“The Walking Dead” is currently halfway through its eighth season, and the show has never faced a task as difficult as as it does currently. With ratings at an all-time low, the showrunners need to find a way to turn the popular show around and gain many of its loyal fans back before it’s too late.
Often-maligned spinoff series “Fear the Walking Dead” has garnered more praise recently for its faster pace and willingness to push its characters to their limits. Meanwhile, “The Walking Dead” has been severely lacking in that type of character development over the last few seasons, with even its best characters suddenly becoming static and uninteresting.
Even the recent passing of a long-time character in the recent mid-season premiere left fans with complaints, specifically that the death was dragged out far too long and that many moments in the episode were seemingly just to take up time. That criticism is a perfect representation of the issues some fans have with the show. They feel that the show’s 16-episode seasons render the majority of episodes as filler until the actually important and emotionally impactful moments that made the show special in its first few seasons can happen.
This is a really tough position for AMC to get themselves out of. Their complete mishandling of one of television’s most popular programs ever has been frustrating to watch. Very few options exist that will help dig AMC out of the hole that they have dug themselves into.
The easiest solution is for AMC to simply accept the declining popularity of the show and end it with the end of the next season (a ninth season has already been confirmed.) With lead actors like Lauren Cohan — who plays main character Maggie Rhee — still yet to renew contracts for the ninth season, this option is becoming increasingly likely to happen.
Shows like “Game of Thrones” have portrayed the fact that every show needs to end eventually no matter how popular it is, and that it is better to end on the terms of the showrunners rather than the show fading away into obscurity. If AMC is willing to concede some financial gain, then the showrunners will be able to provide a finale that the fans who have supported them for years truly deserve.
If AMC decides that they will end the show after season nine, they still have the opportunity to make money off of “The Walking Dead” franchise. As previously mentioned “Fear the Walking Dead” has started to become a success from both a critical and viewership standpoint. It is refreshing for fans to see a new area of the United States and the effect that the zombie apocalypse has on the people there.
This leaves an avenue for AMC to explore in terms of “The Walking Dead” franchise. Even if the main show ends, there are still tons of stories to be told of survivors all across the world of “The Walking Dead” universe. Perhaps AMC could even include a character or two from the main show to appear in one of the spinoff shows in order to turn fans who only supported the main show into viewers of the spinoffs.
Another easily implemented solution to the issues that the show currently faces is to shorten the length of future seasons. With the biggest complaint being that the show suffers from too many filler episodes that don’t move the story along, perhaps it would be best to simply reduce the amount of episodes in future seasons. A reasonable number would be around 10 episodes per season, a decrease from the 16-episode seasons currently being produced.
This would allow for each episode to be full of important moments, leaving the viewers excited to see a new episode every week instead of feeling that they wasted an hour of their day. While AMC may lose some money that they could make off of advertisements during the six lost episodes, the loss would pay off in the long run by increasing the longevity of the show.
I personally hope that the show returns to its former glory of its earlier seasons by shortening the season length. If the show can shift its focus back to the survival aspect of the apocalypse in a few action-packed episodes, then I believe that interesting character arcs and character development will naturally raise and restore the quality of the show. What AMC elects to do with the franchise remains to be seen, but they must act soon if “The Walking Dead” is going to avoid becoming a disaster.