After 12 Years, ‘The Walking Dead’ Has Reached Its Final Episode
— 21 November 2022

After 12 Years, ‘The Walking Dead’ Has Reached Its Final Episode

— 21 November 2022
Chris Singh
Chris Singh

After 11 seasons, 176 episodes and more than 75 significant character deaths, AMC’s apocalyptic epic, The Walking Dead (October 21, 2020 – November 20, 2022), aired its very final episode today. Well, sort of. While numerous spin-off shows branching from the main plot have already been confirmed, the flagship series that once broke so many records that it eventually started rating higher than Sunday Night Football (unheard of for a network TV show), will officially came to a close when The Walking Dead series finale aired today.

At its peak, The Walking Dead was the biggest money-maker in the TV industry and once set a record for the most-watched episode in cable history when 17.3 million viewers tuned into the fifth season premiere, ‘No Sanctuary’ (an episode that still, deservedly, holds a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes).

Now in its 11th season, The Walking Dead is barely scraping two million viewers an episode.

When Did The Walking Dead Stumble?

The Walking Dead series finale

Needless to say, this article is full of The Walking Dead spoilers. Stop scrolling if you want to avoid any such things.

Many consider AMC’s monstrously successful zombie series a shell of its former self. It’s hard to disagree.

Some would say the troubles date back as far as halfway through the second season, after which original showrunner Frank Darabont was unceremoniously fired by AMC due to behind-the-scenes issues which still aren’t crystal clear.

Others would gladly defend The Walking Dead and say the show was consistently excellent all through until the seventh season – rare for any TV show – and a certain character death that was so upsetting and disturbing for many fans that viewership fell of a cliff.

Then there’s a minority that generously thinks The Walking Dead has been consistent well into its expansive 24-episode eleventh season.

I sit somewhere between the second and third group.

While I still love the show quite a lot, it’s hard to deny that sometime within the past few years The Walking Dead had stumbled, tripped and even stopped walking altogether. After Negan (an invariably charming Jeffrey Dean Morgan) was introduced at the end of the sixth season, millions of fans tuned out citing excessive violence, boring plotlines and too many filler episodes.

All three are correct. The Walking Dead has never produced a consistently great season after the fourth. If we’re being generous, then after the fifth. The show just became too large to fit in all these ideas, adapted from Robert Kirkman’s comic book series, coherently. And the writers clearly struggled to balance a growing ensemble cast with the need to flesh each character properly.

The violence, while I’d say was toned down dramatically from the first five seasons, was proving a bit too difficult for people to handle. Despite this being a horror series first and a drama second. And, yeah, the writers filled season 7 onward with some incredibly stale filler episodes that failed to land, spend sufficient time with good characters, or even make sense.

Did Negan Kill The Walking Dead?

Did Negan kill The Walking Dead?

It wasn’t Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s fault. In fact, he is one of the best actors on a show with some genuinely great actors. The way he brought, brings and will continue to bring – he will be in just one of the spin-off series’ – Negan’s complicated character to life is admirable. Doubly so when you consider that fans now actually like Negan after all he’s done.

I’m letting loose with spoilers now so this is your last chance.

At the end of its season 6 finale, titled ‘Last Day On Earth,’ The Walking Dead writers staged what is easily the most controversial and widely discussed cliffhanger since LOST (great show, by the way, and no they weren’t dead the whole time) dropped a bombshell at the end of its third season.

In adapting a pivotal scene from the comics, just about every main character was brought to their knees in a line-up; stalked and captured by a group calling themselves The Saviours, led by Negan. After a drawn-out round of show-boating, Negan took a wired baseball bat and savagely beat two of the series’ most popular characters to death. We just didn’t find out who until the season 7 premiere, which was viewed by a whopping 17 million people.

The cliffhanger worked, the fallout did not.

In the comics, it’s only one character who dies. Glenn (Steven Yuen), who grew throughout the series as the fan-favourite, was the unlucky recipient of the bat. He had his head smashed so hard that his eye popped out of his skull before his head was pummelled viciously. By the time Negan was finished, his barb-wired bat was shining crimson red in the moonlight, with hair and brains dangling from it.

