Warning: Massive spoilers for The Walking Dead will be found below.
Last week, Robert Kirkman abruptly released the final issue, #193, of The Walking Dead comics. The way the comics ended, however, wasn’t nearly as much as a surprise as Kirkman’s decision to end the comic series after 16 years. Granted, it wasn’t a complete surprise. After Rick died in the comics, I wrote that the endgame might be in the works:
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?
Granted, I didn’t think that Kirkman would pull the trigger that fast. As it turns out, however, Kirkman has been working toward that ending for years. As he stated in his final letter, he’s known how the series would end as far back as 2013, and he knew back in 2015 that he only had enough story or so left for about 50 issues. He had worked out the entire rest of the story — the Whisperers and The Commonwealth arcs — and he realized that it wouldn’t bring him anywhere near the 300 issues he had originally hoped to write.
Here, however, is where there might be some concern for Scott Gimple as he navigates the AMC series into the future. This comes from Robert Kirkman in his final letter to fans:
As I worked to come up with ways to expand the story, none of it felt right. Everything felt like an unnecessary detour. It was, for lack of better word, filler. The harder I tried to come up with new places to go, the clearer it was to me that this is what the story needed … it needed to end.
That’s going to be a very tough obstacle for the AMC series to overcome. The guy who wrote the comics upon which the series is based is basically saying, “It needs to end.”
Meanwhile, the TV series itself is almost moving in the opposite direction. It’s expanding its universe, adding a second spin-off series, and creating additional movies. This is precisely the opposite problem confronted by the show runners of HBO’s Game of Thrones, who — according to George R.R. Martin — had enough story to fill 10 seasons.
There’s basically enough story remaining in Kirkman’s comic series to get it through seasons 10 and 11 of the AMC series. If the TV series decides to go beyond that, will everything else be “filler”? Because, honestly, right now 50 percent of Fear the Walking Dead already feels like filler. No other movie or TV show has really taken a TV show this far into the zombie apocalypse. What else is there to accomplish? Scientifically speaking, if 90 percent of the world’s population died within the first six months, all of those zombies would have already decomposed. Does The Walking Dead survive without … the walking dead?
I’m not saying that The Walking Dead can’t come up with a clever way to extend the series, but I am saying that the guy who created The Walking Dead couldn’t come up with a clever way to extend the series. If Kirkman can’t do it, how much luck is someone else going to have?