The Walking Dead's brutal season seven premiere didn't dissuade fans from continuing to watch the show, so there's good news for loyal viewers of the die-hard zombies: It's not going to end for a long time.
(Editor's note: Spoilers ahead for the seventh season premiere of The Walking Dead.)
The question of when The Walking Dead will end could, understandably, be raised after said premiere. Two more characters met their gruesome end at the hands of Negan, one of which (Glenn Rhee) has been a mainstay since the series pilot. But the show, like the many zombies in its post-apocalyptic landscape, will trudge along for at least one more season, as AMC has already renewed it for an eighth season in 2017.
But the network has made it clear that there's no end game for The Walking Dead in the foreseeable future. As AMC's president of original programming and development, Joel Stillerman, told Vulture in January, the show has a seemingly never-ending future, so long as The Walking Dead comic book creator Robert Kirkman continues to create compelling new narratives on the page.
The answer to how long the show will go on in some way is directly correlated with the health of the storytelling in the comics. Those comics are firing on all cylinders. He still writes every line of dialogue in those books, and is as engaged as he was when I think he was sitting around in Kentucky writing the first issue. That is very much part of the DNA of the show. He sort of felt like, in real life, this goes on for a very long time. We're along for that ride.
To that end, Kirkman continues to churn out new issues of the series, though the show is reaching closer to its storylines. After Negan, for instance, the main — and present — threat for Rick and the group are the Whisperers, a creepy faction that hides among the zombies by wearing their skin (and whispering to each other, it seems!).
If the show followed the comics, they'd still be a bit off (there's even a time jump after the Negan conflict is resolved), but AMC has already teased the Whisperers' appearance on its Instagram page. That would suggest they're going to bring the new villains into the foray sooner than expected — perhaps at some point in season seven.
Essentially, this suggests that The Walking Dead TV series could eventually face the same problem as Game of Thrones: surpassing its source material. But this should be less of a concern for The Walking Dead, considering how much the show differs from the comics — fan favorite Daryl Dixon, for example, isn't even a comic book character.
What this really means (and something Kirkman has already noted on AMC's Geeking Out) is that the show and the comic books will have different endings from each other. Kirkman wants to end the comics on his own terms, likely after the show culminates, which means the show would have to create its own, original ending.
"So if the show were to ever, you know, end — ever, at any point — and the comic was still going, I would have to sit down with [Walking Dead showrunner Scott Gimple] and pretend I have no idea how to end it, and then work with him to try and come up with a new ending," Kirkman explained.
Perhaps one of the series' endings could explain how the zombie outbreak started, and if we'll ever find a cure. But we're content with anything — so long as it's not Rick waking up from his hospital coma.