Back in 2015, creator of The Walking Dead, Robert Kirkman, joked ahead of the release of its spin-off Fear the Walking Dead that more spin-offs were possible. “I’m sure that, if it does well, we’ll do The Walking Dead: China eventually,” he said. “And then The Walking Dead: SVU.”
Kirkman was more right at the time that he probably knew. The Walking Dead may have experienced some ratings erosion over the last few seasons, but it’s still the highest rated show on cable, and it’s not even close. Meanwhile, while ratings for Fear the Walking Dead may not be what AMC had hoped, it’s still the second highest rated show on the network and one of the highest rated shows on cable. So why not make more The Walking Dead spin-offs?
With Robert Kirkman hightailing it over to Amazon, the reins over The Walking Dead have been left, more or less, to Scott Gimple, promoted from showrunner of The Walking Dead to chief content officer of the entire The Walking Dead universe. He has quickly put that title to use, sending Lennie James from The Walking Dead to Fear the Walking Dead and essentially rebooting the series with several new cast members, new showrunners, and a massive time jump. It’s going to be a “much different show” when it returns in April, and instead of being a “companion” series, as it was originally envisioned, it’s expected to be more like a traditional spin-off, and the two shows may ultimately share storylines and characters.
There’s still a huge world out there beyond Alexandria and Houston, the location of next season’s Fear the Walking Dead, and Scott Gimple plans to take advantage of it with additional spin-off opportunities, as he tells The Hollywood Reporter.
“There are different approaches to how we tell stories and how long we tell them for and the places we can do them. I’m hoping to do a variety of different projects that are probably more in line with what we see on TV but maybe in different rhythms and formats and things like that. We’ll still continue to come out with great digital content but I’m excited about the kind of stuff we can do. But I really am talking about all sides of it and I know we’ll have more to talk about soon on that.”
Obviously, Gimple has yet to offer much in the way of detail on forthcoming spin-offs, but one strong possibility concerns a storyline that is in progress in Robert Kirkman’s graphic novels right now. In Issue #175, we see the introduction of The Commonwealth, a giant community of around 50,000 citizens in Ohio. It has its own army, and it even has its own sports arena. It is a full-blown city, and it’s also where Michonne’s missing child resides.
The Walking Dead will eventually find itself confronting The Commonwealth and whatever dangers lurk there, but that’s not likely to come until around the 10th or 11th season. That actually gives Scott Gimple a couple of years to introduce a spin-off zeroing in on The Commonwealth. It could be an origins story for the community: How did it get started? What threats did it face? How has it been able to avoid mass zombie infections? How does it protect itself? Who are its leaders? That could be a great one or two-season spin-off that eventually merges with The Walking Dead (and/or Fear the Walking Dead) when the characters from The Walking Dead are organically meant to confront the community in the comics.
In this scenario, we’d actually get to know — and likely sympathize with — the leaders of The Commonwealth, and if and when they clash with the leaders of The Walking Dead, viewers could have their own rooting interests and conflicts. It would be a fascinating new direction for the universe.
Another possibility, of course, is a one-season origins story for Negan based on “Here’s Negan,” Robert Kirkman’s 16-chapter backstory on Negan. It wouldn’t even have to be a full-blown spin-off, just a limited series or even an AMC movie the network could run in-between The Walking Dead seasons.
Those are just two spin-off possibilities, but it’s a big universe, and I don’t think that AMC would necessarily need to resort to The Walking Dead: China or The Walking Dead: SVU to continue building on its property (besides iZombie pretty much has The Walking Dead: SVU covered).