As we wrap up the final episodes of The Walking Dead, we continue to look back at how the comic was adapted to the screen.
Last time, we discussed Season Seven, which ended with declaring an all-out war with the Saviors. Now that the show and comics were mainly in sync, the writers would finish that story arc.
In this eighth article (of eleven), we discuss Season Eight, which had satisfying moments but also some of the most controversial decisions. This season would be Scott Gimple’s last as showrunner, and despite his general comic accuracy, he made some poor choices with his love of unnecessary shock value.
Season Eight’s timeline begins and ends before the comics.
The season starts less than two weeks after the battle of the Season Seven finale. All 16 episodes (and the entire war) end in about a week.
The comics aren’t too far off, with all-out war starting days after the first battle of Alexandria. Rick and his Militia take a couple of weeks, and many losses, before finally defeating Negan.
By the time everything settles, the TV show is almost three-quarters into the second year of the apocalypse, while the comics are approaching the third year.
The pacing for this season would have gone better if Gimple hadn’t had to resolve all the filler from last season and choose to deviate wildly from the comics.
The TV Scavengers and the helicopter were a wasted add-in, only partially paying off in another series. Meanwhile, Oceanside continues to make no sense in its choices, and there was never any resolution to who Georgie (a character not in the original materials) was.
The writers also decided to add more battles and dilemmas that did not exist on top of the filler. While exploring the human side of the conflict was critical, this caused a confusing mix of drama and action that could have been better with the pacing.
What’s worse than the pacing decisions was the choice to deviate dramatically from the comic characters in one of the worst ways.
The death of Carl was probably the most significant and criticized decision since Sophia in Season Two.
Sophia and Carl were two of the only characters left standing in the coda issue of the comics. While Sophia was young enough at her death to be replaced in the show, Carl was key to numerous plotlines yet to come.
The worst part was that the loss of Carl was made not because of a writing decision but a production dispute. Gimple claims it was a story decision, but few believe that considering how he handled the situation and treated the actor.
As usual, the show would introduce numerous additional supporting characters, some with comic counterparts and others made for TV. The most notable was Siddiq, a character who only existed well after the war.
In the comics, Siddiq is a fisherman from Comic Oceanside, joining the protagonists years after the war. He has a minimal background and journeys with the others to the end of the series, but his eventual fate is unknown in the coda.
Meanwhile, TV Siddiq is found during the war, not to mention a doctor, and much more philosophical. He is a plot point around Carl’s death and Rick’s humanity, but he doesn’t make it past the show’s penultimate season.
As for the other characters, we see Eugene become closer to his comic counterpart, including his final betrayal that wins the war for Rick and his Militia. Although his full redemption would happen off-screen (and after a time jump), his actions reflect the source material.
Dwight leaves the TV series to develop into something new on a completely different show. This decision would have lasting repercussions as he serves as a significant antagonist toward the end of the comics.
Many made-for-TV characters continue, with the final fate of the Morales family (from Season One) revealed and the introduction of Henry, a teenager set up as Carl’s replacement (for a little while). Jadis’ whole community is unceremoniously killed off (by a Savior made for the show), while Jerry receives a massive boost in his support of Ezekiel during his loss.
Ultimately, the characters made specifically for the show were hit or miss, while the story suffered from the loss of many beloved characters.
Season Eight hits most major plot points:
- Rick mobilizes the Militia and surrounds the Sanctuary with a herd
- Maggie takes over Hilltop from a cowardly Gregory
- The Kingdom’s fighters are nearly wiped out, and Shiva dies
- The Saviors attack and nearly destroy Alexandria
- Dwight defects to Rick’s side
- The Saviors use walker-tainted weapons against the other communities, with Dwight playing double agent (and saving Rick’s life)
- Rick’s side wins the war, slitting Negan’s throat but leaving him alive and imprisoned (against Maggie’s wishes)
The problem was all of these points were mixed with unnecessary filler.
The battle at the apartment complex (with Morales) was an altered version of a few pages of a single issue. No POWs were held, let alone kept at Hilltop, for Maggie and Gregory to fight over.
The TV Scavengers didn’t exist, nor did Simon, and Carl was never killed in the comics. Because of these, there was no reason for Negan and Rick’s mid-season confrontation, let alone (as Gimple claimed) “motivation for Rick’s mercy.”
Season Eight could have gone so much better if they’d never added the filler and killed off an essential character. No changes would be necessary, with the entire season still dedicated to all-out war.
The only difference was the mid-season finale, which could have been anything but Carl showing a bite (only to die an episode later).
Like previous seasons, Season Eight would deviate in ways that ripple throughout the rest of the series. Gimple’s decision to throw away the filler storylines he created, introduce Siddiq early, and then kill off Carl wasn’t just poor writing but lousy show running.
Although we hit all the major plot points, they weren’t as notable, given the shock and anger of many fans.
When we return, we’ll look at Season Nine, which tries to change course from Gimple’s work, but only ends up going way off base with two significant time jumps and the mind-numbing loss of even more central characters.