At least partially forgive AMC for almost getting drunk on the success of “The Walking Dead” by giving viewers as much zombie drama as possible. Still, after 11 long seasons, it’s clear that the network and the people who made the show took on more than they could handle.
The main characters stuck together as they tried to get away from the Commonwealth’s forces during the last season. Given that they had to plant, grow, and promote spinoffs that had already been announced, it seemed like they were working with one hand tied behind their backs.
The 90-minute finish was punctuated by promos for the upcoming spinoff series – “Dead City,” “Rick & Michonne,” and “Daryl Dixon” – lessening the suspense surrounding the conclusion.
What did that mean for the episode with the subtitle “Rest in Peace?” A cathartic retribution for Pamela Milton (Laila Robins), the immoral leader of the Commonwealth, with Mercer (Michael James Shaw) assisting in her removal. Some sobering losses that serve as a reminder that in this dystopian world, there is rarely gain without sacrifice. And a one-year leap into the future, where Ezekiel (Khary Payton) and Mercer have taken control, offering the possibility of greater normalcy.
Actually, it was the smaller moments that stood out. A series of chaotic events in the hospital. A brief transformation of Rosita (Christian Serratos) into a superhero. Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) have a pleasant conversation in which Negan apologizes for what he stole from her. Daryl (Norman Reedus) bids Carol (Melissa McBride) farewell before departing on his own mission to star in another show.
In its early seasons, “The Walking Dead” excelled in part due to its unpredictability, as illustrated by the montage of deceased characters. Impressively, the series continually introduced new characters and threats.
In hindsight, Andrew Lincoln’s departure as Rick Grimes in 2018 was a turning point. Not only did it hurt the show’s creativity, but it also showed the tricks that were used to make it a corporate commodity.
Rick did not die, but instead departed, with the promise that he would return in a series of films. Those plans eventually evolved into a limited series, but the notion that “The Walking Dead” was no longer the top priority in AMC’s “Dead” universe was firmly established.
AMC also became overly obsessed with extending the brand, introducing “Fear the Walking Dead,” “The Walking Dead: World Beyond” (essentially a teen-centric version of the show), and most recently the anthology series “Tales of the Walking Dead.”
During this time, audience consumption patterns have shifted, whereas zombie appetites have remained unchanged. AMC’s decision to make episodes available early to streaming subscribers on AMC+ fueled this trend.
Having announced more than two years ago that the flagship series would conclude with three eight-episode arcs, these moves may have made sense as business decisions, but they are more difficult to justify as creative decisions.
Executive producer Angela Kang told Entertainment Weekly that the series, like the comics, could not end definitively, describing it as “the never-ending zombie story.” Kang stated on “Talking Dead,” a talk show dedicated to the series, “We tried to give everyone their moment in the sun.”
Despite these limitations, it is difficult to get excited about a “finale” with so little resolution. “The Walking Dead” was like a supernova on TV when it was at its best, since TV is always looking for new hits. But AMC changed the franchise into a different kind of zombie and kept making it even though it had lost a lot of its strength.