Warning: Spoilers ahead for The Walking Dead season 10, episode 17!
The Walking Dead returned after a nearly five-month hiatus to air a handful of bonus episodes, but the series had a different look compared to past seasons. “Home Sweet Home” served as the seventeenth episode in season 10 and the first of six planned bonus episodes. With the production schedule altered due to COVID-19, AMC ordered six additional episodes to extend season 10 before diving into The Walking Dead‘s eleventh and final season. Not only did the pandemic affect the layout of the series, but it also drastically changed the filming method.
In October 2020, AMC debuted “A Certain Doom,” the episode originally intended to serve as The Walking Dead season 10 finale. The action-packed episode brought an end to the Whisperer War with the death of Beta (Ryan Hurst) and his followers. The conflict also featured the return of Maggie (Lauren Cohan), who will remain a key figure for the rest of the series. “Home Sweet Home” primarily focused on Maggie as she led Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) to the rest of her group, including her young son, Hershel (Kien Michael Spiller). With Kelly (Angel Theory), Cole (James Devoti), and Elijah (Okea Eme-Akwari) in tow, Maggie and Daryl found a decimated camp and a menacing threat targeting the surviving members of Maggie’s group. After the mention of the “Reapers,” Maggie and Daryl encountered the killer in the woods. Rather than answer any questions, the man blew himself up with a grenade. Maggie reunited with Hershel, allowing the group to return to Alexandria, which they will now call home.
Despite being a continuance of The Walking Dead season 10, the return may have looked different. It was the same story, cast, and setting viewers were familiar with, but the footage had a slightly new feel. This, in fact, was caused by the changes with The Walking Dead implemented after the pandemic. Aside from stricter behind-the-scenes measures involving face masks, social distancing, and regular COVID testing, the cinematography was given an overhaul. For every episode that came before the bonus episodes, The Walking Dead was shot on 16mm film. The method was known for adding a grainy look to give the post-apocalyptic an old-timey horror vibe. “Home Sweet Home” marked the beginning of the digital era when it came to filming.
According to showrunner Angela Kang (via Insider), “Home Sweet Home” was filmed on digital. Kang explained, “the decision came about because there are fewer ‘touch points’ with digital than 16mm” before adding how the team will no longer be required to swap out the film every so often. The series had considered switching to digital during The Walking Dead season 2, but the jump was never made until the pandemic required new safety precautions. Though there was an undeniable different feel to the series based on the filming method, Kang ensured viewers that more post-production techniques will be done “to maintain our classic TWD feel.”
The camera change will also be here to stay, seeing as Kang confirmed the digital method was used for the five other bonus episodes. The same production techniques are being used for the final season, which is currently filming. The Walking Dead season 11 will officially arrive on AMC in the summer of 2021. Rather than previous episode counts, the concluding installment will consist of 24 total episodes over a two-year period. By then, viewers will be used to the digital filming style. While a few spinoffs of The Walking Dead are in development, it’s too early for cinematography details.