. But it ended up being great, because Mike is a leader and, again, he knows everybody. Not that the wheels were coming off the bus at all, but to have someone there after Andy left, someone that we all knew and felt comfortable with, it was great.


Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes, Josh McDermitt as Dr. Eugene Porter - The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 2 - Photo Credit: Jackson Lee Davis/AMC

(Photo by Jackson Lee Davis/AMC)

For you, what’s the biggest difference on set without Andy Lincoln there?

McDermitt: The biggest difference honestly is off set. He and I would golf a lot, and hang out and chat, and I’m missing not having that guy there to make fun of and for him to make fun of me, and talk about life and things like. That’s the biggest difference. His fingerprints are all over this show. This has always been a collaboration, and … there’s a lot of people on our crew that were here season 1, episode one, and it’s still the same show. Also, this season was the first time I really worked with Andy in any capacity. I’ve been in group scenes, but to not have him there didn’t feel like he was gone in a weird way. It’s only seeing him outside of the show — we saw him at the premiere and things like that where he just looks different. He looks rested. He looks like the Andrew Lincoln that we knew way back before he ever started the show. That’s been the hardest part, to just not see him as much outside of set.

Who’s the better golfer, you or him?

McDermitt: He’ll tell you it’s him, but I take lessons and I’m really good — that’s all bullshit. He’s won so much money off of me. He’s ruthless.

The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8C on AMC.


Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes - The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 5 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

(Photo by Gene Page/AMC)

Rick Grimes is gone from one part of The Walking Dead TV world, but his departure in Sunday’s “What Comes After” sparked the announcement that we’ll continue to follow his story — with Andrew Lincoln returning to his iconic role — in a trio of made-for-AMC movies that will begin production in 2019.

The movies are the first specific projects that former TWD showrunner/now chief content officer Scott Gimple has clued fans in on, but the growing TWD TV universe will also include new projects with new characters, and old characters — even some dead ones — returning in new ways. Gimple talked to Rotten Tomatoes about plans for the future, shared how Robert Kirkman’s comic-book backstories might be getting movie or limited-series treatments, confirmed we will find out more about Jadis and the helicopter people (on the series and in the Rick Grimes movies), and teased the “brand new show” The Walking Dead becomes with Sunday’s episode.


Kimberly Potts for Rotten Tomatoes: It’s sad to think about The Walking Dead without Rick Grimes, but that teaser of the next three episodes that aired immediately after Sunday’s episode was exciting. We’re going to see these other characters we’re invested in find out what they’re capable of, see who they will become, who the new leadership will be, without Rick. Did that inspire the writers and the cast after Andy Lincoln’s departure?

There’s a couple of things. The end of the episode, we saw the helicopter fly off, and we held on that frame, and the trees grew and one of the trees fell down, and the exciting scene of these people being saved … and we see that it’s Not-So-Little Asskicker, Judith Grimes. To me, that was … it’s like it almost fulfilled the previous eight years and five episodes, and yet also launched everything into this brand new world. It’s starting with [issue] 127 of the comics and The Whisperers, and we have these new characters. And even more importantly, there’s these beloved characters we have who have evolved. And they’ve evolved without us over these six years [of the time jump], and we get to find out where they’re at, meet them again, see what’s happening, see the relationships of it. I think the audience is in for, yet again, a brand new show that they will have to kind of learn all over again in an exciting way.

At the same time, that opportunity exists now for Rick in these upcoming movies. He has a freedom that he hasn’t really had in the time that we’ve gotten to know him on the series, and that he probably didn’t really have when he was a sheriff and he had this young family. How much will that be the driving force of the Rick movies?

(Laughing) You make it sound like he’s going off to party. Rick Grimes is at the center of them, and we’ve seen him evolve through these eight years and five episodes from a man with a very strict moral code living in … it took him a while to sort of leave the world he had lost, enter the world of after everything. And through that time he built himself up and he broke down and he had incredible losses and he lost his mind at points. He became incredibly pragmatic and even brutal at some points. And in the end, Carl was able to bring all those pieces of him together and get back some of what he had lost from that very first Rick Grimes that we saw, and I think that made for a beautiful ending of a chapter.

But now that he understands this world, that he has both the capacity for humanity and brutality, of pragmatism and idealism, it puts him in a very interesting place for yet another evolution. To find himself in a place, in a situation, that challenges him in ways that we haven’t seen, and that all of these experiences have been trying to set him up for. So, it’s going to be a brand-new story. It’ll be very much unlike what we’ve seen, and it’s very scary in some ways, but I think it’s doing right by the character by challenging him in ways that are completely different than how he has been challenged before.

One of my favorite things about “What Comes After” is that Rick literally got back on the horse. The man fell on rebar! He pulled himself off of rebar, and literally got back on the horse.

And then he got back on the horse.

You’re working now on the script for the first movie. What can you say about the logistics of Rick’s story continuing? It’s tough to imagine a Rick Grimes who survives and gets well physically and then doesn’t immediately go back to his people.

