Do fear the Reapers: the newest villain group to attack the survivors of The Walking Dead will return. In Sunday’s extended Season 10 premiere, “Home Sweet Home,” a silent predator stalks Maggie Rhee (Lauren Cohan) when she returns to Virginia with new people from her years out on the road. Cole (James Devoti) and Elijah (Okea Eme-Akwari) are among the few survivors of an attack on their village that left Maggie and her son Hershel (Kien Michael Spiller) without a place to live, and it’s not until she reunites with Daryl (Norman Reedus) that her people realize this unseen and unknown enemy has followed Maggie home.
When Maggie’s group discovers the smoldering corpses of their friends Jen and Billy, they know it’s the Reapers: their name for the people who razed their village. As Cole tells it, “They came out of nowhere. Wiped out anything in their wake.”
With Hershel missing, Maggie and Daryl lead a search that brings them straight into a trap: a sniper picks off Maggie’s people one by one when he guns down Gus (David Atkinson), Ainsley (Haley Leary), and Maya (Brianna Butler). A camouflaged Attacker (Mike Whinnet) ambushes Daryl and an ensnared Maggie, going in for the kill and not stopping when he’s stabbed and then shot by his prey.
Struck by a bolt fired by Kelly (Angel Theory), the Attacker says nothing when Maggie demands to know why he killed her friends and family. “Pope marked you,” he says finally, revealing the pulled pin of a grenade that turns him into a suicide bomber.
“This Attacker they meet in the woods, we know that this is part of the backstory of what Maggie’s been up to up until this point. There’s a lot of clues there about who this person is, even though he’s mysterious and doesn’t say much,” showrunner Angela Kang teased on Talking Dead. “But clearly [he] has a high level of training, is an excellent fighter — there’s a moment where he is shot with a bolt and he just snaps it off and keeps going — and this is one guy in the woods that takes out multiple people. He gets Maggie and Daryl, who are two of our strongest characters, into a bind in a really dangerous situation.”
Pope and the Reapers have no exact counterparts in the comic books, but executive producer Denise Huth says questions will be answered when the Attacker’s group hunts down their marked prey in future episodes of The Walking Dead.
“I think what’s even more terrifying than what he was able to do physically as just one man is when he actually starts talking, they’ve finally apprehended him, and he mentions: ‘Pope marked you.’ And Maggie doesn’t know what that means, we don’t know what that means, but it’s really creepy,” Huth said. “I think it’s really interesting to see characters like Maggie, and Cole, and Elijah — they’re afraid. And for characters as strong and as good as fighters as they are, for them to be afraid, this is a whole other level of what they’re going to be up against.”
Huth continued, “And unfortunately, baddies never stay away. They always rear their ugly heads, so it’s probably only a matter of time before we’ll see a lot more of the Reapers.”