With sky-high ratings and an already successful spinoff, The Walking Dead is unquestionably one of the biggest programs on television. Based on Robert Kirkman's series of comic books, this show has built a dedicated fan base by exploring interesting moral dilemmas, while balancing character development and relationships amid hopelessness, violence, and zombies. Lots of zombies.
None of these aspects are particularly cheerful; the show is well known for its bleakness and frequent gruesome deaths. And now, it sounds like season 6 will take that grim tone to new heights, as more information emerges about what Rick and his band of survivors will be up to next.
During New York Comic-Con, Kirkman spoke about the upcoming season, and emphasized that the series will be sticking to the twisty, edge-of-your-seat plot devices that have been so effective thus far. He even intimated that the season would implement a series of cliffhangers as a way of keeping the tension high from episode to episode.
“This is going to be the most intense season of ‘The Walking Dead’ yet. The first few episodes hit the ground running, and there’ll be pretty big cliffhangers at the end of every episode.”
During his talk, Kirkman asked the crowd whether or not they would be interested in seeing other settlements aside from Alexandria. When the crowd was vocal in their approval, he said, “Alright, we’ll do it,” though he was careful to not commit to anything specific. He also spoke about Negan, the oft-discussed and highly anticipated Big Bad from the comics. Unsurprisingly, he didn't confirm or deny that Negan will be a part of season 6, or if he will be a character introduced sometime down the line, but he did confirm that the baseball bat-wielding psychopath will make his way to narrative eventually.
“I think it’d be cool for Negan to be introduced into the show, I don’t know when that’ll happen. I mean, I do, but I can’t tell you."
The comics creator also managed to steer the conversation around to the return of Lennie James as Morgan, and that it was always a desire of his to bring the character back. Of course, when you're working with an actor as talented and in demand as James, that can often mean even a show as big as The Walking Dead is going to have to wait its turn.
“The character of Morgan does come back in the comic book series, too, so it was always the plan, and then Lennie James just kept working … it took a while to get him back.”
In discussing other members of the cast, it was mentioned that Lauren Cohan -- who plays Maggie on the show -- will be stepping up in a big way this season. This is in keeping with her new role in Alexandria, as an advisor to Deanna. Apparently, the character will be taking on even more responsibility, now that Rick has made it clear to the isolated survivors they have been living on borrowed time. While he couldn't go in to details, obviously, it is nice to know that a well-liked character is going to take a more prominent role in the goings-on of the season.
“Maggie’s character is evolving like all the others; she’s become very assertive, she’s someone Deanna is working with very closely. She’s certainly bridging the gap between the Alexandrians and Rick’s group. There’s a lot of cool stuff with Maggie coming.”
With the season having just wrapped last Sunday, Kirkman also touched on the successful spinoff Fear The Walking Dead, and compared the journey of that show's core survivors to to the journey that Rick and his group been on. He specifically address the notion that season 2 would at least partially take place at sea, as was seen in the closing moments of the season finale, wherein Mr. Strand (Colman Domingo) pointed out the luxury yacht named Abigail waiting not far from where the characters ultimately ended up. But Kirkman was quick to point out that the show isn't suddenly going to become a nautical adventure series:
“Just because it’s taking place on the boat, doesn’t mean they’ll stay on the boat … there’s lots of reasons to get off the boat or get onto a different boat. It’s a journey, it’ll be about these people trying to find a safe haven, but finding that such a place may not exist on land or water."
After a strong end to season 5, Kirkman's comments are encouraging that this year may continue The Walking Dead's upswing in terms of quality. Though he did not talk about any other spinoffs -- planned or otherwise -- he did admit to the possibility of there being more than one sister show, reflecting that there is "some appetite" for more Dead. It's hard to argue with the numbers, if the ratings stay solid and the stories are there, it wouldn't be surprising if we saw numerous spinoff -- and knockoff -- zombie shows continuing to emerge over the next few years.
The Walking Dead Season 6 premieres on AMC on October 11, 2015.