I can’t get into much of it, but what you bring up is an incredibly big part of it. You’re right, the connection with what he has back at home is a critical part of who he is. It is a critical part of his story moving forward. But it won’t be so easy as even the most difficult thing of just getting back. He’s going to find himself in the center of a situation that’s very complicated and different and unusual to what we’ve seen, but his love of his family — and really that last episode was all about his family and what his family is and what it means to him — that’s such a huge part of this.

Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes - The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 5 - Photo Credit: Jackson Lee Davis/AMC

(Photo by Jackson Lee Davis/AMC)

Jadis and the helicopter people are out of the picture, too, now that they’ve flown off with Rick. Will we eventually find out more about their backstory?

Yes. There’ll be some explanation of what that’s all about. We’re going to find out more about the relationship of Jadis and the helicopter and all that. That stuff is part of the movies. People shouldn’t expect to see a lot more of that on The Walking Dead, but I will say that we’re going to tell the story of what happened in these years that have passed on The Walking Dead. It is possible that people might see some other stories that have to do with that group on the helicopters within the TV show. But not a ton of it.

Do you have the arc of all three Rick movies planned out?

Oh, yeah. The arc is planned. They’re not finished, but absolutely, we know the arc.

This expansion of the TV universe will include a lot of other characters —characters who are no longer part of the original series, characters who maybe are no longer alive. Could that mean, for instance, a movie or limited series about The Governor, based on the novels by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga, or Negan’s backstory, from the series Kirkman did within the comics last year, that things like that could be explored in movies or limited series?

Yeah, that’s exactly it. Those aren’t going to be the whole of it. We want to have new characters, we want to have stuff that is completely unattached to anything we’ve seen before, too. Potentially just not even anything more than a great story within this universe that doesn’t necessarily have to be, you know, Eugene’s cousin. We will have stuff that connects, and we’ll have stuff that just sits completely on its own and it’s just a great story. We really want to pursue variety and we really want to have stories that are very distinct from one another. We want to have new voices telling them. I’m excited to be doing a lot of stuff within this, but we’re going to be having a lot of other people doing things. I look forward to working with them, as I worked with Angela [Kang, TWD showrunner], as I worked with [Fear the Walking Dead showrunners] Andrew [Chambliss] and Ian [Goldberg] to get their stories going.

New voices are incredibly important to this, because we want the variety. We want to see things that we haven’t seen before, explore tones that we haven’t seen before, in different corners of the world; see situations that are completely different than what we’ve seen before on the show. So these specials, and these series of varying length, these movies of varying scope, are going to give us really, really different expressions of the what The Walking Dead is and what The Walking Dead can be.

Will Fear the Walking Dead be included in this expansion of the TV universe?

Absolutely. We’re going to see characters from Fear in other expressions. We might see characters from Fear who are no longer there. We might explore incidents and histories that have been discussed. Yeah, it’s all on the table. A lot of this is driven by, we’ve been doing this for going on nine years now, and the audience has had questions all along. What about this? What about that? What about this character with that character? We’re going to see some of those questions answered.

Like, maybe we’ll finally find out what happened to Tobias, the apocalypse-savvy teen from the first season of FTWD?

Oh my God, yes. So many questions about that. Anything is possible. I will say, other sort of unexpected crossovers are possible. It really is energizing. You feel like a kid in a candy store to be able to look at all of these characters in a different way and to look at their histories. I really can’t wait to dive into it.

It worked incredibly well with Morgan, sending him over to the FTWD storyline. The last season of Fear was so good. I know Morgan is a very special character to you and you’ve written so many of his best moments. Is there a chance maybe Rick and Morgan, the first great friendship of TWD, could meet up again?

An annoying answer, but anything is possible. This is all a very long-range plan. But it’s the feeling of those fantasy meetings and those kinds of pair-ups that get us excited. We want to get back to those, too.

Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes, Danai Gurira as Michonne - The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 5 - Photo Credit: Jackson Lee Davis/AMC

(Photo by Jackson Lee Davis/AMC)

In terms of The Walking Dead, and the rest of season 9, what was most important when thinking about the post-Rick world?

I guess the words that come to mind are to seize upon the moment of the new. With both shows, they reinvent themselves every eight episodes, but this, of course, is the biggest reinvention of the series. We had flirted with it happening at the end of season 8. Andy knew about my new position. Pretty much everybody on Walking Dead knew about it to a degree, and we were just trying, as I elevated Angela to showrunner, to figure it out. I was excited for Angela to be the embodiment of that reinvention, to be that new voice, even though she’s a vet on the show. With Angela coming in at this point when Rick is leaving, it was just like, wow, let’s seize upon these circumstances to tell something brand new. And it goes back to Robert Kirkman again. Robert shocked all of us who are into the [comic] with issue 127 [and the big time jump]. Robert is a genius, and he knows when to shift gears and when to surprise the audience, and he did that with 127. Knowing that we were moving towards that — Angela moving into the showrunner role, Andy going — assembling all of these parts in the right order and the right way and to seize upon this change to hopefully light the audience’s brains on fire with possibility, instead of “this thing is ending.” It’s like, no, things are just changing.

