When one considers just how successful AMC's apocalyptic drama The Walking Dead has been and continues to be - still regularly crushing every other scripted TV program in the ratings - it's hard to imagine an end being in sight for the series. To a slightly lesser degree, the same can be said for the Robert Kirkman-penned comic book series from which the show draws its inspiration, which continues to go strong over a decade after the first issue's publication.
A few weeks prior to The Walking Dead's hotly anticipated season 7 premiere, Kirkman revealed that not only does he plan to keep the comics going longer than the TV show they spawned, he also has no plans to let the series' creative team in on what he envisions to be the printed story's ultimate finale. In essence, Kirkman wants to end the comic on his own terms, regardless of how or when the TWD TV juggernaut finally begins to lose steam and ultimately comes to an end.
In a new interview with EW, Kirkman elaborated on just how top secret he's keeping his plans for The Walking Dead's comic conclusion, right down to providing no information at all to TWD showrunner Scott Gimple or even anybody at AMC:
I know what the end point is, and at the end of the day, I want this entire long narrative to be a complete story with a beginning, middle, and end. We're just spending a lot of time in the middle, so, I kind of have to know what that direction is, and I have to know what that end point is to be able to keep building towards it.
They have no approval over what happens in the comic. Scott Gimple is an avid reader of the comic, and prefers to experience the comic book as a reader, so he gets the advance issues as they’re published, but he doesn’t read scripts. He gets mad at me if I give him any kind of indication as to what’s coming, because he doesn’t like spoilers. So, they’re kind of a hundred percent in the dark, which I guess is pretty remarkable, and I would probably say it’s a testament to the trust that AMC has in me. I mean, I guess to a certain extent, at this point, the comic book is kind of a workshop of future seasons of the show, and it’s fun to think that I can just completely torpedo the story if I wanted to.
Kirkman is an author who clearly values having full creative control over his material, so it's no wonder that he relishes the opportunity work completely unobstructed by input from network executives or fellow Walking Dead TV producers like Gimple. On a related note, AMC certainly does have good reason to trust in Kirkman's judgment at this point. Very rarely is a long-running show still doing this well in season 7.
Still, while his comment about torpedoing the story was likely mostly meant in jest, one wonders if there might eventually come a point where AMC has a big enough problem with Kirkman's story developments in the comic that the network demands changes if the show is to continue. It doesn't seem like there is any kind of imminent danger, but Kirkman has definitely shown a fondness for pushing the envelope in the past, and it's only a matter of time before the TWD show begins to catch up to the TWD comic.
The Walking Dead season 7 airs Sundays at 9pm on AMC.