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What the Hell Is Going on in 'The Walking Dead' Universe?

By Dustin Rowles | TV | April 8, 2019 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | April 8, 2019 |


I write a lot about The Walking Dead universe over on Uproxx; in fact, I’ve written eight The Walking Dead posts in the last eight days. But that’s my beat over there, and you people probably don’t want that level of detail. In fact, you’d probably crush me to death if I wrote a The Walking Dead post every single day. There’s a lot going on, and for those of you who are interested, here are the bullet points about what has transpired in The Walking Dead universe (beware of old spoilers, if you’re behind).

1. Wait, there’s a The Walking Dead universe now?

Yep! In addition to the flagship show, which just wrapped up its ninth season, there’s also the spin-off, Fear the Walking Dead, which kicks off its fifth season in June (yes, we’ve already arrived at season 5). There’s also a series of The Walking Dead movies in the works based on Andrew Lincoln’s character, Rick Grimes, who exited the television show early in the ninth season. Danai Gurira is also expected to join Lincoln in those movies, as she will leave the flagship series next season.

2. OK, but is it any good?

Actually, yes. Many of you may have bailed after Glenn and Abraham were killed off the series at the beginning of season seven, and that was smart! The show was terrible in season seven and eight, and to be honest, it wasn’t that great in the back half of season six.

However, season 9 was the best season at least since the fifth season, and there’s a case that can be made that it was the show’s best season ever. Seriously.

3. Why is it suddenly better? There are a few reasons, honestly. The first few episodes created a lot of drama because Rick Grimes was exiting the show, but honestly, it’s gotten even better without him, because the series had been so focused one character at the expense of all the others for basically nine years. Without Rick Grimes, the show becomes a true ensemble. Moreover, Angela Kang is the best thing to ever happen to the series as showrunner (I called this four years ago!). She has brought a lot of diversity into both the writers room and the director’s chair (including the sister of TK). She’s also not as married to the source material, which in part is by necessity because so many characters from the source material are no longer on the show. She’s therefore been able to mix things up, and add some great new original storylines.

4. What about Fear the Walking Dead?

Well, Fear was a trainwreck for two seasons (in fact, in season two, they tried to take the zombie apocalypse to the ocean, and it was a disaster (and they also got sued, and settled)). It started to find its legs in season three, but then AMC fired the showrunner and basically revamped the entire series in season four with a new tone, a lot of new characters (including Garrett Dillahunt, Maggie Grace, and Jenna Elfman), and killed off most of the old characters. The front half of season four was actually really good, but it fell apart in the back half because it got bogged down in a terrible storyline.

I am, however, hopeful about season five because Dwight — from The Walking Dead — is set to join the cast, along with Morgan (Lennie James), who has been there for a season already, and it’s expected that the storyline involving the Rick Grimes’ movies may weave into Fear the Walking Dead. The show has massively improved in terms of characters, but the storylines still aren’t that great yet.

5. Is that it?

Nope! Today, AMC announced that it would launch a third The Walking Dead series next year. This one will be focused on two young women coming of age in the zombie apocalypse, and Matthew Negrete (one of the better writers on the flagship series) will be showrunner. I have a hunch, too, that one of the two young women will come from other The Walking Dead (Judith Grimes, who is a DELIGHT) or Fear the Walking Dead (Charlie, who is pretty good, too).

I suspect that Scott Gimple — the showrunner during the worst years of TWD who now runs the universe — will manage to weave a storyline through all three series, plus The Walking Dead movies (which will air on AMC, not in theaters). I suspect that — like the MCU — where the weaving happens, it will suck, but that everything else that isn’t required to run through the “universe” may be very good.

6. So, should I start watching again?

Dude, I don’t know! I can’t make that kind of decision for you. I will say this, however: I think it’s worthwhile to jump back in at season 9 of The Walking Dead to see how you like it (or even jump ahead to the sixth episode, after Rick leaves). There’s several new great characters (Magna, Yumiko, Connie, and Luke). The show really and genuinely respects diversity, too. There are as many women as men. There’s a Muslim character. There’s a lesbian couple. There’s a deaf character played by an actual Tony-nominated deaf actress (and holy shit, is Lauren Ridloff great). King has diversified the entire workplace, and that’s a big deal for what is still the biggest show on cable, even if you aren’t watching it.

On the other hand, if you never liked The Walking Dead to begin with, then it’s probably not worth picking up again. However, I am excited about season ten, the Rick Grimes’ movies with Michonne, the new spin-off, and even Fear, although I suspect the latter might let me down.

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

Header Image Source: AMC