Warning: The Walking Dead spoilers will be found below.
A great deal has happened in The Walking Dead universe since the end of season nine of the series. The most significant thing, however, is that Robert Kirkman’s source material came to a surprising end back in July. That means that the parent series only has two to three more seasons of runway from the source material before it has to work exclusively from storylines original to the television series.
During the tenth season premiere, however, The Walking Dead skipped ahead a little and quietly paid homage to the end of Robert Kirkman’s series in a cute but otherwise innocuous scene in the premiere. During a training exercise at Oceanside, Michonne returns to find her daughter Judith telling her son RJ a story about Rick Grimes. “The brave man walked all by himself to the bridge,” Judith — sitting in a rocking chair — says to RJ, recounting the story of Rick Grimes’ exit from the series. “… so he blew up the bridge and all the walkers fell into the water. The end!”
It’s subtle, but it’s a clear nod to the final pages of The Walking Dead comic, which sees an older Carl Grimes (the brother of Judith) tell his own daughter, Andrea, a story about his father, Rick Grimes, and all the trials he endured. Carl, likewise, is sitting in a rocking chair while recounting the story of Rick Grimes to his daughter. It’s a a cute but meaningful homage to Kirkman and his comics, and since the television series obviously will not end the same way (in part, because it could run for several more years), writer Angela Kang worked the nod into the tenth season premiere.
Meanwhile, the title credits also contain an homage to Rick Grimes now — a glimpse of the scene in which he exited the series.
Elsewhere, in a conversation between Aaron and Michonne, Kang may have also subtly hinted at a future storyline involving The Commonwealth, a successful civilization of about 50,000 people (and likely one of the three civilizations represented by the CRM symbol) that Alexandrians will likely encounter at the end of this season or early next season.
“Michonne, are we the good guys?” Aaron asks while the two are on horseback searching for signs of The Whisperers. “I think about it a lot. If we’re the villains of someone else’s story. A threat to their survival. So dangerous they threaten to wipe us out. Makes you wonder sometimes.”
“I don’t give a sh*t about The Whisperers or where they stand,” Michonne responds.
“I’m not just talking about The Whisperers,” Aaron says
In some ways, that is exactly what the Alexandrians become to the citizens of The Commonwealth in Kirkman’s comics — the villains. The Commonwealth lives in a society that has managed to survive peacefully for years in the zombie apocalypse, but everything goes to hell when — in the comics, anyway — Rick and Michonne show up. In many ways, they become the enemies, and to the leader of The Commonwealth (and her son), Rick is such a “threat to their survival,” that they end up killing him in the penultimate issue of Kirkman’s The Walking Dead comics.
It’s likely the first of many nods toward The Commonwealth this season. Showrunner Angela Kang says that, while that storyline is further down the line, the series will begin to seed it in this year. It may also be where Maggie resides, and we should find out for sure in the 11th season, when Lauren Cohan returns to the show as a series regular.