This season is so new and exciting, sophisticated and surprising, it really is an evolution of the show. And with a show that is in its ninth season, having these kinds of changes, they aren’t problems. They’re opportunities. Angela and the writers have just killed it, and the crew is just as great as they were. I see the same sort of motivations, the producers and the cast and the new cast coming in. I love this group of people. Cailey [Fleming, the new actress playing Judith] is amazing. And Magna (Nadia Hilker) and Yumiko (Eleanor Matsuura), the rest of the new group is just remarkable, and some really new and interesting actors. I can’t wait for people to see Lauren [Ridloff as Connie] and Angel [Theory as Kelly], next week. Their characters are amazing, but they are just charming and brilliant. It’s really something special. To be able to say that after losing Rick — and yes, we have stuff coming up of course with the movies and all that … I’m really excited for people to get excited about that — but they should be getting excited about The Walking Dead, too, because it really is a brand-new show.


The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.


Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon - The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 1 - Photo Credit: Jackson Lee Davis/AMC

(Photo by Jackson Lee Davis/AMC)


SPOILER ALERT: THIS ARTICLE REVEALS DETAILS FROM THE SEASON 9 PREMIERE OF THE WALKING DEAD. TURN BACK NOW IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE EPISODE.


The Walking Dead returned for season 9 with plenty of action: Rick (Andrew Lincoln) laughing, Daryl (Norman Reedus) talking up a storm, Carol (Melissa McBride) getting engaged, Gregory (Xander Berkeley) trying to stir up trouble again, and Maggie (Lauren Cohan) proving she’s a fierce leader. Just as Rick did when he decided to spare Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) from an execution last season, Maggie will make her own decisions about how rulebreakers should be punished. (Which means: Goodbye, Gregory, you were an entertaining weasel.)

New Walking Dead showrunner Angela Kang discussed these and many other season 9 premiere topics with Rotten Tomatoes, including how Carl (Chandler Riggs) continues to loom large in the rebuilding of society, why Carol and Daryl shippers shouldn’t be too heartbroken about Carol’s engagement to King Ezekiel (Khary Payton), and how Daryl is going to be forced to step up as the leader we’ve always seen him to be.



Kimberly Potts for Rotten Tomatoes: Congratulations — this was a fun introduction to the new life Rick and company are trying to forge 18 months after the war with Negan and the Saviors.

Angela Kang: Thank you, I’m really glad that you enjoyed the premiere episode! We definitely have had a lot of fun this season as our characters [are], as Rick says in the premiere, looking to the past to build for the future. In a world where gas and electricity [are less frequently] resources they can rely on, it’s been really fun, from a production design standpoint and a story standpoint. The characters have to go to horses and wagons and rely on more hand weapons and figure out ways to have more renewable sources of food, to deal with issues of scarcity and the environment around them changing. It’s really given us a lot of grist for the season.

It’s such a clever way of going about it, too. Not only does their resourcefulness pay off, but it turns out to be a fun way to reveal backstory, like Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh) being a teacher.

Kang: It’s been really fun to tell stories with Jadis, because she’s such an odd character. That’s part of what we love about her, the oddness of her, the quirkiness of Gabriel kind of coming together for a story with her. Pollyanna is such an incredible actor, and she really has such great range. It’s been really cool to see [Anne] play Jadis, the character she created. … Anne was an art professor who almost did that stuff as a form of performance art to survive the apocalypse, because it throws people off balance. [Now] she’s trying to be a little more who she was before the apocalypse.



When you thought about this season and how it would jump forward in time, with so many changes for all the communities, what were the most important things for you to set up at the beginning?

Kang: Because we were starting with this time jump, it really gave us a lot of latitude to pick up the story at a point that we thought was interesting. We wanted to set up where each of our major characters and communities were at. So it was really important to see that the Sanctuary has been under almost like a peacekeeping force, led by Daryl, trying to help them rebuild. But not everything is well. We see that Hilltop is thriving. We see that with the Alexandrians, they’ve really been pursuing under Rick and under Michonne’s leadership the vision of Carl’s future that he wanted, which is all those communities working together trying to build for a larger future of civilization.

And then we just wanted to see where the characters were with each other. A thing that we talked about a lot was when you have something as monumental as Rick deciding, unilaterally, to save Negan, regardless of whether that decision had the intended result, regardless of whether it was right or wrong, he did it by himself. … He had promised Maggie that they were going to kill this man together and then he took away her agency in the moment. For Maggie this is something that causes deep pain. She has no closure, really, on anything to do with Negan or her husband’s death, but she’s tried to move on. I think that’s been one of the key things to set up for this arc of stories, is where Rick and Maggie are at, and what that says about where Alexandria and Hilltop are at with each other, and the way that that effects every other community around them.



Obviously it’s sad Andrew Lincoln’s leaving, but the episode had some quality time with Rick. He’s not exactly in a lighter place, but in some little ways, like the scene laughing with Michonne (Danai Gurira) in bed, he seems more optimistic. Is that a product of him knowing that he’s trying to put into motion exactly what Carl ask him to, to bring the communities together and rebuild society?

Kang: I think that is a huge part of it, absolutely. I’ll just back up and say, the benefit of starting with this jump in time is you get to be out of the immediate angst and raw grief of what happened at the end of the previous season. Everybody’s had a chance to come to a little more of a sense of peace. And I think in terms of writing Rick’s arc, the writers room talked a lot about how Rick is a man who needs a mission. It’s not good when he doesn’t have a very specific goal to pursue, and I think that’s the way Rick deals with his grief. We’ve seen it over and over again in the show.

