After a controversial ending to the previous season, The Walking Dead is set to return to one of the most hotly-anticipated story arcs of the comics--one that showrunners promise will be supplemented by a heavy focus on new villain Negan’s backstory, likely in an effort to assuage fans upset at the recent cliffhanger. At the same time, fans are getting a whole new look at the events at the beginning of the zombie apocalypse with a spinoff, Fear the Walking Dead.
While there are legitimate concerns that flashbacks about Negan might take time away from the other characters, these two choices to tell more self-contained stories are interesting ones. The Walking Dead universe is big enough for plenty of fantastic spinoff stories to happen, whether they're entirely original or drawn from unused ideas from the comic. With the growing possibility that more spinoffs could soon be on the way, here are fifteen of our favorite ideas for such new series. Be warned: comic book and TV spoilers await below!
15 King Ezekiel origin story
There was a lot to like about the season 7 trailer for The Walking Dead shown off at this year’s Comic-Con, but for fans that hadn’t read the comic, one detail might have jumped out more than others: the badass on the throne with an actual tiger chained up by his side. Ezekiel--also known as King Ezekiel--is the ruler of the community known as the Kingdom, and he's set to play an integral role in the storyline to come.
The comics don’t tell us much about his life before taking up the reigns of leadership, but they do tell us that he was a zookeeper before the outbreak, which explains his close relationship with his tiger, Shiva. A spinoff focusing on Ezekiel’s journey through the zombie apocalypse might be worth it just for the chaos of walkers pouring into a zoo, especially if more animals got loose in the chaos. What if Ezekiel originally rolled with more than just a tiger? What if another zookeeper decided to use his close relationship with an elephant for evil instead of good? These aren't exactly the deepest ethical questions, but they're definitely things you don't often encounter in a zombie apocalypse story, and The Walking Dead should take advantage of that.
14 A Jesus/Hilltop spinoff
There are many lessons one could glean from The Walking Dead, but perhaps one of the biggest (and most cruel) is that once society falls, it’s very, very, very difficult to rebuild it. Whether your prosperity attracts the envy and wrath of other groups, or internal strife brings your society down from within, there are so many things that can go wrong with placing down your roots that it’s no wonder so many groups never bother. The fact that the community of Hilltop has done as well as we’ve seen is a much bigger deal than it initially seems, and it would be really interesting to see where Hilltop succeeded where, say, the Prison and Woodbury failed.
What better way to explore the story of Hilltop than with a familiar face; as one of the town’s main recruiters, Jesus, would be in a good opportunity to interact with most of the people of the town and interject some action with some trips outside it. These journeys could be especially enlightening because they could provide a chance for Jesus to see other settlements--and with them, more ways people have either barely held on or utterly failed to unite.
13 A Michonne spinoff
Michonne’s total, unadulterated badassness isn’t exactly a secret, but we’ve gotten so used to how amazing she is now that it’s sometimes hard to remember just how incredible her introduction was. We’d been following a large, heavily-armed group of survivors barely making it through the world, when out of the blue comes someone doing pretty damn well by herself--with a katana and her mutilated zombie boyfriend on a chain.
The transition of Michonne from pre-collapse lawyer to actual video game character would be a fascinating one to witness. We’ve seen Telltale’s take on this with The Walking Dead: Michonne, but a version starring Danai Gurira from the TV show leading the way has the potential to be even better. The incredible practical effects The Walking Dead has for its walkers definitely help make the case. If nothing else, there'd probably be a heart-wrenching moment when Michonne decides to dismember her former lover for the sake of her own safety as she travels through Georgia, and that would be a sequence we'd be very interested in seeing.
12 Tyreese solo series
This one might seem puzzling to those who’ve only seen the TV series. Tyreese certainly wasn’t the worst supporting character on The Walking Dead, but aside from exhibiting the increasingly rare trait of kindness, he didn’t have anything quite as dramatic going on as Michonne or Abraham that made him seem all that memorable. What his small screen adaptation was missing was the increased role Tyreese had in the comics--he was one of the first truly reliable members of Rick’s group, appearing well before the events at the Prison that led to his introduction in the show.
Watching him serve as Rick’s moral compass as he began to lose control in the penitentiary was incredible, as was watching him lose track of his own morality on the way. Unfortunately, exactly reusing ideas from the comic book would be tricky, given how tightly interwoven they are with Rick’s group, but seeing some version of his story play out in a prequel miniseries with new characters has potential of its own. At the very least, the show should take another crack at his incredible last stand against a mob of walkers with a hammer. If you TV fans can believe it, that moment is much, much more incredible in the comics.
