The latest issue of Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead comics, Issue #191, is a doozy and possibly a game changer for both the comics and, eventually, the television series. Or it might be nothing. The details are below.
Spoilers for Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead comics
The most recent issue of Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead comic series is set in The Commonwealth, a civilization of around 50,000 people in Ohio, which shares a lot in common with a contemporary city — it has a stadium, rock bands, a police force, etc. — but for the fact that it’s surrounded by zombies. The downside to The Commonwealth, however, is that it’s set up like something akin to a caste system — the people who were poor before the apocalypse remain poor, and the people who were well off before the arrival of the zombies maintain their social status. It’s led by a Governor by the name of Pamela Milton.
In Issue #191, Rick manages to neutralize the threat that Governor Milton poses to The Commonwealth and imprison her. There’s talk of new elections, and even some discussion of Rick running to become Governor, encouraged by Carl to do so. But this is what is pertinent to the television series: At the end of the issue, Governor Milton’s son, Sebastian, pulls out a pistol, and as revenge for removing Governor Milton from power, shoots Rick Grimes in the chest. The issue ends in a cliffhanger with Rick bleeding from the mouth and chest.
This could mean one of three things:
1. It’s nothing. When the next issue arrives, we learn that Rick Grimes survives the gunshot and recuperates, and The Walking Dead comics continue to run their course. When Robert Kirkman ends an issue in a big cliffhanger, this happens about half the time.
2. Rick dies, and like the television series, the comic series continues without what was once its central character. After all, Robert Kirkman has said before that Rick would die before the end of the comics. If he does, and the comic series continues on, it may make it easier to sync the comics and the television series, since neither would have Rick Grimes.
3. Robert Kirkman is setting up the endgame for the comics — and potentially, the television series. It seems almost unimaginable for The Walking Dead, which began publishing issues in 2003, to finally end its run, but it’s not out of the question. Robert Kirkman has other projects in development (including an Invincible TV series for Amazon, which will also be turned into a separate movie by Seth Rogen), and after 191 issues, the death of Rick and Carl on the television series (plus the imminent departure of Michonne), maybe Kirkman is preparing to finally bring the comic series to an end with, perhaps, Issue 200. Maybe killing off Rick is the first step toward doing so?
Of course, even if Kirkman does kill off Rick and bring the comics to a close, it doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the television series. There’s still at least two to three more seasons of material left in the comics (which would bring the television series to the 11th or 12th season), and nothing says that, if the show is still getting solid ratings, that it would necessarily have to end itself. Angela Kang (or another showrunner) could certainly continue the series without the comics blueprint, but it might prove to be more difficult without the map that Kirkman’s comics provides. However, with AMC touting the “next generation” of The Walking Dead and suggesting that The Walking Dead universe could run for another 10 or 20 years, and it’s possible that it continues without the flagship series.
Obviously, viewers and readers may not know the answers for a very long time, but if Kirkman does follow through on the cliffhanger and kill off Rick Grimes, it would certainly present the biggest shift for the property since the arrival of Negan. We will keep viewers posted.
In the meantime, Fear the Walking Dead returns on June 2nd, while the tenth season of The Walking Dead returns in the fall.