The final episode of The Walking Dead has happened, and it’s the end of an era. With the finale, we take our last look at how the comic was adapted to the screen.
Last time, we discussed Season Ten, plagued by the decisions in the previous seasons. A loss of significant characters (and groups), COVID delays, and unnecessary exposition somehow dragged the Whisperers out while simultaneously rushing toward the Commonwealth.
In this final article (of eleven), we discuss Season Eleven, which attempted to cover the last arc but dragged it out with its changes and filler. At 24 episodes, this was the longest season; even splitting it up into three parts didn’t help.
While Angela Kang did the best she could given the shaky foundations left for her by Gimple, she and the writers still made questionable decisions. Yet, in the end, we were given something that may not have been accurate to the comics but provided a similar resolution.
Like the last two seasons, the comics move steadily ahead while the show takes liberty with time jumps.
Season Eleven starts where the extra episodes from Season Ten left off but then wasted a week or two on separate story arcs. Once the Commonwealth sends its envoy to the communities, and everyone is (relatively) united, much of the rest unravels over half a year. Once the central conflict is over, we’re given a coda one year into the future.
In the comics, while the Commonwealth takes a similar time to focus on interpersonal relationships among the communities, the drama moves much faster. Once the envoy arrives, the conflict between the two groups happens over a mere couple of months. Despite this fast process, the coda issue is 25 years into the future.
By the end of the series, including the small coda, the TV show is 14+ years after the outbreak. In contrast, while the comics’ penultimate issue is around 6-7 years post-apocalypse, the final issue is over 30 years into the future.
Kang, like her predecessors, dragged the show out with made-for-TV story arcs and massive changes to the core plot.
The first third of the show delayed the Commonwealth’s envoy to the communities. Instead, they wasted time on the Reapers and occasional drama elsewhere.
The second third of the show convolutes the Commonwealth’s nature, from merely a classist society to a would-be empire. The writers’ choice to change the antagonist created new plot holes and overly-complicated story arcs.
By the third act, the show felt like they were going through the motions until the end. Lance’s machinations (and rogue element) went nowhere, the evolved zombies felt shoe-horned in, and Pamela became a dictator.
Although the finale was satisfying, some viewers felt like ‘the walking dead’ after that slog. The coda helped wrap things up (and set up spin-offs), but there might have been a faster way to get to the end.
With almost every main character gone, Kang and the writers would have to fill so many holes with the remaining cast.
With Rick gone, there was no ideological conflict; instead, the TV turned Lance (and later Pamela) into conquerors. Without Dwight (and others) to buck against the status quo and cause the Commonwealth’s citizens to rise, the spark is lit by others.
Two of those are Yumiko and Eugene, with the former taking the role of Comics Michonne: a lawyer who finds a family member in the Commonwealth and stays there. Although Comics Michonne was far more diplomatic (as the conflict was political), TV Yumiko responded to the physical threats on her friends and family by championing the cause of the people.
TV Eugene would become embroiled in plots his comic counterpart never did. In the comics, with no secret machinations by Lance (including a fake “Stephanie”) or the death of Sebastian, Eugene is in the background working on a train to unite the communities.
As mentioned, the entire Commonwealth takes a different path, from its core cast to its overarching motivations.
Comics Pamela is an ideologue who believes in returning the world to the way it was; she lives a life of privilege in a classist society, but she is in no way evil. Similarly, while Sebastian is a spoiled, rich brat, his worst crime is assault and being an asshole (until he murders someone in the penultimate issue).
When Pamela visits the communities in the comics, she appreciates what they’ve built, but she disagrees with Rick’s egalitarian approach to a new world. TV Pamela is far more wicked, from turning a blind eye to the machinations of Lance to becoming an outright dictator when Sebastian dies. Interestingly, she ends up in jail, similar to Sebastian in the comics (who never died).