When he is faced with crushing loss, when he’s broken, the pain is so much for him, but when he knows, “OK, here’s what I’m going to do next,” that’s when he finds such intense focus — like the fact that Carl did have this vision, that he left them letters, that Rick can refer back to that letter, that he can carry it in his mind, but also just have a physical reminder of that. Regardless of whether we see that, he definitely has that letter and that’s something that gives him a sense of purpose at a time when, in some ways, he feels like a dinosaur after the war. He’s been a general who no longer has a war to fight. The war to fight now is to build up the new world, and that’s the way he’s going about it. But it has allowed him to have a little more optimism, and a little more hope.

The thing he’s really contending with is there are inner divisions between people who really are very smart, who respect each other, and who love each other, but don’t necessarily agree on what is the way to achieve these ends that they want. So for Rick, these are the challenges he’s facing, but he’s really trying to, like any great leader, get this stuff done for the future, for Carl, for everyone. But it is really fun for us to also let him have a little bit of lightness. Andy is an incredibly funny guy. He does comic stuff very, very well. I think it was fun for us to think about. “What does Rick think about being ‘The Famous Rick Grimes,’” something that comes out of the comic? The way that he played it, I thought, was just absolutely perfect. Rick thinks it’s all a little ridiculous, funny, and it tells us a lot about the relationship that Rick and Michonne have when they’re talking about that in bed. She’s funny, too. Michonne’s got quite a sense of humor, and the two of them can bring that out in each other.


Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes, Danai Gurira as Michonne - The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 1 - Photo Credit: Jackson Lee Davis/AMC

(Photo by Jackson Lee Davis/AMC)

It also really gives us another chance to see just how solid they are, not just as a romantic couple, but as a team, a pair of leaders.

Kang: Absolutely. That’s an important part of the story this season, too — we see them as this team, but it’s also very important that Rick and Michonne are not one entity. Michonne has her own portfolio of things that she’s working on, which we’ll see as the season goes on. We’re really seeing Michonne come into her own as a political leader. She’s always been a leader of the group and a warrior who’s a leader, but we’re seeing her grow into different forms of leadership. Danai is doing incredible work.

The only thing more surprising than seeing Rick laugh is hearing Daryl talk as much as he does in this episode. He is in a very different place. He’s unhappy that he’s not living with all of his friends, he’s not totally on board with Rick’s plans, and it feels like he is a little more confident in questioning those things than he would’ve been in the past.

Kang: Yeah, in some ways, I think of Daryl as a loyal knight. He’s not somebody who would aspire to be the king. He is so loyal, but in some ways the loyalty has come at a cost to his character. There are times when he went along with decisions that he didn’t totally agree with, even though Daryl kind of does what Daryl does — when he goes rogue sometimes, and that’s what we love about him. But I think part of the evolution of his character is he is not a man of many words usually, but across time he has built these very close relationships with certain characters who he’s very loyal to. Daryl and Rick look at each other like brothers. That can be a complicated relationship, but he is developing ways of being more open about what he feels. That’s part of his growth as a character. He’s growing up, and he’s able to express these things that used to sometimes come out as rage, and he’s able to talk about it and form a plan while still very much being the Daryl that we know and love.


Khary Payton as Ezekiel, Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier - The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 1 - Photo Credit: Jackson Lee Davis/AMC

(Photo by Jackson Lee Davis/AMC)

Carol and Ezekiel are officially a couple now. Daryl tells her he’s happy for her, and we know that he wants her to be happy. People have wanted Carol and Daryl to become a couple for so long — do you think there are any unresolved feelings there or is he genuinely just happy that she’s found someone who treats her well?

Kang: I think he definitely is genuinely happy for Carol. I think this is one of the deepest relationships that we have on the show. It’s a relationship between these two people who are so damaged in some ways from their prior lives, before the apocalypse, and who’ve come so far together. Neither of them trusts people very easily. The idea of being in a romantic relationship for either of them is not something that is easy. We have not seen that at all for Daryl.

What I’ll say is, these are characters who have come a long way, who have had long stories. People who are lamenting a certain pairing or whatever, keep in mind that we’re telling a long, serialized arc and stories develop and stories change and things move along. What we know is that Carol and Daryl, whether romantic or not, they are soulmates. They needed to find each other in this apocalypse, and they’re both stronger for having each other.

Ken endeared himself to everyone right away, so it was emotional when he was killed before making it home from Washington — and even more emotional at the funeral with Alden’s moving performance of “The Last Rose of Summer.” Did you know Callan McAuliffe could sing so beautifully? How did that come about?

