[SPOILERS for The Walking Dead season five ahead.]
Despite far outstripping the popularity of its source material, zombie show The Walking Dead has never forgotten its roots. That, of course, is partly because comic book writer Robert Kirkman is on the show's staff, and he doesn't often let people forget that he co-created one of the most popular comics in modern times.
Throughout its first five seasons, the Walking Dead TV show has hewed reasonably close to the events of the comics, with minor changes like pacing and at what points certain characters die. The Walking Dead season six, meanwhile, will take its connection to the comics a step further.
Current Walking Dead showrunner Scott M. Gimple has revealed to EW that the next season of the AMC show will fill in details left out in Kirkman and artist Charlie Adlard's comic. At about the point the series is in the story, the comic jumped forward a couple of years to see what a rebuilt version of the Alexandria Safe Zone settlement looks like. Gimple explained,
I think there’s a really cool aspect to the first half of the season that serves almost as a prequel to some direct comic stuff in the second half of the season. I think there’s a way that Robert did some of the story that we’re reaching that had a real past to it, where people are referring to some things in the past in the comic. And we’re able to portray some of that backstory in some ways that you didn’t get to see in the comic.
The Walking Dead season five finale ended with Rick (Andrew Lincoln) going a bit off the deep end - not trusting any of the new survivors his group had met up with in the Alexandria Safe Zone, and then shooting an abusive husband in the head, just as old pal Morgan rocked up. Not a great first impression for the new and "improved" Rick.
A lot of the tensions that arose from Rick and the gang's early days in Alexandria were only hinted at in the comic after the time jump, whilst the TV show will remain in its set linear chronology. That means the series can explore some of those dynamics and plots the comics skipped over - including, as Gimple puts it, “a few minor remixes, but some direct stuff from the comic as well, as far as these characters go.”
Often The Walking Dead is at its best when it cribs the best stuff from the comics and ignores its more melodramatic moments, so the news that the sixth season's going to diverge from the source material once more is reassuring. For fans of the comics, getting insight into how the Alexandria Safe Zone was built up under Rick's leadership is going to be a treat, too. Everyone's a winner! Except the Walkers. They will likely get splattered.
The Walking Dead season six is slated to begin airing on AMC in October 2015. Its spin-off TV show Fear the Walking Dead will premiere with six one-hour-long episodes in late Summer 2015.