Many TV shows like to end episodes with a cliffhanger, but The Walking Dead's most recent midseason finale instead just stunned everyone (everyone who wasn't spoiled ahead of time, that is) with a shock ending before dropping the mic and walking offstage for a few months. It might have been an effective conclusion to the story arc, but it also left viewers with virtually no clues as to what direction the show might take next.
The first midseason premiere trailer for The Walking Dead didn't give away much, only showing the group of survivors wandering through mist-shrouded woods and getting into a fight against unknown assailants as Rick stresses (in voiceover) the importance of staying together. Similarly, a new teaser from AMC reveals almost nothing about the plot but instead focuses on the characters' will to stay alive for one more day, even in a decaying world.
While it's nice to have trailers that don't spoil the events to come in the show, one of the bigger weaknesses in The Walking Dead so far has been a lack of direction, which can leave the characters either stuck aimlessly in one place or wandering aimlessly to try and find another place. We know that the second half of the season will find the characters continuing on their journey to Washington D.C., but with the key motivation for getting there now gone the journey could be slow going.
The Walking Dead started as a comic book series and has since expanded into an award-winning episodic video game as well as being adapted into AMC's critically acclaimed (and very highly rated) show. This year will also the property grow even further in a spinoff TV series, which is currently under the working title Cobalt. This could provide an interesting edge of competition to the TV world of The Walking Dead, as the two shows not only compete in the ratings but also (hopefully) strive to tackle their subject matter from different angles.
As for how long the showrunners can stretch out The Walking Dead's formula, let's just say that AMC CEO Josh Kaplan's claim that the series will still be going in 2022 is starting to look less crazy with each passing episode. This brings with it a terrifying question: just how big is Rick's beard going to get after doing this for seven more years?
The Walking Dead returns to AMC on Sunday, February 8th @9pm.