Kang: I actually did know Callan could sing, because on social media I had seen that he posted some little videos of himself singing. It’s funny, because Callan is very self-deprecating and humble. He’s like, “I’m really not a very good singer.” I said, “Shut up, you’re so good!” I played a clip for our composer and our music supervisors, because I needed their help finding the right song and clearing all the rights, composing the version to use, and they were like, “He’s great!” I’m like, “I know!” I wanted to show everybody that the character of Alden, who had come in and was a Savior, integrated so much into the Hilltop that he found this little surrogate family. We didn’t get to know Ken much in this episode, but he meant something to the people there. That’s the story we were trying to tell without having to build up Ken too much. What we do know is that for the people who are left behind, this was a crushing blow. It obviously affected the events of the episode very deeply, and then those events will go on to have a domino effect on the rest of the season.



Gregory has done so many rotten, dangerous things, but using the loss of Ken to make his grief-stricken father do his bidding certainly is a new low. But his execution seems like a risky move by Maggie. Some of her people could turn against her.

Kang: Yes, absolutely. And I think Gregory … part of the fun of Gregory is that he’s a weasel, making the wrong choice over and over again.

I will miss him. He was always fun to watch.

Kang: He was fun to watch. I think Xander did a really great job of portraying his weaseliness. I [told him] it’s important to me that in this episode, we catch a glimpse of why Gregory was actually a leader for a while. He does have some interesting people skills that can be effective at times. Xander did a really nice job with that speech, the eulogy. He really brought the complicated layers of that character. But for Maggie, this is part of her emerging philosophy that we’ll find out across the season, which is, how do we decide who is redeemable or who is not? What are the consequences? It’s a big part of the story that she is diverging from the values of Alexandria, which decided that Negan rots in a jail cell instead of getting the death penalty. She’s making a clear statement in the moment: “I’m no longer doing exactly what Alexandria is doing. This is my responsibility, the Hilltop.” Of course, this is going to raise questions for people: whether this move was for the good of Hilltop, or was it out of personal vengeance? Does she get to make all these decisions by herself? It gives us a lot of opportunities to play with the story in that way.



At the Sanctuary, when Daryl, Rick, and Michonne walk in and everyone is treating Rick like a hero, Daryl tells Laura he isn’t going to get up on a stage and make a speech like “him.” Who is Daryl referring to?

Kang: He was referring to Negan, and that part of the leadership of Negan where he would gather everyone together, stand up on the catwalk and say, “Look at what we’ve brought for all of you!” That was part of Negan’s political genius, that he always reminded people, “Hey, we’re the ones providing for you! Yes, you may live under these rules, and yes, there’s different classes of people, but you get everything you need, right?”

But in some ways, Daryl, he’s also watching as Rick gives speeches. So even though he’s referring to Negan in the moment, we see that Rick also has a kind of political skill. We’ve seen Rick give a fair number of speeches over the years. He is good as a charismatic leader who’s able to rally the troops. Daryl knows himself, and he knows he is not that type of leader, nor does he aspire to be. It’s part of his arc for the season, as people look to him more and more as a leader in certain situations. It’s something he struggles with, because he doesn’t feel like he’s a person who likes to give speeches. He’s a person who likes to be out there on the road, in action. But that in and of itself is a different type of leadership. He’s going to find what it is that he’s comfortable with and go forward with that.

Which again circles back to him having more confidence than we’ve ever seen him have.

Kang: Yes, exactly. We really get to see Daryl this season making choices in the way that a leader does, but it’s in his own style. Daryl is always going to be Daryl. But he also still has to really grow up and accept the fact that he is a seasoned survivor and people look to him for cues

The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.



The Walking Dead SDCC season 9 panel poster (AMC)

(Photo by AMC)

After nine years of cast turnovers and a handful of high-profile departures by executive producers, The Walking Dead is experiencing its biggest changes since its fourth season: the arrival of new executive producer and showrunner Angela Kang and the departure of star Andrew Lincoln. It appears that the future of TWD is decidedly female.

While Kang told Rotten Tomatoes she didn’t think there was a conscious shift toward a more female-forward focus — “I think we have these incredible women who are lead characters. But we also have our great men, like Norman [Reedus] who plays Darryl,” she said, “so I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily a conscious change towards doing sort of a gender thing.” — a change is definitely occurring both on screen and behind it.

Throughout the series, characters like Maggie (Lauren Cohan, who is also departing), Carol (Melissa McBride), and Michonne (Danai Gurira) persevered through physical and mental trials to become some of the series’ strongest characters. Kang, who has written on the series since its second season, said the character progression for each of those women was only natural.

“It’s more like, here’s who we have that we’ve followed for many years, that are really strong, that we have organically moved to places of leadership within the story,” she said. “It does allow us, though, at this point in the story, to sort of spotlight these really strong women characters, and see how they bounce off of each other as well as the other characters in our world.”

To McBride, the changes in leadership coming to Alexandria and the ones occurring behind the scenes already reflect a different sort of Walking Dead; which she credits to Kang.

“The show has gone through a couple of different showrunners and they all have their unique point of view and the way that they approach the work. And it’s totally felt and realized in the production,” McBride explained. Those showrunners include The Shawshank Redemption director Frank Darabont, who ran TWD for the first season and a half; The Shield‘s Glen Mazzara, who took over when Darabont’s relationship with AMC became acrimonious in the program’s second year; and Scott Gimple, who took Mazzara’s place the following year and ran the series until he was promoted to AMC brand manger for The Walking Dead ahead of its ninth season.

