Now that The Walking Dead season 3 is in full swing, it’s time for the annual “Why the showrunner got fired” explanation to occur. This year, Glen Mazzara receives the honorary pink slip from AMC. Here’s why it happened.

According to show sources who spoke with The Hollywood Reporter, it was Walking Dead comic book creator Robert Kirkman, not AMC, who was behind Glen Mazzara “leaving” the series. But that’s not the only reason. Production delays from a lack of material to shoot, resulting in the show being shut down, were also cited as another reason for Mazzara’s exit.

When news of Mazzara’s departure from the series was originally announced, it was said that the two parties, AMC and Mazzara, disagreed about the direction the series should head in subsequent seasons. Now, it appears that Robert Kirkman may have played a part in Mazzara leaving the series. Because after all, he did write the source material upon which the show is based:

“I believe Robert wants to maintain a certain amount of his control, and AMC needs Robert for the fan base.”

But Kirkman wasn’t the only one unhappy with Mazzara’s vision, or performance. According to a source inside the show, several other producers on the series weren’t on board for the direction Mazzara wanted to take the series – and then there were the production delays.

During The Walking Dead season 3, part 2 (which audiences have yet to see), production was shut down several times, with Mazzara’s inability to run the show cited as the reason.

Unlike most networks, AMC doesn’t have the corporate backing like ABC (Disney), NBC (Universal), CBS (Viacom), or even FX (News Corps.); they have been battling a financial war ever since they agreed to pay Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner $30 million for the final three seasons of that show. So when production on The Walking Dead – which is already riddled with budget-cuts – gets shut down, and results in rescheduled shooting, someone has to foot that bill.

In the wake of Mazzara’s departure, Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter and The Shield creator Shawn Ryan – both of whom have previously worked with Mazzara on The Shield – came to his defense, referring to AMC as, among other things, unfriendly to showrunners. The firing of the first Walking Dead showrunner, Frank Darabont, was certainly a sign of that. But could Mazzara’s case be different than Darabont’s?

After all, Robert Kirkman did create The Walking Dead comic, so his vision about where to take the series would technically be the truest to the story. Then again, film and television has had enough great ideas fail because they didn’t have the right person (showrunner) to bring that idea to television in the best way for the medium. Four years ago, nobody would have thought that a zombie series would even be on the air, let alone for it to be sweeping television ratings. Is this because of Kirkman or Darabont? Most would say Darabont.

However, after the style, tone and format of the entire series is locked in during its first season – arguably the most difficult part – Kirkman could now have greater input in the storyline, since the show now has the foundation it needed to be successful. Without Darabont, Kirkman wouldn’t have a successful show to have any input on. Again, how many other successfully zombie shows have there been previously? So, again, is it Kirkman or Darabont who made Walking Dead successful?  It’s both.

Somehow Robert Kirkman (who once thought Charlie Sheen would make a great zombie in the series) and Glenn Mazzara are getting pulled into a fight which likely started at the top, with AMC. Now that The Walking Dead is a hit and AMC has the series’ original creator on salary, the only thing they need to do is to find a showrunner who can steer a shit that has already been created, proven successful, and is somewhat following an already-laid plan. But perhaps it’s the plan that was the issue all along.

The Walking Dead can continue forever, essentially – or at least that’s Kirkman’s plan for the comics. Only a few television series ever get to 10 seasons (average is 4 seasons), so when to end The Walking Dead could become an issue – not to mention the construction of season 4 and 5. When Mazzara originally took over The Walking Dead, he said that he had a set story to tell from the comics, meaning that there’s a definite end. To end a series, the characters and story have to be wrapped up enough to give viewers a satisfying conclusion. Since the comic book is still running well-beyond the TV series, planning and foreshadowing must be done. But if you’re a struggling cable network and have a show that beats out network television ratings, perhaps talking about an ending is still a bit taboo this early on.

Then again, Mazzara’s vision about where to take the series may not be the issue at all. As was previously stated, production on the The Walking Dead season 3.5 was shut down due to lack of material. Considering the fact that the third season of the show has much more material to work with than previous seasons, having to pay for production delays for a lack of scripts may be a bit disconcerting to those looking beyond all the thrills and chills (and death) that season 3  holds for the survivors. For those who have read the comic, the tales awaiting the TWD in seasons 4 and 5 are going to be much more difficult to handle that what has come previously. But again, it won’t be for a lack of material.

Whether or not it was AMC, Kirkman or Mazzara himself that played the biggest role in his departure, the fact is that The Walking Dead – one of the most fan-driven series on television –  is once again thrown into the limelight for firing its showrunner.  And although most fans will be wondering if the series will still be able to maintain its quality for seasons to come, the real question is: who will be brave enough to take on television’s most unreliable job?

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The Walking Dead season 3, part 2, premieres February 17 on AMC

Source: The Hollywood Reporter