When The Walking Dead premiered on Halloween in 2010, many viewers didn’t expect the show to last more than one season. It had all the hallmarks of a pricey failure in many viewer’s eyes — it was broadcast by AMC, a network with no experience in the genre; a network famous for realistic dramas like Mad Men and Breaking Bad. The show featured a primarily unknown cast, it was based on a relatively unknown comic book, it only had a schedule of six episodes, and it featured zombies, one of the most tired sub-genres in horror. How could it succeed?
But then, the ratings came in, and the pilot episode knocked it out of the park. With 5.35 million viewers on its debut, and 6 million when the first series concluded on its sixth episode, The Walking Dead was a huge success.
Five years later, and it’s the epitome of must-see television. The ratings regularly tap at 12-15 million per episode, and that’s in the U.S alone. The show is an international phenomenon, a character drama with the power to control the internet. It regularly gathers millions of anticipating viewers on Twitter or Facebook, pitting them in rabid discussion and heated debates about the events as they unfold in post-apocalyptic Virginia. Social media is rarely spoiler free nowadays, but The Walking Dead is an entirely different beast.
However, many have criticised and acclaimed the latest series in equal measure. Season 6 bows out with the dreaded mid-season finale in less than seven days, something that is now commonplace for infinitely patient The Walking Dead fans. After Sunday’s much-anticipated episode, fans will have to wait until February for the season to conclude, and a lot is currently happening that proves season 6 of The Walking Dead is still just getting started, even after eight episodes. It’s been an exhausting ride in season 6 so far, one that has tested the patience of even the most loyal fans, and it doesn’t look to be stopping any time soon.
With so much to look forward to, and many potential game-changing events in the future, here are six reasons why season 6 is still waiting to impress and depress, and shock and awe in equal measure. Be warned, the details below have been gleamed from the current season, which means the article contains spoilers for most seasons of the show, potential events for upcoming episodes, and the comic series. Proceed at your own risk.
1. No One Is Safe
With The Walking Dead, and zombie fiction in general, this is a common plot device. In zombie movies, people die quickly and ruthlessly, without a moment to shine; the expanded cast is nothing more than mere cannon fodder for the real undead stars of the show. However, in The Walking Dead, a horror drama series where the characters develop and mature before our very eyes, this aspect of The Walking Dead is one reason the viewers fear the events that unfold on the screen. At any time, we can see one of our beloved characters brutally torn apart by the swathes of walkers within seconds. Yes, the show is about humanity coming to terms with itself in the wake of devastation, but it’s dreadfully clear that the walkers are the most formidable unstoppable threat, lingering on the horizon, threatening to strike at any given moment.
It hasn’t been any different, both in the lead-up to and duration of season 6. Several key members of the cast have died horribly on the journey to Alexandria (Beth and Hershal stand out as two brutal highlights, albeit these departures were not at the mouths of the undead) and several faceless members of Alexandria have died adapting to Rick’s strict discipline during season 6. We’re overdue a major death in the light of Glenn’s polarizing fake-out demise, an event that nearly broke the internet, but for the first time in possibly two seasons — since The Governor’s disappearance — the show has reached a point where anyone could die at any given time. Some characters have disadvantages going into the finale — pregnancy, injury, shaky religious faith, the inability to kill another human being — and some just have that “I’m zombie chow” look about them. No matter who dies in the mid-season finale, and the rumors are strong on certain characters at The Spoiling Dead Fans, it will certainly shake the foundation of the show as we know it.
In the final moments of last week’s episode, hearts were in open mouths as the sanctuary of Alexandria was finally broken by a toppling church tower. Everyone is imminently at risk from the masses of undead that circle the walls of the safe zone. People are destined to die in a staple of the series — the gruesome, blood-soaked mid-season finale. Quite who that will be, we only have to wait six days. However, even if the people do survive, let’s not forget that the series will have a big black shadow cast upon it for the foreseeable future. Yes, we’re about to meet the next big bad!
2. Negan Is Coming.
There’s no doubt many will survive the collapse of the church tower, whether it’s by clearing out Alexandria or relocating to another, safer haven in due course. Will Alexandria regroup with Deanna’s chosen plan? All will be revealed in a few months. What is clear, though, is that Negan is about to make his much-anticipated appearance on the show. Jeffrey Dean Morgan was recently cast in the pivotal villain role, and filmed his first scenes in the past few weeks — a time line that has him appearing in the season finale, as confirmed by Comic Book.
