The Walking Dead returns with a banner season ten premiere. "Lines We Cross" has a robust storyline, fantastic character development, and a high production value. The episode is action-packed with a variety of engagements. This review is spoiler free, but I will say that zombies aren't the most dangerous threat faced. Showrunner Angela Kang, who also wrote the premiere, takes a mature approach to this specific time period after the apocalypse. The Whisperers aftermath has unleashed a new boogeyman. The settlements are fraught with anxiety. We are shown the psychological impact of loss and constant vigilance.

"Lines We Cross" takes place months after Alpha's (Samantha Morton) horrific decapitations. The pikes still demarcate the boundaries of Whisperer territory. The episode begins at the Oceanside settlement, but toggles back and forth to Alexandria. An unsteady calm pervades as the characters face a new reality, but are still struggling with the loss of their loved ones. Some are deeply fearful and showing PTSD symptoms. Others are angry, seething with bitterness and a taste for revenge. The complex emotional state creates uneasiness in everyone.

Angela Kang, in the midst of a terrifying new enemy, brilliantly addresses the loss of Rick Grimes. At this point he's been gone for years, but his leadership and strength is still missed. Michonne (Danai Gurira) has taken up the mantle, but decisions are still made by the council. Her children are now old enough to discuss the legacy of their father. Judith (Cailey Fleming) became an important character last season. Now we hear from young RJ (Antony Azor) for the first time. "Lines We Cross" has several poignant scenes with the Grimes family.

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New dynamics between supporting characters are established. There are brief moments of levity from the parenting foursome of Rosita (Christian Serratos), Siddiq (Avi Nash), Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam), and the always entertaining Eugene (Josh McDermitt). There's a lot of input on how to raise a baby. The outliers in society are also addressed. Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) has entered a new phase in his rehabilitation. Lydia (Cassady McClincy) has difficulties acclimating to civilized Alexandria. The pair begin to bond as outsiders. Negan knows that the Whisperers are still lurking. He's got quite a bit of experience in the bad guy category. His insight will be critical to the settlements survival.

"Lines We Cross" has masterful direction from series executive producer Greg Nicotero. The action scenes are sleek, much more stylized than expected. Michonne is a slow motion bad-ass, shredding walkers with her sword. There are also battle scenes with the settlements fighting in a phalanx formation. Nicotero's shot selection is thrilling. He swoops overheard, in front, and behind the bloody action. We also get some gnarly and grotesque new walker make-up effects. Angela Kang and Greg Nicotero absolutely nail the production aspects of the premiere.

The title of the episode infers that the Whisperer boundaries are broken. The reason why is quite interesting, and posits an entire new dilemma for our protagonists. The characters are forced to deal with an unexpected crisis. Human borders have nothing to do with nature's reality, but they exist for a reason. Season ten begins with an uneasy truce broken. It's a thrilling start that revitalizes The Walking Dead universe on AMC.

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Julian Roman