11 The Rise of the Governor
If any comic book fans you knew seemed a little underwhelmed with the adaptation of the Governor’s storyline, it’s because they had reason to be. In addition to the overall pacing being much, much faster in the comics, the character of the Governor was arguably far more engaging. He was sharper, crueler, and far more menacing as he continued to pursue Rick’s group despite enduring a castration and losing his eye, arm, and nearly dying of associated blood loss (the badass that inflicted those injuries? Michonne).
Much like Tyreese, many of these specific moments just can’t make it into the show due to how certain events have already been depicted, but there’s still plenty of room for a miniseries detailing his undoubtedly ruthless rise as a leader. The prequel novel about him, The Rise of the Governor, might be a good place to start. There's plenty about the novel that might not be entirely necessary to carry over (the fact that The Governor changes his name, for example, isn't exactly pivotal to understanding his character) but seeing how he evolves from a normal man into an absolute monster would be interesting.
10 The aftermath of the Prison and survivors of Woodbury
Speaking of The Governor, both the comic book and the TV show provide surprisingly little fanfare when it comes to two of the first big attempts we see at trying to re-establish a society. While Woodbury is definitively burned to the ground, the fate of many of the town’s survivors remains unknown after the Governor's attack on the prison. Perhaps a bigger question is what became of the incredibly vast facility itself, as we don't see what happens after Rick is forced to abandon it. Was the prison completely overrun? Did a few holdouts keep to keep some of the cell blocks secure before succumbing to starvation? Did the herd eventually move on, leaving a mostly-intact fortress with massive food reserves and a fence in need of repair? We don’t know.
If the minds behind The Walking Dead really wanted to crush what remained of its viewers' optimism (which they seem intent on doing), it could have any Woodbury survivors in the prison recreate a society, vowing not to repeat previous mistakes...only for things to play out almost identically with another group nearby led by an unstable madman.
9 Loose ends from the Telltale Walking Dead games
Characters like Christa, Kenny, Carver, and Nick are all interesting and varied enough to deserve a reprisal in live-action, while deviating from the main storyline of the games enough to justify a spinoff. There are plenty of locations that could make a return, too, from the tyrannical group occupying a hardware store to the frigid settlement of Wilmington in the north. Just leave the game's main characters alone; Lee and Clementine already have voices, and it would be a jarring change to see someone else attempt to fill their roles. Unfortunately for fans hoping for the actual video game cast to reprise their roles, Dave Fenroy -- Lee's voice actor -- would make a much better Ezekiel in real life.
8 A 400 Days-inspired miniseries
One of the most interesting decisions Telltale made was to bridge the gap between the first two seasons of The Walking Dead with a middle chapter called 400 Days. Set over the first four hundred days of the zombie apocalypse, the game was something of an anthology series, jumping between different characters and experiences as the crisis wore on. It was a fascinating and subtle way to show how things were changing, especially as it was focused on the same geographic area.
Showing the gradual transformation of a location throughout the crisis could be a nice change of pace, especially if it’s someplace we’ve never seen before. If The Walking Dead really wanted to impress us, they could steal the central hook of Telltale's game and have whichever anthology characters made it all the way to the end of the first 400 days eventually reappear in the main series. The game handled this with a mix of background characters and one central ally character, but if the TV show introduced a new group of enemies led by one of the characters we grew to love in the spinoff? The payoff could be incredible.
7 A very, very black comedy
Love it or hate it, The Walking Dead is a dark, bleak series about desperate people struggling to survive an extinction-level event, only to discover that their biggest threat isn’t the undead, but each other. It’s hardly a surprise that the show has developed a depressing tone to match. The setting doesn’t necessarily determine genre; Shaun of the Dead, Fido, and even a few moments in The Walking Dead game by Telltale show how a lighter tone can exist that’s merely informed by the setting rather than utterly dominated by it.
The Walking Dead TV show’s universe is incredibly bleak, meaning we couldn’t reasonably expect something quite as light as a Shaun of the Dead, but there’s plenty of room for a dry, if bitter, comedic take. Unfortunately for fans of Zombieland, much of that film's zombie-based slapstick would be far less effective on The Walking Dead -- the walkers are too hideously disgusting and decayed to even look at, let alone comically whack with a carnival mallet. Although, speaking of the walkers...
6 Walkers: A Documentary
Nearly six years after The Walking Dead first aired, we actually know relatively little about the walkers or the virus that causes them. When will walkers start to rot so badly that they can’t move? Are there further physiological changes after the initial transformation from corpse into zombie? Are walkers capable of feeling pain, but incapable of expressing it, or are they completely numb? What happens when they can’t find people -- do they target animals? What kind of animals do they like to eat? How do walkers missing their eyes or ears find victims -- do they have a sense of smell, despite not needing to breathe?