Fans of The Walking Dead comics will know what lies in store for the unsuspecting residents of Alexandria. Negan is the ruthless leader of a group of over 50 survivors, a group known collectively as the Saviors. Their sole mission is to subjugate other communities for resources in return for their protection against the walkers. Negan is infamous for his frequent profanity and brutal, efficient dictator-like methods.
In the comics, Rick and his fellow survivors start a trading network with the Hilltop Colony, another safe zone, who are then ambushed by the Saviors and forced to obey Negan’s rules. Negan resides in an abandoned factory (Sanctuary) where most of the female inhabitants act as his wives — even though their husbands and boyfriends live there too. The show has already planted the seeds for the Saviors, by introducing us to someone who could potentially be Dwayne, a burn victim who lives under Negan’s dominant rule. Daryl lost his crossbow and motorcycle to this character and a female counterpart in episode 6, and also helped them escape several faceless enemies who are expected to be revealed as Savior members later in the season, so expect that exchange to come full circle in the future.
As many people know by now, Glenn is the first hapless victim of Negan’s regime, one that sees his head fatally shattered beneath a barbed-wire baseball bat affectionately called Lucille, Negan’s only true ‘friend.’ This comes as a result of the friction between Negan and Rick, who has assumed power over his survivors and rallies against Negan’s demands. Many expect this to repeat itself in the TV show, with Glenn meeting an equally brutal demise, but let’s not forget that Negan also forms a bond with Carl, one that irks Rick and threatens to sever the father-son relationship that has, thus far, survived the apocalypse intact. Whatever the future holds, Negan will make The Governor’s presence seem like a walk in the park, but the hints all lead to this savage event occurring on screen — quite who the victim will be, well, that’s up for discussion. In the near future, there will no doubt be a shift in the allegiance of the survivors, which will have repercussions for everyone involved.
3. Rick Nearly Has The Power
And this will be the start of it. It’s a topic that has been touched on in previous seasons, but Rick is all but due to assume power in Alexandria, and many expect this to begin with Deanna’s demise in the mid-season finale. In previous havens, the group members held somewhat of a democracy, shying away from Rick’s brutal but efficient survival methods for the safety of the group. However, with survival now priority, and the rule-abiding nature of humanity all but extinct in the ever-changing, lawless land of Virginia, Rick’s methods might just be what keeps the group alive — for the most part anyway.
Rick has always believed in doing what it right for his group, even if that means going to the extreme and making the lay of the land black and white and red. In various episodes, we see the former police officer brutally slay a defying human or kill a turning survivor and move on swiftly, showing little or no emotion to the people he once called companions. The residents of Alexandria baulk at this, even to the degree that one or two are thinking of fighting back. One thing is for sure; if Rick gains power, it will drastically change the rule and landscape of Alexandria. It’s no secret that some of the residents aren’t equipped or skilled enough to fight back against the threat and danger of the zombies, so expect this to come into play as soon as next week.
If the show follows the comics on this one, expect a few group members to die and expect a few to depart to pastures new. Rick’s way isn’t the most moral path, but with Alexandria providing many of the survivors with a future, one they never expected to find again, even his most loyal followers might have a problem with his rule. Of all the reasons on this list, this one has the potential to polarize and disgust the fans the most. It also provides some unpredictability to proceedings, which could lead to a huge moment in the show’s history.
4. Daryl’s Fate
Fans are dreading the moment that The Walking Dead pulls the trigger and shocks the world. For some, it seems the show runners are holding a truly shocking moment back for a pivotal scene, say for the first appearance of Negan or the 100th episode. Whatever the reason, some think that the only way to truly shock the fans is by killing off someone who, at the moment, is untouchable in the eyes of the fans. Where this rule could apply to any of Rick’s group, none have more riding on them than Daryl Dixon.
