AMC's The Walking Dead is arguably the most popular series on television. Year after year the series smashes ratings records and 2015 was no different. Even when The Walking Dead has an uneven season, expectations and excitement for its return remain high.
The same could be said of the comic book series, which sees its 150th issue releasing next week and its sales as high as ever. Creator Robert Kirkman still pens every issue of The Walking Dead and has no plans for ending his zombie opus anytime soon. In fact, that's the very essence of The Walking Dead - a story that continues following its character long after a zombie film's credits would have already rolled. But The Walking Dead television series simply can't continue for the foreseeable future with no end in sight, can it?
Well, according to AMC, yes it can. Speaking with Vulture, AMC's programming boss Joel Stillerman explains they're taking their cues from the comics and haven't hammered out the details of how and when The Walking Dead will end, saying:
"If you ask [Robert Kirkman] what his motivations were for writing The Walking Dead, he would say, 'I loved zombie movies, but I just felt like the worst part of them was always the ending. You always had to manufacture some ending.' So he set out to write this totally open-ended story, and the proof of that is in how vibrant the comics are.
"The answer to how long the show will go on in some way is directly correlated with the health of the storytelling in the comics. Those comics are firing on all cylinders. He still writes every line of dialogue in those books, and is as engaged as he was when I think he was sitting around in Kentucky writing the first issue. That is very much part of the DNA of the show. He sort of felt like, in real life, this goes on for a very long time. We’re along for that ride."
The longevity of The Walking Dead has certainly made the series unique within the genre. Not only have we followed Rick and his fellow survivors through some narrow escapes from walkers, but we've also seen them clash with dangerous strangers and amongst themselves. In addition, they've had to face the most basic hurdles of survival: food and shelter, something a 2+ hour zombie flick wouldn't give nearly as much attention.
An open-ended narrative may sound more like a soap opera (something Walking Dead has been accused of before) than an acclaimed drama, but the comics have been able to sustain their momentum well past the point the television series is at now. Granted, the television series isn't overly concerned with faithfully adapting the comics, but they do tend to pull major elements and characters from the comics' more popular arcs - the Governor, the prison, the cannibals, Alexandria, and Negan.
Negan was first introduced in The Walking Dead #100 and a lot has happened since then. There's more than enough material for The Walking Dead television series to pull from for a couple more seasons - and that's without taking into consideration how wildly different AMC's version of upcoming events could be, possibly stretching the timeline even further.
There's no timetable given for how much longer The Walking Dead will air, but it can't honestly continue forever. Eventually the series will become too expensive, won't draw the same numbers, or too many of its main cast will leave for other work. Still, AMC has a contingency plan: spin-offs.
"We are open to ideas that feel organic to the creators in whom we’ve put our trust. So if Robert had a world he wanted to explore, you can bet that we are not just leaning into that conversation, but we’re actively engaging in it. Right now we’re not in that conversation."
So there you have it, The Walking Dead won't be ending anytime soon and AMC is all for more Walking Dead spin-offs. Sure hope you love zombies, they're here to stay.
The Walking Dead returns with ‘No Way Out’ on Sunday, February 14 @9pm on AMC. Fear the Walking Dead will return for a second season in 2016.