The Walking Dead is in a pretty big state of flux right now as key stars are set to leave the series amidst a critical and ratings slump. Fairly or not, a lot of the blame has been lumped on former showrunner Scott Gimple, who was recently promoted to chief content officer to the entire Walking Dead television universe.
But there’s always been something that hasn’t quite jibed with that narrative. Gimple has been working on the show since season two. He took the reigns at season four, leading Rick and his gang of survivors through three of arguably the best seasons the show has had. But what about all those terrible choices he’s made? The ones that diverge from the comics, changing the fates of the characters we love?
Well, according to Gimple, we may want to have some words with The Walking Dead comic creator Robert Kirkman about that.
“Back when we started, Robert and I argued a lot,” Gimple said during an AMC panel (as reported by Insider). “Because I wanted to do the book just as the book and he actually wanted to do changes because he had already done it. And, yeah, I wanted to see those moments that I saw in the book. And yet, as I worked more and more on it, because I was so familiar with those moments, I knew that making those little twists to give the reader, it’s actually doing right by the people who read the book and know what’s coming. You try to put them in a place where they don’t know what’s coming, which is what reading the book is like.”
“So you’re not going to get that surprise,” he said. “You’re not going to get that emotional twist. You’re not going to get that build. So to do right by the book, to tell the book with absolute fidelity sometimes, you have to change it. That said, you’re sort of like sneakily trying to get into the same exact thing that Robert [Kirkman] did, and to do that it takes a little bit of misdirection.”
There’s no doubt that departing from the source material has resulted in some of the show’s strongest moments and characters. Carol and Daryl wouldn’t exist in a pure comic adaptation. The ruthless Terminus cannibals were also show-only creations. And then you consider seasons seven and eight, which played out perhaps a bit too close to the events in the All Out War comics.
The Walking Dead will get a chance to hit the right balance when the show returns for season nine sometime in October. New showrunner Angela Kang has promised a shift from the all-consuming conflict with the Saviors we’ve been watching for two and a half seasons back to ‘core character relationships.’ Will Rick’s departure force the show onto an entirely new track, or will his storylines merely be remixed and absorbed by other characters picking up the slack?