[Warning: SPOILERS for The Walking Dead season 4 ahead.]

As cable TV’s reigning ratings king, AMC’s The Walking Dead has already accomplished more than many – including the creator of the show’s source material, Robert Kirkman – thought it ever could. But now with the bar set so high and with a horde of insatiable viewers to satisfy, the pressure to deliver another quality season of survival drama has to be higher than ever for the show’s creative team.

However, with tentative plans in place for a 12-season arc, producers and TWD showrunner, Scott Gimple, don’t seem concerned about the popularity of the show dying off (unlike its characters) anytime soon. Of course, most fans aren’t thinking that far ahead yet; they’re just looking forward to seeing how Rick and co. deal with their current predicament at Terminus when season 5 premieres this fall. Fortunately for those fans, Gimple discussed the highly anticipated season, the show’s end-game and the spinoff at the Saturn Movie Awards this past Thursday.

After seeing The Walking Dead nab several awards – including Best Cable Television Series – Gimple talked about the approach to season 5 with Collider, revealing that it may share some structural similarities with season 4.

Said Gimple:

“It’s not mirroring [the previous season] completely… The challenge of the show is every eight episodes, it’s a whole new show. I will say that there may be some slightly familiar structural turns. But for the most part, it is going to be brand new versions of the comic story.”

Even fans of the comics have learned to expect the unexpected when it comes to the television adaptation of Kirkman’s books – as the series has deviated from its popular source in some major ways – but Gimple plans on remaining true to the original story as much as possible in the next season and beyond.

“I certainly won’t abandon iconic things from the comic. I definitely want to stick to the comic as much as possible but that’s also impossible with Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) and characters that are alive but dead in the comic. There’s a butterfly effect. But that’s actually an incredibly fun part of the [show]. I would say that even the inventions we have on the show are inspired by the comic.”

Gimple’s comments certainly suggest that some of the comics’ best known characters and settings – such as the brutal villain Negan and the Alexandria camp – will make their way into the show eventually. Still, while some developments seem like foregone conclusions, there are plenty of unknowns. As far as the show’s end-game is concerned, Gimple has an emotional one for the characters already in mind; as a huge fan of the comics himself, though, he hasn’t sought out spoilers from Kirkman to map the remainder of the series out completely.

“I would say ‘Yes’ [there is an end-game]. I actually don’t like spoiling myself on the comic. I read it as I go. Robert’s offered to tell me the whole thing so I get general aspects of it. I know the emotional end game of the show but there’s practical aspects, I want to keep with the comic. With these characters, you definitely have to think of the emotional endgame and that is very much a part of where I’m headed. But I want to have the flexibility to change the practicals with the comic and I don’t want Robert to spoil the whole series for me.”

Keeping a show compelling, fresh and exciting for 12 seasons seems nearly impossible, especially since some would argue that The Walking Dead hasn’t even been able to do it for four. But with the zombie craze still raging (not just on TV, but in all of popular culture), AMC will certainly keep The Walking Dead going as long as it can. In fact, the network is planning on unleashing more zombies on viewers next year with a TWD spinoff.

Although Gimple admitted he doesn’t know much about the confirmed companion show – which will be set in a new locale with new characters, but in the original show’s world – he did say he would never rule out a potential crossover.

“I have little to do with the spinoff… This I do know. It’s set in the world of ‘The Walking Dead’ but from what I understand, it’s not like Daryl’s cousin or anything… I would never say never [to a crossover between the shows] because if I was a viewer I would say that sounds awesome. But we’re doing our own show. I also think a crossover might be tough because it would take a lot of [license] within the comic story. We’ll see. When we get to all-out war, who knows?”

What we do know is that TV viewers will get plentiful helpings of zombie apocalypse drama for the next few years. Is exploring more of The Walking Dead universe something that excites you? And are you eagerly awaiting the show’s return this fall? Let us know in the comments.

The Walking Dead season 5 premieres this fall on AMC.

Sources: Collider, Rolling Stone