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 Nine, which diverged significantly from the comics. Different time jumps, one over half a decade into the future, combined with the loss of central characters, made the show scramble for any semblance of its original material.
In this tenth article (of eleven), we discuss Season Ten, which tried to return to the original material but also rushed some aspects. The hurry through major arcs was made worse by adding six additional episodes to the season, dragging things out.
The onus of these changes wasn’t solely on Angela Kang and the writers, as COVID-19 delayed the original season finale by six months. However, the writing in those additional episodes was on them, as they seemed to exist solely to solve arcs and character development screwed by previous decisions.
As mentioned before, at this point, the show is set six years after the comics, well into the apocalyptic future. The show continues to jump forward while the comics maintain a relatively quick stream of events.
Season Ten begins almost a year after the warning by Alpha, with both groups staying separate. When the war starts, it takes place over a month before ending with the destruction of the horde and Beta.
The show then spends several weeks of filler episodes exploring Maggie’s return, Negans fate, and other character-building. This timeline leaves the show solidly in the 13th year post-outbreak.
The comics start directly after the fair and murders, with conflicts among the protagonists over the next week. Over the next several weeks, the communities weather attacks, rally to fight the threat and eventually end the Whisperers.
Eugene communicates with Stephanie during this time, but nobody leaves until the Whisperers’ War is over. The group heading west takes about a week to hit Pittsburgh and meet Princess.
A few days later, they’re ambushed by the Commonwealth. The story arc continues to take place in the 6th year of the apocalypse.
From comic issues 145 – 175, the writers attempt to adapt Vols. 25 (No Turning Back) through 29 (Lines We Cross), as well as the first issue of the next volume. Much of the show is spent on the Whisperers’ War while simultaneously beginning the introduction of the Commonwealth.
Kang again chooses to take the major story arc and drag the Whisperers out much longer than necessary. Part of this was likely because, in the comics, there’s a secondary storyline involving the Saviors (once more antagonists).
Without the Saviors, particularly Dwight and Sherry, the show had to make up for lost drama with filler. Infiltrating and renegade Whisperers, island naval bases, and the caverns combine with the early introduction of those traveling to the Commonwealth to distract from the central conflict.
Worse, COVID shut down production, leaving a half-year gap between the penultimate episode and the resolution of it all. Then Kang tacks on six more filler episodes, leading the show to limp toward its final season.
Of those filler episodes, only one was a thoughtful adaptation of a stand-alone comic volume. The rest felt like unnecessary exposition, with one only making up for lost conflict (due to the character being missing).
Having not learned from Season Nine, Kang and the writers would continue to remove significant characters from the cast.
To be fair, Michonne and Connie left because they were involved in larger projects. Still, we’re again left with a “main” cast missing almost every major player from the comics.
To add insult to injury, they kill off more characters who live in the comics, including Earl Sutton. The worst, though, were two alive in the penultimate issue: Siddiq and Dante.
TV Siddiq is outlived by Rosita and their child, both of which died in the comics. His counterpart was part of the expedition west to meet the Commonwealth, where he and Eugene had a touching moment in memory of their shared love interest.
TV Dante, however, is an entirely different character, only sharing the name. In the comics, he is a love interest for Maggie, who helps lead Hilltop; with no Maggie around, the writers turned him into a Whisperers agent at Alexandria responsible for death and destruction.
Other changes would be more welcome, thanks to those who outlived their counterparts.
In the comics, the expedition led by Eugene contained Michonne, Magna, Yumiko, and Siddiq. In contrast, TV Eugene is supported by Yumiko and a still-alive Ezekiel; ironically, this journey is when Magna and Yumiko reveal their relationship, while in the show, it’s how they break up.
Gabriel would also outlive his comic version, where he was a lookout gutted by Beta and left to be eaten by the horde. TV Gabriel takes a more central role, particularly in the absence of Rick, and a more profound (and darker) character arc.
Negan’s “escape” also changes, as Comics Brandon was an angry teenager from Hilltop rather than a son of the Saviors. While Brandon’s fate remains the same, the show adds the twist that Carol let Negan out, giving him more of a redemption arc than his less apologetic (and opportunist) comics counterpart.
Beta’s role is far more intense in the show, ending in a fight with Daryl during the horde attack; in the comics, he’s a lone survivor after the attack and is killed by Jesus and Aaron. A minor change is his hidden identity: he’s a country star in the TV universe, but he was a basketball player in the comics.
Season Ten hit significant plot points but struggled with losing characters and entire groups. Kang and the writers put in other filler and dragged things out, made worse by the COVID delay and the extra episodes.
The Whisperer War went off similarly to the comics:
- Whisperer-driven hordes attack the communities.
- Eugene begins to make contact with Stephanie.
- Negan “escapes” and infiltrates the Whisperers, killing Alpha.
- Beta leads a last-ditched hope of destroying everyone with a horde but fails despite the damage.
Much is missing or changed from the source material’s story outside these points.
In the comics, Rick tries to maintain control as Alexandria demands action over losing loved ones. He starts a propaganda campaign, much to the distaste of Andrea, and forms a Militia (under the command of Dwight).
Without Rick, Michonne, or even Dwight, the arc is replaced by general paranoia over all the attacks and people falling ill. The residents focus more on Lydia (and Negan, who defends her) rather than trying to overthrow leadership.
There’s no Sanctuary or Kingdom in the show, so there is no Militia with epic battles against the Whisperers’ hordes. Instead, the protagonists abandon Alexandria (leaving it to be destroyed) and hole up in an abandoned hospital (never mentioned in previous episodes).
The TV series also skips over a significant death and an opportunist’s attack. Comics Andrea dies after being bitten, fending off the horde, while the Saviors (led by Sherry) attempt to take over a weakened Alexandria.
The TV writers also push the expedition west much faster than usual, under the guise that the communities need help. Although Eugene has made contact, nobody leaves until after the Whisperers’ horde is destroyed, and everyone has already (successfully) begun to rebuild.
In a more accurate season, Eugene’s group, meeting Princess, and encountering the Commonwealth soldiers wouldn’t have occurred until Season 11. Conversely, as Maggie didn’t return until the end, the writers pushed most of the conflict between her and Negan into Season 11.
Season Ten tried to pick up the pieces, having written off significant characters and groups. Yet, with the loss of even more and COVID issues, they skipped entire arcs and rewrote whole characters.
With the end in sight, it also felt like Kang introduced the Commonwealth much faster than expected. Between the less-than-spectacular “finale” (airing long after its predecessor) and the added episodes, Season Ten suffered from pacing, character, and story issues.
When we return, we’ll look at Season Eleven, the longest season of all, where Kang takes a bumpy road to the end of the series.