It was impactful in the comics. Arguably, it’s the most important moment in The Walking Dead and spurs a number of plotlines into action, as well as Negan’s hard-won redemption. It turns Glenn’s wife – pregnant at the time of her husband’s death – into one of the show’s most capable protagonists. It kicks off the ongoing feud between Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Negan. It was, successfully, designed to make the reader actually feel the grief, pain and desire for revenge that the characters had to go through.

It didn’t, however, make for good TV.

Veering from the comics, the writers had Negan beat the show’s tank, Abraham (Michael Cudlitz), to a pulp. Comic readers were caught off-guard, Glenn fans breathed a sigh of relief and all seemed sorted. Until Negan then decided to claim another victim, this time beating Glenn to mirror the comics. It was brutal, and for fans heartbreaking.

As mentioned above, Glenn was the heart of the show. In a series like this, you needed a character to constantly root for. The underdog, who grows into his own, marries the farmer’s daughter and balances the show with a more empathetic and nuanced approach to a world ravaged with undead and plagued by turf wars.

Yuen played Glenn with such a determined brilliance that it set the young Korean-American actor up for guaranteed Hollywood success. Even more so, he delivered a character that the majority of fans could relate to. When he departed the show in such a brutal fashion, it evidently proved a bit too much for many viewers.

I really have never seen such a mass exodus in viewership over a character’s death. Not even when a certain person scribbled a certain three words on his hand before drowning in LOST.

That’s not only notable but it also shows that not everything that works in the source material will translate well to TV. Should the writers have completely abandoned the comics before Glenn’s death and forged their own path, or slightly remixed certain characters in order to keep Steven Yuen in the game? Some think so. I think so.

Negan could have still had his redemption arc even if he just left the killing spree at Abraham.

The Walking Dead’s Other Mistakes

Killing Glenn broke the show’s streak of commercial success but the writers didn’t stop there with bad decisions. Conversely, they actually ended up departing from the comics for another major death – Carl (Chandler Riggs). In the graphic novel, Rick’s son survives until the very end, gets married and lives happily ever after. In the show, he gets bitten saving a new character – who ends up dying a few seasons later – and is put down by his own father after a drawn-out farewell. It was stupid.

The biggest mistake the show has been making lately, however, is not enough character deaths. It’s one extreme or the other with this show, and while current showrunner Angela Kang has done a lot of good for the series over the past two years, her refusal to kill any character of note has sucked all the suspense that made The Walking Dead such a hit.

Heading into the series finale, there are no stakes. For a show that was built on shocking character deaths, much like Game of Thrones, there hasn’t been any major exit since Michonne (Danai Gurira) left. And that wasn’t even a death. She went to search for Rick, who went missing halfway through season 9.

The Walking Dead Spin-Off Shows

This lack of tension is because all the spin-offs have already been announced. There will be three in total:

  • One set in New York City with Maggie and Negan titled The Walking Dead: Dead City, to premiere in April 2023.
  • One following Daryl as he somehow ends up in Paris. Reportedly titled Daryl Dixon
  • One following the reunion of Rick and Michonne.

So we know all those characters already survive. There has also been talk of Carol joining Daryl at some point, so she’s safe.

While The Walking Dead has always been about telling a complex story of how we rebuild society after all is lost and how we hold onto our humanity, half the fun of the show is seeing who makes it out alive and who doesn’t.

There’s little doubt The Walking Dead universe will become too bloated over the next few years. The mainline show has already spurred a bunch of other properties including Fear The Walking Dead, Tales of the Walking Dead and the awful The Walking Dead: The World Beyond.

By the time all three new Walking Dead spin-offs are released, the TWD universe will be responsible for seven different shows. That’s overkill by any measure.

But, hey, at least the writers are finally killing something.

The Walking Dead series finale is now available to stream on Foxtel and Binge in Australia.

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Chris Singh
Chris is a freelance Travel, Food, and Technology writer. He has had work published by The AU Review, Junkee Media and Australian Traveller Media and holds tertiary qualifications in Psychology and Sociology.


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