It’s been perhaps the most significant week in the history of The Walking Dead television series. The show lost Andrew Lincoln’s Rick Grimes, who will now lead a series of three The Walking Dead movies. Lauren Cohan’s Maggie Rhee also left the show (for now); Jadis/Anne has left the series; Heath’s absence was explained; the show introduced Magna and a series of new characters (including an older Judith Grimes); and it also teased the introduction of a new set of villains, The Whisperers.
With a huge week like it has been, we fully expected that those involved with the show would be out in full force to discuss and defend their choices, and that’s been true for the most part. Chief Content Officer Scott Gimple and showrunner Angela Kang have given numerous interviews over the last week; Andrew Lincoln promoted his exit for weeks and gave interviews after the show; and AMC’s President David Madden has even become a recognizable name in The Walking Dead fan world this week.
There is, however, one voice we haven’t head from at all this week — or much at all this season — which is interesting given how involved he’s been with the show in the past, and the voice is that of the creator of The Walking Dead, Robert Kirkman. Kirkman gave an interview last month to Variety celebrating 15 years of The Walking Dead comics, but best I can tell he hasn’t really given an interview about the television series since he spoke with Kevin Smith last July. A frequent guest on The Talking Dead during the early years, Kirkman also hasn’t appeared on that since the Fear the Walking Dead, The Walking Dead crossover episode last April. As for the episode itself? He tweeted that people should watch the it, but he hasn’t weighed in on the substance of it.
Not that Kirkman’s absence this week isn’t understandable. Kirkman has a production deal with Amazon now, where he’s developing new series, like an animated adaptation of his comic series, Invincible (and, uh, Science Dog).
But more the point, this season of The Walking Dead thus far hasn’t really touched that much upon Kirkman’s comics, and as far as Rick Grimes is concerned, he left Kirkman’s source material behind at the end of last season. The first five episodes of this season were new and original to the series, and the spin-off movies will be new and original to The Walking Dead universe.
I do wonder, however, what Kirkman must make of this. He has stated in the past that the comics and the television series are two different entities and that the comics are likely to live beyond the TV series. I assume that he has approved of the direction of the television series, but what must he think of it living on without his main character? Or that his main character will live on in movies that are now drawn from the comics? Or what about the fact that the show is now being led by a character created for the series (Daryl) and a character who died in the comics years ago (Carol) and that the Michonne from the television series is essentially a composite of the comic’s Michonne and the comic’s Andrea?
I guess the real question is, should we imply anything from Kirkman’s silence? Or should we just assume that Kirkman has left his material in the hands of capable people in Scott Gimple and Angela Kang to do it justice? I’m not entirely sure, but I will say this: In this week’s episode, “Who Are You Now?” the television series jumps right back on the comic’s rail — the faces are different and characters have been moved around, but the storyline essentially returns to the source material. While I have loved the last five off-book episodes, this week’s is also as good as any during the best run of episodes from seasons three to five on The Walking Dead. The ratings may not be as high as they used to be, but the show is as good as ever.