McBride continued, “From the very first episode [of the season, the show has] a lot more cinematic of a feel — the way [Angela’s] using the landscapes, the way she’s using the props, the way all the departments are just really taking hold of what it is they do, being creative within their departments. Angela’s got good leadership and she also communicates well with the departments.”

Like McBride, Reedus will be one of the most senior members of the cast after Lincoln’s departure — no easy feat on this show — and one of the few to make it all the way from Atlanta to Alexandria. In his view, Kang’s leadership has produced a visibly different set in the show’s ninth year.

“We had a couple seasons where it was male-driven and guys sort of chest-bumped going ‘I’ma kill you, I’ma kill you, I’ma kill you,’” he said, adding, “We have a lot of new directors, a lot of new writers, they’re mostly all women. It’s a different vibe.” Reedus also credits the change with establishing new “awesome” characters for the year, which include Samantha Morton and Ryan Hurst as Whisperers Alpha and Beta.

The Whisperer War storyline, featured in issues 157-162 of The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard, was a personal favorite of Kang’s, and her immediate pitch when she succeeded Gimple. In the comic book storyline, Negan (played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan on the series) takes on more of an advisory capacity, and Kang teased “a version of that story” may play out in the new season. Of course, if Rick is gone by the time the show’s version of the Whisperer War begins, who could Negan possibly advise?

As is the tradition for The Walking Dead’s cast and crew, everyone was mum on any further details. But Kang noted Rick’s imminent departure changes the very nature of the show.

“I think it forces us to reevaluate as writers our own storytelling rhythms, and the things that we have leaned on over the years to make a Rick-centric story work,” she explained. “We have to go, ‘OK, well, we can tell stories with these other characters. But these other characters are not Rick. They don’t have his personality.’”

As a result, characters like Darryl, Carol and Michonne (Danai Gurira) will face very different sorts of dilemmas once whatever happens to Rick happens.

“It’s been interesting creatively because it really forces us to look very hard at the ways that we can tell these stories going forward,” Kang added. “So that’s the thing that we challenge ourselves to do every day.”

One of the show’s most powerful characters, Michonne, has had what star Gurira describes simply as a “journey” from season 3 to the woman audiences will see after the 18-month gap between seasons 8 and 9.

“[Michonne has] been saying since season 5 [that] we have to not turn into something we don’t recognize. From her own experience, she’s been pushing away from that,” Gurira told Rotten Tomatoes. “To get to that point, where we can actually have some stability and have a moment to try to find our feet, and create something for our children, and our children’s children. Getting back to something resembling who we once were [is] something that I think has been really threaded through her quite beautifully over the course of years.”

Gurira was quick to add that Michonne’s journey may not lead to a Rick-style leadership role.

“She’s trying to create something that allows for people to come forward and come together. I think that’s the clear thing,” she said. “If you put the structures in place, it’s not just about you. You’re thinking in a futuristic way. You’re thinking generationally. You’re not just thinking about yourself. That’s how Michonne is built.”

Of course, Gurira skillfully avoided any more specific questions about Michonne’s life following Rick’s departure, instead joking that working on the show has taught her “how to say very little to press.”

Reedus, however, said that he would miss Lincoln’s presence on set — and credited the star with teaching him how to be a much more professional actor.

“Part of what makes Andy ‘Andy’ and a good leader on set and a good quarterback for this football team is he cares from a good place. He’s never been into the limelight or the money or whatever,” Reedus told Rotten Tomatoes. “He does everything for the right reasons and, like everyone says, he’s the first guy there and the last one to leave because he comes from a good place.”

Lincoln isn’t completely gone, however. He’ll actually be on set following his character’s departure so he can shadow a director in anticipation of directing an episode of his own during season 10.

“It’s just going to be family time,” Gurira said of his imminent, though different, return.

And as with TWD‘s many other cast departures, the show will hold Rick in high regard as it forges forward with new storylines and new characters.

“We have loved our long relationship with Andrew Lincoln as Rick. It’s been really fun for us to write for him and to watch him on screen,” Kang said. “But there is definitely a lot more story to be told with the rest of the ensemble that is left.”

The Walking Dead season 9 premieres on Sunday, October 7 at 9 p.m. ET.


For a season premiere that launches with fans already aware its hero for the last eight years is going to be riding off into the apocalyptic sunset, The Walking Dead season 9 begins on some very hopeful notes. Said leader, Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), is happily spending family time with his longtime love Michonne (Danai Gurira) and daughter Judith. Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is safely tucked away inside an Alexandria jail cell. And though transportation challenges have become a pressing issue, Rick and Michonne and Maggie and Daryl and Carol and Eugene and – you get the idea: Rick’s whole crew – is honoring the memory of the late Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs) by trying to rebuild not just their community, but a whole, multi-community society.


Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon, Danai Gurira as Michonne - The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 1 - Photo Credit: Jackson Lee Davis/AMC

(Photo by Jackson Lee Davis/AMC)

Of course, there are some issues within that goal. Rick and Michonne and Maggie and Daryl and Carol and Eugene may all support the same big-picture idea of living together peacefully, but they certainly do not all agree about whether such lofty ideals are possible (even with Negan locked away), and how they should set about achieving them if they are. Oh, and Negan, specifically the continuing survival of, is a big sticking point with some members of the group, too. So while there’s hope ahead, there’s heartbreak, too, along with a new group of villains who may make Negan and Lucille look almost sane and tame in comparison, some frisky and surprising new romances, and a pair of blasts from the past that add to the excitement of season 9 on camera and behind the scenes.

Ahead, 10 things you need to know before Sunday’s season premiere:


1. IT’S A BRAVE NEW WORLD, WITH RUSTY OLD TOOLS

The action of season 9 picks up 18 months after the events of the war with the Saviors in season 8. Rick Grimes and friends, who were trying to build a new world from their Alexandria home base until Negan and the Saviors so brutally interrupted, are now scattered throughout the nearby communities. New relationships have been forged, while some old friendships are suffering from visible tensions. Supplies are dwindling rapidly, and everyone’s looking to old school methods of survival. Things get downright Little House in the Apocalypse when near depletion of the gas supply forces the use of horses and wagons for transportation, while Eugene (Josh McDermitt) tries to cook up a new source of fuel.

And it would be no fun to spoil a clever source of new food supplies – or the surprising person who points Rick and company to it – but suffice it to say that seeing the gang forced to be super resourceful as they attempt to construct an elaborate new society is the fresh jolt the show (and viewers) needed after two full seasons of misery caused by the arrival of Negan and his murderous minions. There is some fun to be had with these new adventures (especially during a road trip to Washington D.C.), which also serve as a way to reveal little nuggets of backstory on one of the show’s most mysterious characters.


2. CARL’S GONE, BUT HIS INFLUENCE LOOMS LARGE

Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes, Chandler Riggs as Carl Grimes, Danai Gurira as Michonne - The Walking Dead _ Season 8, Episode 8 (Gene Page/AMC)

(Photo by Gene Page/AMC)

Carl’s last wishes, for his father to make peace with Negan and the Saviors and channel his energies into bringing all the local communities together, is clearly what’s motivating Rick and Michonne in the new season. When we meet up with them, they’re negotiating deals between the communities for the sharing of supplies, leading efforts to gather new supplies, and spending lots of quality family time with Judith. Again, not to spoil any specifics, we actually see Rick laughing and Richonne in several romantic moments that aren’t just quick smooches while on the run from the danger of the moment.

As for the couple’s other relationships … Daryl and Maggie are particularly unhappy that Negan is still alive, and that Rick and Michonne made the decision to spare him despite the original plan that Negan would pay for the deaths of Glenn and Abraham with his own life. And while some of the Saviors see Rick as the hero who sprung them from life under Negan’s oppressive thumb, not all of them are happy with the dismantling of life as they knew it at the Sanctuary. It’s a situation that’s about to become a major problem, Daryl warns Rick.


3. RICK IS LEAVING … BUT IS IT A PERMANENT DEPARTURE?

Series star Andy Lincoln has already confirmed he’ll return to The Walking Dead to direct a season 10 episode, and he’ll be back on set during season 9 to shadow another director in preparation for that gig. But his days as Rick Grimes are rapidly coming to a close. AMC has confirmed nothing beyond his departure, but scuttlebutt among several sources is that Rick bids his loved ones adieu in episode five, “What Comes After,” an installment directed by EP Greg Nicotero (who also directs the season premiere) and co-written by former TWD showrunner-turned chief content officer Scott Gimple.

Will Rick die? Or, as so many fans have theorized/hoped, will an injured Rick take his leave in that helicopter he first spotted in season 8, meaning he might survive and eventually return to the original series or another spin-off project somewhere down the road? It’s tough to imagine a Walking Dead universe where Rick Grimes is definitively gone, and bringing the helicopter into play with his exit would be a nice full-circle story line moment.


4. SO IS MAGGIE

Lauren Cohan as Maggie Rhee - The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 1 - Photo Credit: Jackson Lee Davis/AMC

(Photo by Jackson Lee Davis/AMC)

Leaving that is, but new TWD showrunner Angela Kang has already confirmed she plans to have Maggie return as leader of the Hilltop community in season 10. For now, Lauren Cohan is going off to star in ABC’s midseason spy dramedy Whiskey Cavalier – with Scott Foley and another TWD alum, Tyler James Williams. Beyond those details, nothing has been confirmed about exactly how or when Maggie will take a break from the Hilltop. But it looks like episode six, “Who Are You Now,” could be the when. And with more of the leadership of the new world-building falling onto Maggie’s shoulders after Rick is gone, it would make perfect sense that Maggie might finally take Georgie – Jayne Atkinson’s traveling record album collector who left Maggie and company with valuable instructions on jumpstarting society last season – up on the offer to visit and observe Georgie’s community. That could also be the show’s way of introducing viewers to the Commonwealth, the comic book group of Ohio communities that’s already operating as a more organized, technologically advanced post-apocalyptic society.


