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How exactly will The Walking Dead end? 

Words: Jason Wolf
Photo: Courtesy of Salty Popcorn  

And more importantly, when? With viewing numbers waning, we look to the graphic novels to see how and why AMC’s The Walking Dead will finish sooner than the studio would like 

The Walking Dead’s seventh season wrapped its mid-season order on December 11 with implications that it’s heading toward all-out war. The show’s protagonists have found themselves squished under the thumb of the maniacal tyrant Negan, who has overstayed his welcome with the residents of Alexandria.

That winter finale alludes that the second half of the season will focus on Rick Grimes and co, who seem set to pool their allies in an effort to incite a full-scale assault on Negan’s army. Negan has secured himself as the most trenchant, personal villain The Walking Dead​ will likely ever get and this coup will surely be the largest slice of action ever seen on the show, which begs the question: where can they go from there?

It’s clear that the show is approaching its pinnacle, so we delved deep into the graphic novel series to determine where The Walking Dead will go next.

What we know so far

Though a peak feels like the impending trajectory of the show, The Walking Dead has already been renewed for an eighth season. Furthermore, executive producer Dave Alpert has stated: “I happen to love working from source material, specifically because we have a pretty good idea of what season 10 is gonna be. We know season 11 and 12 – we have benchmarks and milestones for those seasons if we’re lucky enough to get there.”

If indeed. Using the source material of the graphic novel series as a soothsayer, what can be expected for the future of the hit TV series, and will fans stay invested for much longer?

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© Flickr/Televisione Streaming

The source material (spoiler alert)

In the graphic novel, Negan’s group, The Saviors, is vanquished while Negan himself is taken prisoner by Rick. After this climactic coup, the comics jump ahead two years and reveal our characters continuing to expand into new territories, founding new communities and coming into conflict with a new group called The Whisperers. The run of the comic series is still open-ended, and if you use their pace as a guide, it would take about another four seasons of the show just to see this play out on screen.

The tiring fans

The show’s rating have already declined this year, with many fans growing weary of the same old same old. So cyclically introducing new communities one after another would prove to be a stale mould. The writers will need to abbreviate their 12-season model or risk the ignominy of a dwindling fanbase. But what would satisfy the fans?

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© Flickr/Televisione Streaming

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How the creator says the show will end

Robert Kirkman, creator of The Walking Dead, recently offered hints as to how the show will conclude. “People talk about how The Walking Dead’s very bleak,” he said. “But I see the story from beginning to end, so I think it’s a very hopeful story about humanity overcoming this insurmountable, apocalyptic situation.” Yes, the show will wrap on a more hopeful note, so bid adieu to any notions that the show will end with a giant zombie takeover or nuclear fallout.

A zombie cure and a new world order

With zombies becoming less relevant and something of a device for inserting action sequences into otherwise bland episodes, humans have long been the more threatening foes, with the story seemingly revolving around the challenges of cultivating a burgeoning society.

Considering that Kirkman has already flouted at rumours of the show culminating with a zombie cure, the most likely scenario is having Rick’s group witness the restoration of society to a point where you can see how the seeds of a new world order will later bear fruit. We could see international societies, new governments, and the redrawing of borders, but they would all require a lot of patience from the fans. No matter how grand the scale of the show becomes, the writers are tasked with colouring in the finer details of how to approach a conclusion without stories seeming like larger rehashes of what we’ve already seen.

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© Flickr/Jorge Figuroa

When the series should finish

Ultimately, the how isn’t as important as the when. The dénouement following the ‘All Out War’ storyline is where we think the show should culminate, but that probably won’t happen. Although viewing figures have gone down in recent seasons, the show is still popular enough to be number one in the ratings and the quality of the series hasn’t dipped. Robert Kirkman and the creative team behind The Walking Dead have opined their vision for the direction of the show for years to come, but they’ll need to reroute their course and rethink the budget as a result of the cooling temperature of the fanbase.

The burning question

Most fans seem to agree that it would be better to burn out than to fade away, so will the creative team decide to sacrifice their blueprints for a 12-season arc in order to please the viewers of the show? Only time will tell, and the answers will only become apparent when The Walking Dead returns on February 12, 2017. 

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