Negan’s fate and how The Walking Dead series could end
The Walking Dead’s seventh season wrapped up this week with the season finally culminating in all-out war, the show’s protagonists taking the fight to maniacal tyrant Negan - who has decidedly overstayed his welcome with the residents of Alexandria.
As the winter finale alluded to, the back-half of the season focused on Rick Grimes and co, pooling their allies in an effort to incite a full-scale assault on Negan’s army - a storyline from the comics referred to as “All Out War”.
Negan has secured himself as the most trenchant, personal villain the show will likely ever get and the season seven finale saw him get his comeuppance, only to outsmart Rick again and ride off into the sunset with his middle finger high in the air to both our heroes and possibly the audience… Which begs the question, where can they go from there? Pervasive amongst fans is a palpable feeling that the show is approaching its pinnacle - or maybe did on Sunday night.
So we delved deep into the graphic novel series to determine just that - where to next for The Walking Dead?
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 previously 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 where 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?
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 named 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 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 mold. The writers will need to abbreviate their 12-season model or risk the ignominy of a dwindling fanbase. But what would satisfy the fans?
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 … 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.
With zombies becoming less relevant and more 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 rumors 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 one can see how the seeds of a new world order will later bear fruit. Sure, we could see international societies, new governments, the redrawing of borders, but that would require a lot of patience from the fans. No matter how grand the scale of the show becomes, the writers are tasked with coloring in the fine details of how to approach a conclusion without stories seeming like just larger rehashes of what we’ve already seen.
Ultimately, the how isn’t as important as the when. The dénouement following the “All Out War” storyline is where the show should culminate, but probably not where it will. Although viewership has taken its hits in recent seasons and is clearly on the decline, the show is still popular enough to be number one in the ratings - and the quality of the series hasn’t appreciably dipped either. 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 will need to reroute their course based off of the cooling temperature of the fanbase.
Will the creative team be altruistic and sacrifice their blueprints for a 12-season arc in order to serve the heartbeat of the fans, who seem to largely agree that it would be better to burn out than to fade away? The definitive answers to these questions begin to take shape when The Walking Dead returns on February 12, 2017.