With The Walking Dead set to return to AMC for a game-changing ninth season (Rick leaving?!? Maggie leaving?!?) on Sunday, October 7th, new series showrunner Angela Kang took to the network's website to tease some key details we might've missed from the season 9 trailer and what they mean for what's still to come.
Birds can be a sign of peace, prosperity and hope – and a harbinger of bad things to come:
"In the comics, there's a moment where the characters talk about how the birds are making a comeback, which totally makes sense given the state of the world. It's your typical brilliant, almost-throwaway Kirkman-ian line that sticks in the imagination and we wanted to pay tribute to that idea.
For our characters at various points this season, nature is both a wonder to behold and an obstacle to overcome. In this moment, we see Rick, Michonne and Judith as a happy family, unafraid to be outside the walls of Alexandria, which is a hint about the state of the world… but we also know that crows can be a nuisance (as well as creepy harbingers of death!)"
Carol (Melissa McBride) is someone to keep an eye on as things play out within the community this season – and she'll be sporting a heart-breaking tribute during it:
"Badass Carol is facing off with a new character. Keen-eyed viewers may have recognized Rhys Coiro in the trailer — a terrific actor playing the Savior 'Jed' this season. Melissa and I talked about Carol's wardrobe at the start of the season and she said she really loves wearing men's button down shirts — that's when she feels the most quintessentially 'Carol.' And the new necklace is a tribute to her daughter Sophia. Melissa carried around a hair bauble of Sophia's for years in her pockets and we thought it'd be interesting to make a piece of 'memorial jewelry' out of it."
When bullets are scarce and crossbows a little too slow, Daryl (Norman Reedus) develops a fondness for knives:
"Since our characters are being more stingy with their bullets this year, we wanted to make sure Daryl had a good secondary weapon for hand-to-hand fighting (a crossbow is difficult to reload, so it's not good for quick combat). Norman helped to custom design a pair of knives that he can use for two-handed combat. They're saw-backed Bowie knives with finger rings that allow you to quickly twirl the knives into different positions (you can grip them in either direction)."
Maggie's (Lauren Cohan) evolution as leader of the Hilltop – and its relationship to the other communities – will stand at the heart of the season:
"Here, we're seeing a new look for both Maggie and the Hilltop. The most obvious change for Maggie is that her hair has grown out, but she's also standing on the balcony of the Barrington House as if it's home (which it is now), looking out at her thriving community, where we see several new elements within the walls. Comic book readers might recognize the communal tables and picnic area on the lawn below Maggie. To the left, we can catch a glimpse of the row of trailers, and the edge of a new structure attached to them. There's a water tower… a gate is open to the outside. And there's a goat!
This is all part of the story of how much time has passed and the type of leader Maggie is and how Hilltop is doing relative to the other communities. (Oh, and the style of her shirt is a nod to Maggie in the comics at this stage of the story!)"
Jadis/Anne (Pollyanna McIntosh) the the mysterious helicopter are connected – and in case you wondering, the symbol with the three circles and the letter "A" are important:
"Jadis has a new hairdo and clothing, but it looks like she might be up to her old tricks with the walkie and the helicopter. Or is she? And speaking of the helicopter, you might also notice the three rings symbol that's appeared on various items at the Heaps before, and the 'A' we've seen crop up periodically. Yes, there is a meaning to both things. No, I won't spoil it right now!"
The conditions at the Sanctuary will be important, as it will demonstrate the growing differences between the communities – and a growing desire for the past (as we're about to see):
"The front of the Sanctuary is looking very different since the end of the war. There's corn growing in front of the old factory building, but you can see that some of the stalks are looking pretty dried out. And some of the windows that were broken by gunfire at the beginning of last season have been repaired (using glass that was delivered in Season 8, Episode 16), but not ALL of them."
As messages like "Saviors Save Us" and "We Are Still Negan" begin to appear in the Sanctuary, some will look to take advantage of the uncertainty and unrest:
"We're seeing graffiti in the Sanctuary for the first time since the war: 'Saviors Save Us.' After all the misery we saw at the Sanctuary when the Saviors were in charge, this is a surprising message for our people to see in the aftermath of the war. 'We Are Still Negan' is a nod back to the way the Saviors used to call themselves Negan, written in response to the call for help. In working on this story, the writers' room discussed the appeal of authoritarian governments as a reaction to chaos and war.
Andrew Lincoln picked up on that immediately when he saw this moment in the script and said, 'Well, it's the rise of fascism, isn't it?' (Read that in a British accent.) We don't tend to write in reaction to current events because we start breaking our stories 10 months or more before the season starts to air, but we do look to history for lessons about how civilizations react to war, pestilence, natural disaster, etc. This season, we're reflecting the way the characters in the comic book looked to the past to create a future, so it's especially valuable for us now!"
The scene of Michonne (Danai Gurira) holding Negan's (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) bloody "Lucille" will be more than symbolic – and like Carol, Michonne will be wearing her heart on her sleeve – and dread:
"We see Michonne holding a bloodied baseball bat, looking horrified. Michonne was complicit with Rick in deciding to keep Negan alive for the sake of the future. That decision tied Michonne to Negan and his story, which is something we'll be exploring this season. And it's hard to see here, but if you look closely at Michonne's hair this season, you'll see she has a small plaid wrap around one of her dreads. That's a piece of Carl's shirt, which she's now wearing to keep his memory close."