Rick Grimes of The Walking Dead might be unkillable, and that’s the way we like him. It’s definitely the way AMC prefers their modern-day folk hero, too. Killing Rick off would have resulted in a huge loss of revenue for the cable network, especially with viewership down to an all-time low in its ninth season.
In turn, keeping Rick’s story open created renewed excitement for the potential stories down the road, and the numbers are still strong enough that AMC is not ready to call it quits on their most popular brand.
The Walking Dead chief content officer Scott Gimple recently teased that the upcoming three movies from AMC Studios Original Films will begin after Anne (a.k.a. Jadis) and her buddies in the helicopter saved Rick in his final episode. They will also explore Rick’s journey during the six-year time jump, and beyond.
Wise people always say that you can’t make everyone happy, and not all of The Walking Dead fans are thrilled with the news of the upcoming TV movies. Only time will tell if this move will pan out. Production on the first Walking Dead movie is set to begin next year. Until then, we examine the good, the bad, and the ugly of AMC’s new idea.
- The long-term plan avoids the oversaturation of the franchise.
- Fear the Walking Dead has proven to be a successful spinoff from the main series, infusing additional projects with confidence.
- The possibility of character revivals in later movie installments, including that of Maggie Rhee. (Actress Lauren Cohan has signed on for a lead role in ABC’s Whiskey Cavalier.)
- It’s already been teased that Rick could also potentially see Michonne or others again down the road.
- Fans who move away from the series can still tune in for the movies.
- Fresh content means exploring new locations with new characters, new climates, and new storylines.
- Potential crossovers with other franchise projects.
- TV movies mean not competing with big movies in the theaters.
- Gimple is seeking the next generation of storytellers for the expansion, bringing fresh blood to The Walking Dead universe.
- Some fans feel “tricked” by the reveal that Rick is alive.
- Can they successfully explain Rick’s absence from his family for so many years?
- Will the decision to keep Rick alive actually end up hurting the main series if more fans only watch the movies?
- Some critics claim that drawing the universe out is “exhausting.”
- Similar complaints question if the high-quality content will be sacrificed in the name of making money.
At the end of the day, storytelling is a business. Besides the three Andrew Lincoln-led TV movies, Gimple and his team announced that the new projects are part of a multi-year plan to expand the universe, including additional films, specials, series, digital content, miniseries, and more.
Norman Reedus and Melissa McBride are on board with the expansion, having recently signed onto multi-year The Walking Dead franchise deals, which covers three years and guarantees pay whether they are on the main series or any project within the universe.
The latest episode proved how different a six-year time jump and post-Rick Grimes era is going to be; it intentionally feels like a different show with trace elements of the series we fell in love with nine years ago. Knowing that Lincoln was leaving allowed Gimple to consider how they could branch out the series into a continuing, revitalized franchise.
This new plan could be what AMC needs if they want to maintain The Walking Dead’s spot as one of the top five shows on television in the 18- to 49-year-old viewer demographic. The show is still the highest-rated scripted series on a network that averaged 1.09 million viewers in 2017. To put that in perspective, in Live + Same Day viewers, Season 8 of The Walking Dead averaged 7.82 million viewers and Season 9 is so far averaging 5.3 million. Meanwhile, Season 4 of Fear the Walking Dead averaged 2.3 million viewers and Better Call Saul’s latest Season 4 averaged 1.5 million.
The move to expand a universe that still has loyal followers is a potentially brilliant play to tell new stories, explore the vast world of the undead and survivors, revisit old fan-favorites, and possibly bring on a new group of viewers. Those who want to watch are welcome along for the ride.