Questions like these have very little potential to ruin major plot points of the series, but they'd be nice bits of trivia for fans. There’s no need to search too hard for a template for the documentary; the materials that inspired World War Z have basically set the standard for the (admittedly small) zombie mockumentary genre.
5 The last days of the government during the undead crisis
One of the most intriguing changes from The Walking Dead comics came at the end of the very first season, when Rick’s group sought refuge in the CDC headquarters. There, a surviving employee of the agency revealed that the governments of the world had been coordinating efforts to find a cure for the virus that has infected the vast majority of humanity, but that they'd gradually fell, one by one.
The implications of this subplot are fascinating, and deserve to be fleshed out in their own series. How quickly did the world governments come together to fight the virus? Were there any governments that refused to help or chose to isolate themselves? How quickly did things go badly in each country? Perhaps most importantly for future places the story could go, did anyone survive? A series that focuses just on, say, the United States government would certainly be interesting, but one that freely switches between different far-flung characters and perspectives like Game of Thrones could be an incredibly compelling new direction for the series.
4 A relatively gun-free environment
Re-telling a familiar zombie survival story without guns seems like something bland and boring, but the abundance of firearms in The Walking Dead actually dramatically shapes the story by giving characters far, far more options with how they can solve their problems. Seeing a group like Rick’s struggle to survive in a country like Singapore or Lithuania, where guns are practically non-existent for ordinary people, would be fascinating, as it would force them to rely on the cruder, less efficient (if stealthier) melee weapons that limit how many walkers (and people) you can take down at once.
It even opens up the possibility for a mid-season twist, where the group has to face a former military official or criminal that actually has guns -- and, therefore, an overwhelming tactical advantage. If nothing else, it would be interesting to see the group get creative with hand-crafted zombie killing weapons, just so long as they don't go as campy and out-there with it as Dead Rising 2.
3 A story where the status quo was actually maintained
Anyone who’s played disease sim games like Plague Inc or Pandemic knows just how difficult it is for widespread infection to take hold in certain places. The African island of Madagascar, the arctic isle of Svalbard, and even Greenland have climate and geographical conditions that make the transmission of a disease much more difficult. With the nature of The Walking Dead’s virus still mostly unknown, is it possible that certain locations were isolated enough from the cause of the pandemic that the old government managed to hang on?
A story about a declining, but still surviving, society trying to discover what happened to the rest of the world would be a completely new kind of story in the universe of The Walking Dead. If AMC really wanted to be brave, they wouldn’t even market the show as being in the Walking Dead universe -- just make it appear to be a completely different show about the post-apocalypse, and blow people away with a season finale revealing that walkers have overrun the world.
2 Anything set north of the Mason-Dixon line
One of the most exciting things about Fear The Walking Dead was the change from the series’ main settings in the American southeast. The different cultures and locations a change in location afforded were fresh and exciting, and while the series focus on Los Angeles and Baja California kept things in America’s south (and Mexico’s north), at least it was on the opposite side of the continent.
But there are so many great settings and possibilities to the north that it seems bizarre that we haven’t seen them yet. Who doesn’t want to watch survivors sprint through a walker-infested Times Square (you thought it was awful on New Years Eve!), or see what kind of post-apocalyptic group has taken over the Space Needle in Seattle? If the show is hesitant about moving deep into urban territory, there are plenty of visually stunning natural areas that would make for interesting stories. The tale of survivors at Yosemite or Yellowstone could be an interesting direction, even with the risk of inspiring stupid, dangerous selfies and stunts at the national parks. AMC should take a cue from Sony, whose upcoming game Days Gone eschews more traditional settings for the zombie apocalypse in favor of the thick forests of the Pacific Northwest.
1 Anything not set in North America
As many possibilities as there are for zombie stories in the rest of America, there are so many more amazing stories waiting to be told in other parts of the world that it’s shocking that it took so many years for AMC to try with Fear The Walking Dead. In addition to relatively gun-free countries (and geographically isolated ones) providing inherently different stories, there are dozens upon dozens of incredible ideas just waiting to be realized on this big blue planet of ours.
A Mad Max-inspired Australian hellhole of gangs fighting over deserts too arid for zombies to survive. Escapees from population centers like Rio de Janeiro try to cross the South American continent to reach a fabled refuge for survivors in the Andes. A group of survivors in Kyoto taking refuge in ancient castles and using the legendary Nightingale Floors as an early warning system against zombie incursions. British survivors raiding famous museums for medieval weapons and armor to use against the undead. A group steals a boat and floats down the Nile, searching for any signs of life in the cities that line the river. The possibilities are almost comically numerous, and if AMC really wants to make the most of this incredible property, setting a spinoff on a completely different continent would be a great place to start.
Are there any other weird corners of The Walking Dead universe you’d want to explore? Let us know in the comments below!