The Walking Dead gets an all-new animated opening credits sequence for season 9, and it's loaded with Easter eggs. The opening titles won’t be the only thing changing as The Walking Dead lurches into its ninth season on AMC. Lead actor Andrew Lincoln will exit the show, presumably bringing an end to the story of Rick Grimes. Lauren Cohan will also depart, though the door is wide open for her to return as Maggie Rhee in season 10.
In addition to the big departures, The Walking Dead will see some notable character arrivals as well. The biggest new additions are The Whisperers, who make their debut on the series after becoming fan-favorite bad guys in the comics. Oscar-nominee Samantha Morton joins the cast as Alpha, the leader of the mysterious clan of survivors who walk among the zombies by wearing the skins of the dead. Story-wise, the show will execute a major time-jump coming off the wrap-up of last year’s “All Out War” arc, while attempting to get back to the classic feel of the show.
To symbolize a new beginning for the long-running series for season 9, The Walking Dead will kick off with a new opening title sequence. Previous seasons have always tweaked the basic opening titles concept but this time the sequence gets a full animated redesign that pays homage to the comic books, though the familiar Bear McCreary theme song remains intact. The full sequence can be seen on THR. In an interview, showrunner Angela Kang explained the thinking behind the revamped titles, saying:
"I had very long conversations with title designers about the themes we're playing with. The feel of the season has elements of the Western genre. We're paying homage to some of the iconic moments from the graphic novel. Life is coming out of death. Nature's taking over, while other things are crumbling."
The new sequence kicks off with an image that could be right out of Game of Thrones, as a flock of ravens descends on the tree where Rick and Negan had their showdown at the end of season 8. But this grim sequence gets a hopeful twist as the gnarled old black tree suddenly sprouts new leaves. The next shot of a pitchfork impaling a skull next to Daryl’s crossbow and arrows returns to being grim, but there’s even hope in this shot as flowers curl their way up the pitchfork. In a possible hint of what’s to come, the helicopter that has shown up mysteriously over the course of the show makes a brief appearance.
Next two horses and riders appear, a tease that in season 9 the gas finally runs out and the survivors are forced to resort to more primitive modes of transportation. There’s a forest and some graves, and Michonne’s katana appears, followed by Carl’s hat hanging sadly from a gate. These hints of the past give way to more teases about the future, including the big windmill that will be a central set in season 9. But in a reminder that death always looms, these hopeful images of rebuilding and rebirth ultimately give way to a shot of a walker making its way across a barren landscape.
After several seasons of sagging ratings, The Walking Dead will try to win back fans in season 9 with something of a series reboot, and the new title sequence is just part of that plan to revitalize the show. It remains to be seen if the new developments will restore the faith of those who have fled the series in recent years.
The Walking Dead season 9 premieres Sunday October 7 on AMC.