Aside from Daryl and Sasha, all of Rick’s crew (Rick, Carl, Maggie, Glenn, Michonne, Abraham, Rosita, Tara, Eugene, Carol, Judith, and Morgan) have all appeared in the comic source material. Daryl and Sasha were cast as original characters, which is usually the rule when creating a television adaptation. However, Daryl has fast become the heart-throb of the show, a pivotal leading man for the ladies, one that has probably accrued a sizeable chunk of the female viewership. But is he safe? According to creator Robert Kirkman — no, he isn’t. He discussed this with Wet Paint back in 2013. There’s no doubt that the most shocking thing that could happen on the show right now — with the female fans constantly threatening to riot if their favorite tracker meets his demise — is to kill off Daryl.
Will it happen though? Maybe. Daryl has been absent for much of the season, but in the season 6 episodes that feature him, he’s been shown as a nice, genuine guy, even helping out people who, moments before, took him hostage at gunpoint. This blew up in his face eventually, but it only served to sow the seed for their re-acquaintance later on in the season, one that could see him come to blows with Negan and his group. We will have to wait and see how this plays out, but the hints are there. With Glenn having a huge moment in this season already, will Daryl be the one to fall victim to Negan? If so, Daryl needs an episode or two to stand out, as is the way before a character is killed off. If the show wants to prove to the viewers that no one is safe, in the wake of Glenn’s fake-out demise, this is certainly the way to do it.
5. Maggie Is Pregnant
A recent revelation in the show, one dropped in Glenn’s unknown, unsolved absence, was the unveiling of Maggie’s secret pregnancy. Maggie was forced to confront the possibility that, if Glenn was dead, she would be a single, expectant mother in a zombie apocalypse. After being present for Lori’s gruesome demise at childbirth, this plot device has a lot of weight and symbolism behind it. It also has the potential to not only shatter the connection between the group of survivors, but also has the potential to have them turn on her.
True, Judith is proof that a newborn can survive in the apocalypse. It hasn’t been without its fair share of kidnappings, food shortages, or brutality, though. Yes, they have Alexandria now, a nice home to raise a child in, but this might not be the case going forward. Much like Carol, Judith is one of the comic book characters who is enjoying a longer run in the show — remember, in the comics, Judith died in Lori’s arms when The Governor blasted them both with a shotgun during the prison invasion — but will the addition of a second baby be too much for the survivors? Will it hinder resources and food? Also, will the arrival of the child, and the months leading up to it, make Glenn more protective and, in a way, reckless? These are all valid questions that will surely be answered in coming episodes.
On the flip-side, the arrival of a baby may inspire hope in the residents of Alexandria. There may be a silver lining, but the key question is this — will coming events culminate in Maggie becoming a leader? If they follow the comics, this will happen in due course, as Maggie is the person who finally brings Negan to his knees. The two incarnations of the characters started out differently — the comic book version is more insecure at the outset — but in the previous two seasons, the similarities between the two have merged into one. This is probably one plot point that will play out over the duration of several seasons, but one thing is for sure; expect the child to be named Hershal, after Maggie’s long-lost father.
6. The End Is Nowhere In Sight
The Walking Dead, according to Forbes, has the potential to continue for over 20 seasons. The reasoning for this is simple — issue 81 in the comics is where the walls of Alexandria collapse, which is where we are currently in the show. The comic is currently on issue 147, and Robert Kirkman has revealed that he has enough material to keep going for at least 300 issues. Whether or not this transitions into TV seasons is up for debate — the production costs alone restrict a show from usually passing the 10 season mark. However, the material is there, so if they find a way to make it work, we could be in for a few more years of the zombie chaos yet.
Which means things can play out slowly. Yes, season 6 is just getting started, both in the present and the legacy of the franchise itself. The list above summarizes what we know heading into the mid-season finale, and there’s no guarantee any of this will become relevant in the next few episodes. Some storyline arcs for multiple seasons, and some are answered rapidly, such is the nature of any television show. However, with no clear end in sight, unlike other hits like Mad Men, Lost, etc., The Walking Dead truly has one major benefit to its production. With Kirkman not giving up on his prized project yet, we can expect at least one or two more seasons before the end of the series is even discussed. Season 7 was announced earlier this year, so the future is bright and lengthy for The Walking Dead. Regardless of what happens, expect the show to keep entertaining people for years to come.
The Walking Dead mid-season finale airs on November 29 at 9/8c.
[Featured image via AMC]