‘The Walking Dead’ Cliffhanger: Why Robert Kirkman Deserves An Apology

The Walking Dead was the target of much criticism after its decision to tease the tragic events of Oct. 23’s premiere with a now infamous cliffhanger.

Series writer/creator Robert Kirkman fielded a hostile (to say the least) AMA on the popular Internet forum Reddit in which he tried running damage control from several fans, who said they were so furious they may not even tune in when the show resumed.

Kirkman promised that the decision was not a cheap gimmick, but something, rather, to serve the story. Still, doubts continued until Sunday night’s shocking premiere.

Now that the episode is in the can and the victims — yes, victims — have been revealed, it’s pretty clear that vocal fans should leave these decisions in the hands of the storytellers.

The reason for The Walking Dead cliffhanger has emerged, and judging from the structure and the emotional resonance of the episode, it’s clear that the show couldn’t have gone another way.

Here is why The Walking Dead went the cliffhanger route and why it made sense to the overall arc of the story.

To start, you have to understand The Walking Dead Issue 100.

Now it goes without saying that you should be acutely aware of spoilers in this article, so if you’re still reading beyond this point, then it’s time to get out now.

If you don’t care or have seen the episode, read on.


The Walking Dead started as a comic book, as most of you know, but the television series is not necessarily beholden to the comic book, as fewer of you probably know.

What happens in the pages and what happens on screen can either be completely different, or they can be tweaked with a few small details.

But occasionally, there are a few things that happen that are so iconic, they really shouldn’t be altered too much from one medium to the next.

With The Walking Dead Issue 100, Kirkman gave fans the shock of their lives when he had Negan (played in the series by Jeffrey Dean Morgan) take Lucille to the noggin of Glenn (played in the series by Steven Yeun).

Glenn Rhee was with Rick from almost the very beginning of the series, and he was the former lawman’s closest confidante.

Killing Glenn would also kill a piece of Rick. Fans that didn’t know that prior to Glenn’s death were more than aware of it afterward.

And if you followed the comics and the TV series, you knew that death had to go down pretty much as it did in the comics, even if the specter of seeing it played out shook you to the core.

But to make the death as shocking on the screen as it was in the pages of a comic book, producers needed a hook.

The cliffhanger was the only way to set up that hook and make Glenn’s death resonate in the same way.

While it may have seemed a little cruel to make fans wait several months before finding out who Negan killed, it kept the spoiler squad from ruining the death scene for everyone else.

By diverting Glenn’s death to Abraham and making him the victim at the end of Season 6, Kirkman and fellow producer Scott Gimple pulled the rug out from underneath the audience and put everyone — from the most knowledgeable comic book fan to the general TV audience — on guard.

This shift allowed Negan to assault Glenn, and the audience, with a proper element of surprise. As a result, the scene registered the same shock factor from the comics and was faithful in spirit despite going a different path with how it was carried out.

All the reassurances Kirkman tried in vain to give his fans during that Reddit AMA turned out to be accurate. You really did need to withhold judgment until you saw what they did with it.

The cliffhanger was the only way they could have accomplished any of The Walking Dead‘s storytelling goals from comics to the screen.

Of course, not everyone agrees. Paul Tassi of Forbes presented an understandable response earlier today.

But what do you think, readers?

Are you upset The Walking Dead TV team went the cliffhanger route? Do you think there would have been a better way? Sound off in the comments section below.

[Featured Image by AMC]