5. AND SOME OLD FACES ARE REAPPEARING

The Walking Dead - Season 2, Episode 12- Shane Walsh (Jon Bernthal) Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

(Photo by Gene Page/AMC)

Onscreen, Jon Bernthal returns as Shane Walsh, Rick’s BFF-turned-enemy who Rick was forced to kill in season 2, for an appearance that almost certainly ties in with Rick’s exit. Will the ghost of Shane visit Rick to torment him about how Lori and Carl died on Rick’s watch? Will flashback Shane appear as a dying Rick tells Michonne more about the man he believes to be Judith’s biological father?

Meanwhile, behind-the-scenes, Michael Cudlitz – a.k.a. Abraham Ford – becomes the first TWD cast member to direct an episode, as he helms the Daryl-centric seventh episode, “Stradivarius.” Cudlitz, now starring in ABC’s new fall comedy The Kids Are Alright, joins Fear the Walking Dead star Colman Domingo as the only two cast members, so far, to also direct in TWD TV universe.


6. MORE DARYL, MORE DARYL TALKING

Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon - The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 1 - Photo Credit: Jackson Lee Davis/AMC

(Photo by Jackson Lee Davis/AMC)

Even before his best friend Rick leaves, Daryl has assumed more of a leadership position within the group, and to say he’s not thrilled about it is an understatement. Also new: Norman Reedus’ silent brooder is no longer a man of few words, as he lets Rick, and his other BFF, Carol, know exactly how he feels about his new duties and how geographically splintered Rick’s crew is. The only person angrier than Daryl, in fact, is Maggie, and both of them are directing a good deal of that anger and resentment towards Rick, which will ratchet tensions up to a very respectable level as Rick’s parting looms.


7. PSSST … THE WHISPERERS ARE COMING

FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM, Samantha Morton, 2016. ph: Jaap Buitendijk. © Warner Bros. / courtesy Everett Collection

(Photo by Jaap Buitendijk. © Warner Bros. / courtesy Everett Collection)

If you haven’t read the comics, the Whisperers are the creepy survivors who peel walkers and wear their undead skin to walk stealthily among zombies and humans alike. They are cold, dangerous people who believe nothing is more important than their own survival – even Negan has standards against brutality like rape (do not RIP, Rapey Davey) – and who are likely to wreak the same kinds of major havoc in the TV series as they do in the comic book. They will also bring some stellar, recognizable faces – well, recognizable under the zombie skins, anyway – to the series, as Whisperer leader Alpha will be played by Oscar nominee Samantha Morton, while Alpha’s chief lieutenant, Beta, will be played by Sons of Anarchy and The Outsiders alum Ryan Hurst.


8. PSSST … SO ARE SOME OTHER NEW FACES

HOLLYWOOD, CA - OCTOBER 16: Zach McGowan attends Premiere Of Warner Bros. Pictures' "Geostorm" - Arrivals at TCL Chinese Theatre on October 16, 2017 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Presley Ann/Getty Images)

(Photo by Presley Ann/Getty Images)

Grace Under Fire star Brett Butler and John Finn – a.k.a. Pacey’s dad on Dawson’s Creek – play Tammy and Earl Rose, Hilltop citizens who support Maggie as their leader … at first. Rhys Coiro – best known as volatile director Billy Walsh on Entourage – plays Savior Jed, who is still unhappy about the new, post-Negan way of life for the Saviors.

Zach McGowan (Black Sails, pictured above) appears as a rebellious Savior who clashes with Daryl. And Castle Rock and Ozark alum Cassady McClincy will play Lydia, the daughter of brutal Alpha. In the Walking Dead comics, Lydia becomes romantically involved with Carl, so now there’s a possibility she’ll become involved with another teen survivor.

Given the rumor that the season will include another, much longer time jump after that 18-month lapse at the beginning, maybe Lydia will make the acquaintance of an older Henry?

As for the teen Carl did have a romance with before his tragic death – Enid (Katelyn Nacon) – she’s still very close to Maggie, but she’s also taken on a surprising new role at the Hilltop, and it’s one that draws her into life-saving action early in the season.

Oh, and one more teaser about the new characters mentioned above: one of them pretty quickly ends up behind bars, just like Negan.


9. LOVE IS IN THE APOCALYPTIC AIR

Khary Payton as Ezekiel, Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier - The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 1 - Photo Credit: Jackson Lee Davis/AMC

(Photo by Jackson Lee Davis/AMC)

Rick and Michonne are closer than ever, and Richonne fans will get to enjoy a lot of sweet and sexy moments with them before Rick becomes a memory. And various trailers for season 9 have also hinted at new romances between Carol (Melissa McBride) and Ezekiel (Khary Payton) and the beloved Jerry (Cooper Andrews) and Nabila (Nadine Marissa). But what will surely be the you-never-saw-this-one-coming hook-up of the entire series also unfolds within the first three episodes of the season, and all we can say about it is, truly, you never saw this one coming!


10. ABOUT THAT HELICOPTER …

Seth Gilliam as Father Gabriel Stokes, Pollyanna McIntosh as Jadis/Anne - The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 1 - Photo Credit: Jackson Lee Davis/AMC

(Photo by Jackson Lee Davis/AMC)

You will definitely find out much more about that helicopter from last season, including how Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh), er, Anne, is connected to it.

The Walking Dead season 9 premieres October 7 at 9 p.m. ET