Have The Walking Dead’s multiple upcoming spinoffs dulled the show’s killer edge just when it’s needed most? In September 2020, AMC confirmed The Walking Dead season 11 would bring the TV adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s iconic comic book series to an unexpected end. Although The Walking Dead’s cast and crew were preparing to branch into season 12 and beyond (as confirmed by Negan himself, Jeffrey Dean Morgan), AMC slapped an extra 8 episodes onto season 11 and gave the winding-up order. Though The Walking Dead is soon to end, AMC’s Walking Dead franchise will continue through more spinoffs than you can shake a severed zombie leg at.
No TV series hits double-figure seasons by accident. Innovative zombie horror, a mastery of suspense, and richly-crafted main characters have all been powerful weapons in The Walking Dead’s dramatic arsenal. Another is The Walking Dead’s well-used chopping block, and during its viewership boom, The Walking Dead became renowned as a show where anybody could die at any given moment – much like Kirkman’s comics. That reputation wasn’t always positive (killing off Carl Grimes remains a creative low), but The Walking Dead offered TV audiences an unpredictability few TV shows were willing to match.
Currently one third of the way through its final season, The Walking Dead should be approaching peak bloodbath levels. Across 11 seasons, The Walking Dead has ruthlessly killed fan-favorite characters left and right so, surely, shocking character exits should only be ramping-up as the climax nears. That hasn’t been the case so far in The Walking Dead season 11, and though there’s still plenty of time for the blood and guts to come, one massive obstacle stands in the way – AMC’s future spinoffs.
When The Walking Dead‘s cancellation was announced, AMC also revealed a spinoff starring Norman Reedus’ Daryl Dixon and Melissa McBride’s Carol Peletier was in development, effectively confirming both Walking Dead originals would survive the final season. As popular veterans of the zombie apocalypse, the threat of Carol and/or Daryl dying in The Walking Dead season 11 would’ve provided a huge source of tension, but the pair are now covered in plot armor so thick not even Shiva could pierce it. AMC’s upcoming Walking Dead movie provides another barrier against final season character deaths. Should Rick Grimes return in The Walking Dead season 11, he’ll need to survive – otherwise those big screen obligations can’t be fulfilled. And with Michonne’s story left open-ended (likely also for the movie’s benefit), Judith can consider herself safe from The Walking Dead‘s axe until their mother-daughter story is resolved.
There’s still a bunch of major characters who could potentially bite the dust in The Walking Dead’s final season – Maggie, Negan, Eugene, Rosita, Aaron, Gabriel and Ezekiel being the most prominent. But the exclusion of Daryl and Carol from that list is significant. Once upon a time, The Walking Dead prided itself on being TV’s most unpredictable show, where – just like during a real zombie outbreak (we assume) – anyone can die without warning. Many fans back then might’ve even felt anxious anticipation over how far The Walking Dead would be willing to go in its final season, given the violence that came before. Instead, the apocalypse feels safer in season 11 than it did in season 5, 6 or 7, as certain characters get ring-fenced ahead of future projects.
Of course, The Walking Dead could have a bloody surprise up its sleeve. To compensate for the lack of danger circling its spinoff characters, season 11’s final episode could – if it’s feeling brave – kill off everyone but Daryl, Carol, Rick, Michonne and Judith in one huge Alexandrian massacre, wholeheartedly proving its famously sharp edge hasn’t dulled with old age. What The Walking Dead cannot afford is a final season where too many characters are spared because they’re being saved for projects further down the line.