Caution: Spoilers ahead for the The Walking Dead comics.
Robert Kirkman has revealed his original ending for the comic version of The Walking Dead. After the shocking death of Rick Grimes in issue #192, The Walking Dead's creator, Robert Kirkman, announced that he planned to continue with the series and start a fresh chapter in the franchise's printed canon. Upon the release of The Walking Dead #193, however, it transpired that Kirkman's true plan was to abruptly end the series and catch readers off guard with a surprise final issue.
Following The Walking Dead's final page, Kirkman addresses fans directly regarding the conclusion of the much-loved series and details his thought process behind the decision, claiming that any further story after Rick's death would essentially be filler. The writer also recounts his original planned ending for The Walking Dead and why that finale ultimately never came to pass.
Kirkman has stated previously that his original design was to wrap The Walking Dead up after Rick brought his fellow survivors to the safety of Alexandria. The writer now explains that Rick's speech about settling in the newly-discovered community and resuming somewhat normal lives (which does still occur) was intended to act as the closing visual of The Walking Dead's main story. The panels would then transition from Rick's face as an inspiring leader in the middle of a landmark speech, to that same face as part of a commemorative statue many years into the future.
An uplifting and empowering conclusion? Not quite. Kirkman explains that the final pages of the comic would then slowly zoom out from Rick's statue to reveal that while humanity had almost returned to complete civilization, the world eventually fell victim to the dead. The living had lost.
Kirkman himself admits that the proposed ending was "terrible" and would've rendered the entire story meaningless, leaving readers feeling bleak and depressed as reward for following a comic that was filled with bleakness and depression. Fortunately, the writer realized he wasn't "ready" to end The Walking Dead at that point and found new routes for Rick's story to take, which would eventually lead to some of the series' best arcs and character additions, such as Negan and the Whisperers.
Certainly, it's hard to disagree with Kirkman's sentiments. The downbeat conclusion would've arguably been appropriate considering The Walking Dead's theme of struggle and ongoing message that no matter how comfortable characters get, undead trouble is never far away, but it also would've lacked any sort of impact on the reader, other than to leave them feeling distinctly miserable. Interestingly, the concept of a Rick Grimes statue did survive through the years to make it into the final issue.
Fans will likely be unanimous in the belief that The Walking Dead's actual ending is far preferable to the original but, looking back, there were some strong indications to suggest that reaching Alexandria represented the final stage of Rick's journey. The settlement was a veritable haven compared to Rick's previous post-apocalypse dwellings and partially nullified the sense that characters were in constant danger. While this relative safety may have forced Kirkman to consider ending The Walking Dead, the change in setting allowed for more personal stories to come to the fore, such as Rick's relationship with Andrea and the alliance between Alexandria, Hilltop and Kingdom. Alexandria may not have been the endpoint of The Walking Dead, but it certainly presented a turning point in the emphasis of the series and the true ending provided in issue #193 takes heavy inspiration from the Alexandria arc.
The Walking Dead season 10 is expected to premiere in October on AMC.