They Can Spin-Off ‘The Walking Dead’ For Eternity, I Don’t Mind
Is it not enough for a show to be a compelling constant in one’s life?
Love it or languish in it, The Walking Dead keeps kicking on, and I am here for it. Why? Because The Walking Dead is not a show to me. It is an old friend.
The Walking Dead has been a part of my life since I began watching the series in 2012. Apart from Doctor Who, which I’ve watched religiously since the age of 13, The Walking Dead has been the longest running commitment to a show I’ve ever made.
Based on the best-selling comics by the same name, the AMC zombie apocalypse series follows a ragtag group of survivors in Atlanta, Georgia. While the group has evolved and changed over the seasons, the main plot has centred on the plight of ex-cop protagonist Rick Grimes, the search for his family, and efforts to keep them safe in a dangerously decomposing world.
Despite the numerous memes at the show’s expense over the years, it often scored ratings higher than Game of Thrones in its heyday. The show has also had its fair share of cultural infamy and impact, with Season 7’s premiere in 2016 being regarded as one of the most shocking and brutal episodes of television in history.
But to me, The Walking Dead is not a TV series, it is a trusted and constant companion. One that has long been a familiar punctuation mark on my Mondays. That trusty time slot was an agreed upon break from memorising essays when I was studying the HSC, a welcomed procrastination during uni assessment periods, and even a way to mark time in lockdown.
Earlier this year, I sat down with my dad, who has watched The Walking Dead with me for many years, and we watched the main series’ grand finale. With three spin-offs slated for this year, it was, even for us as seasoned viewers, a somewhat anticlimactic affair. As it is, those three upcoming spin-offs – The Walking Dead: Dead City, The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon, and a third that remains untitled – are slated to wrap up the stories of fan favourite characters whose ends were left open in the final episode.
Despite supposedly being an “end” to a decade-plus long series of television, the final episode of The Walking Dead functioned more as set up for these spin-offs. A set up lovingly seasoned with tearful goodbyes to characters not deemed interesting enough to carry their own show. The gaggle of characters deigned spin-off worthy are the series’ tentpole characters.
Vengeful widow Maggie will team up with reformed megalomaniac Negan to take Manhattan in The Walking Dead: Dead City. Fan favourite, and sexiest redneck in apocalyptic Georgia, Daryl Dixon will get his own self-titled series to wrap up his story later this year. Meanwhile, the untitled spin-off (and the one I am most excited for) coming in 2024 will reunite Danai Gurira’s sword wielding warrior Michonne with her husband Rick Grimes in what will only be the most important love story ever concluded.
The questions many ask, inevitably, is: where does it end? Will these spin-offs bring the epic tale to a close? Or are they merely a big series of belts to beat the proverbial dead horse? Only time will tell. However, the same question might be asked of any current franchise. Star Wars, Marvel, Game of Thrones, Sex and the City, Gossip Girl, The L-Word, Death In Paradise, Law & Order, and many other TV franchises have dominated the screens for decades. Why should The Walking Dead be any different?
In fact, it hasn’t been. Prior to the three on the way, there have already been two Walking Dead spin-offs. Fear The Walking Dead, which covered a different group of survivors from Los Angeles over eight seasons, and The Walking Dead: World Beyond. The latter series, which finished in 2021, explored the mysterious paramilitary group that abducted protagonist Rick Grimes in the original series. Over the past decade, The Walking Dead and the tales its spawned have quietly carried on week after week season after season, one rotted foot in front of the other.
Often, I am asked as a person who consistently watches The Walking Dead whether it’s “good.” Even the question a colleague asked me which prompted me to write this was: do we, as a society, need three more Walking Dead shows?
Now, I could espouse the virtues of the series, which I did while comparing it to a certain other zombie apocalypse series. I could even talk about how, in its final two seasons, The Walking Dead managed to ponder poignant and fundamental questions of whether the “normal” part of “back to normal” is as aspirational as we would like to believe. Yes, I could cite these and many other reasons the show is not necessarily just the living meme it’s come to be known for.
Instead, I want to ask: Is it not enough for a show to be a compelling constant in one’s life? Is it not enough to have a show that you can always chat with your dad about when you don’t want to hear his rants about politics? Is it not enough that when the world stopped for two years, the one thing that didn’t was The Walking Dead?
Perhaps it isn’t enough to “justify” three spin-offs for some. But personally, I couldn’t care less. People are prepared to accept a series about a life-size action figure transporting an overpowered green Furby across space as a worthy addition to the pantheon of Star Wars. Surely, a handful of limited series to wrap up one of the longest-running cult sci-fi shows of the last decade cannot be where the line is drawn. Leave me, the dads of the world, and our ol’ reliable zombie soap opera alone.
The Walking Dead: Dead City is premiering on Stan, June 19.