After 11 seasons and 177 episodes, AMC’s The Walking Dead has finally shambled toward the moral coil. After becoming the House that Walt built, the network followed up in 2010 with a post-apocalyptic comic book adaptation by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlard. And although there were a few deviations from the original source material, showrunner Frank Darabont steered the ship in an engaging way that pleased veteran comic fans and television newcomers alike. That is until Darabont was fired after the second season, then things creatively and behind the scenes began to decay.
According to AMC’s lawyers, he was terminated due to “his volatile and disturbing interactions with the staff and talent.” Darabont won a 2013 profit suit against AMC in 2021 with a settlement of $200 million. Following his win, a group of producers, including Kirkman himself, are looking for a similar settlement as the series finale approaches. The network has labeled the lawsuit a “crass money grab.”
Although the series still has dedicated fans, and we understand not everything is meant to be translated from comic panel to television, the dip in quality as the series went on cannot go unnoticed. We can’t help but think of a few deviations the show could have done without, as it ultimately lead to a loss of good faith from some fans as TWD trudged forward with alternative prospects (and a chuckwagon full of spin-off shows.)
Andrea’s Character Assassination
In the comic book, before she fulfills the love-interest role of protagonist Rick Grimes, was a wholly fleshed-out character with nuance and a big presence within the group of survivors. Andrea was strong and one of many phenomenal female characters within the graphic novel. Her television counterpart was one of the worse characters during the early seasons and still ranks among one of the worst television characters of all time. Instead of being strong, Andrea was mean and made very silly decisions right up to her unceremonious death at the hands of Milton. She was a Karen before her time.
They dumped a lot of her comic book personality into Michonne and Carol instead, a decision seemingly made on the fly, with no real purpose for all the changes. Instead, it served as the first crack in the good faith between the TV series and comic book fans.
The Governor’s arc is great to watch unfold as both a television viewer and fan of the original source, despite all the changes that came with it. However, by changing his origin and a great deal of his character, the series created a blueprint for every single villain the series would ever introduce thereafter. He introduced the concept of a functioning community amid the apocalypse, using those citizens as soldiers, and executing shocking deaths of core characters. Things that Negan was supposed to introduce that made his initial appearance special instead of a rehash.
The Governor’s arc in the comic may be less graceful and nuanced than in the show, but his formula was never replicated. The Governor is an unhinged psychopath who rules over his people ruthlessly. That’s how we meet him, and that’s the person he dies as, unlike his TV counterpart, who instead was smooth, calculating, and on a slow descent into insanity. But that’s Negan’s arc. He also shockingly kills Herschel, the heart of the group up to that point. But, again, that’s what Negan is supposed to do.
This set a trend of every big bad of the series doing something The Governor already covered.
The Alpha’s Victims (A larger community plot issue)
The lack of impact from The Alpha’s ”shocking” heads-on-a-spike act is the culmination of a larger issue the show has dealing with its community plots. Although the series and comic books alike faced pacing issues during Alexandria, the novels learned from their mistakes when the show did not. Introducing a new community means a lot of new faces, and since the show has to deal with actors and screen time, some characters may not get enough development. In the series, the cast continued to grow to the point where there wasn’t even time for the main staples. It also became difficult to introduce anyone new as the series expanded into spectacle and greater ambitions it couldn’t keep up with.
So when we finally get to the next “shocking death(s)” from this season’s big bad(s), audiences from both fronts of the franchise were disappointed the deaths didn’t mean as much as the show wanted it to since the chosen characters to die was hardly developed. Meanwhile, in the comics, important characters like Rosita (while pregnant) and King Ezekiel bite the dust.
Andrew Lincoln Leaving The Show
It doesn’t matter how good or bad your show is doing; when the main protagonist suddenly leaves, a chunk of the fanbase will leave with them. AMC decided to announce the departure of Andrew Lincoln and use it to hype up his last episode and how he would go out. Even folks who hated the move watched with bated breath, believing the protagonist would be bitten or killed, which would be meaningful to the plot and his arc. Instead, he’s helicoptered away with no concrete answers, like Poochie the Dog on The Simpsons. It’s a slap in the face of fans that love the protagonist, the position he played within the story, and his moral progression. Although there’s supposed to be a 6-episode miniseries with him and Michonne (originally planned as a movie) that wraps up his arc, some are too far gone to care anymore. The moment is gone, and it affected the main show for the worse. Lincoln was the driving force of the show, and no matter how you cut it, it hurt to see him go. However, before he left, the show already made the most egregious decision it could…
Carl Grimes was supposed to represent the future and was as much of a central character as Rick himself. Unfortunately, between actor Chandler Riggs wanting to pursue his education, AMC needing a “shocking” death ratings boost, or the network thinking Riggs’s acting ability wasn’t good enough, the show removed a central character from the chessboard in an unceremonious way. The Walking Dead is supposed to be about Rick setting up the blueprint for his son to build off to create an ideal world despite all the undead. He was supposed to be a better leader than his father, learning everything he needed to be one by watching Rick’s successes and errors. Instead, the show officially became the Daryl & Caryl show, and now the latter has a spinoff series coming in the wake of the main show’s finale. Cutting Rick’s short story is an awful thing to do, but the series still has legs if you’ve got Carl. But by the time Rick was written out, Carl was already gone, which effectively cut the show off at the knees.
These last episodes of TWD have a family theme it’s trying to convey, but there is hardly a presence of the original family we grew to love. Rick and his son are gone, Michonne isn’t there anymore, we don’t even know if Judith is truly even a Grimes, and RJ ultimately exists as a placeholder for Carl. Carl wanted unity between the communities before he died in Season 8, and in the final season, this appears to be the overarching message, which only makes it worse that he isn’t around to play a role in this. Killing off Carl was the worse decision they could have ever made.