Comic Lance was Pamela’s Deputy Governor and yes-man, merely enforcing her bureaucratic rules. He was never involved in taking over communities, shadowy dealings, etc., and he never died.
TV Mercer is initially set up to be an intimidating (almost antagonistic) force before becoming a fence-sitter until nearly the end of the show. In the comics, he’s one of the dissenters from the beginning, albeit a quiet one; he plays the neutral party (at first) but quickly becomes a central force behind the revolution.
We’d be neglectful if we didn’t mention some notable changes due to missing or still-alive TV characters.
Daryl making Pamela stand down and unite the two sides of the war, including the iconic line “We are not the walking dead,” was based on Rick’s actions. The scenes of Rosita’s death and how it affected everyone also felt like reflections of Rick’s death and how the communities reacted.
The 25-year time leap in the comics would introduce us to a world where Carl and Sophia live on a farm, Maggie is President of the Commonwealth, and Michonne is the Highest Judge. Instead, the TV show’s 1-year time jump gives us Governor Ezekiel, Vice-Governor Mercer, and Carol taking over for Lance.
Season Eleven suffered from both early filler and notably changing the Commonwealth’s nature.
One-third of the extended season was focused on Maggie’s group and the Reapers, a made-for-TV plot. Although this made up for the lost drama between Maggie and Negan, it detracted from the primary antagonists.
Once the show focuses on the Commonwealth, Kang and the writers add completely unrelated arcs. Although the comic plot exists in some form, it’s a convoluted path to arrive at its conclusion.
- The expedition meets the Commonwealth and is processed.
- The Commonwealth sends an envoy to meet the communities and their leaders.
- Protagonists integrate into the Commonwealth, although some see the problems inherent in its society.
- Protagonists are responsible for lighting the spark of revolution among the population, causing an internal conflict.
- A herd breaks through the weakened defenses during the riot.
- The two sides unite in the end to defeat the horde.
- A coda provides insight into the future fates of many.
Beyond that, the overall conflict with the Commonwealth takes an entirely different spin in the show.
As we’ve mentioned multiple times, the comic conflict between Rick’s people and the Commonwealth is one of ideology, not a physical threat. The expedition’s processing is much quicker, Mercer isn’t an antagonist, Lance isn’t an underhanded schemer, and Pamela isn’t a tyrant.
Comic Pamela is more interested in the benefits of the protagonists (or their communities) rather than taking them over. She has a cordial relationship with Rick, marred primarily by how they perceive society should work.
The uprising in the Commonwealth had nothing to do with Lance, Sebastian, or a “rebel group” but was simmering since the beginning; Mercer, and many other citizens, were unhappy being the working class for Pamela and the elite.
By the time the riots happen in the comics, everything starts for different reasons.
The TV show’s troubles begin with the citizens discovering Sebastian’s involvement with missing citizens, leading to a protest. His crimes are pinned on Lance, but Eugene and Max incite another protest (and Sebastian’s death).
Yumiko uses Eugene’s trial to spark unrest one last time, leading to Mercer finally joining the revolution. Pamela (long returned from her tour) watches this unfold and abuses her power to imprison (and even try to kill) the protagonists.
The comics’ problems begin with police brutality by Commonwealth soldiers while Pamela is gone, leading to a massive riot. Dwight and Laura, both long since gone from the main show, are the primary catalyst.
Dwight is an antagonist who tries to kill Pamela (seeing her as another Negan), causing Rick to kill him; in anger at this, Laura frees an imprisoned Mercer and helps start the uprising.
Ironically, Rick protects Pamela and Sebastian in the comics during the civil unrest, similar to how Carol and Negan protect Sebastian on the TV show.
In both the show and the comics, a herd breaks through during the riot.
In the TV show, this herd contains “evolved” walkers, which overwhelm an unsuspecting Commonwealth military, partly because Pamela arrests Mercer and ignores his warnings. The protagonists, attempting to free their still-imprisoned children, are caught in a fight between Pamela’s soldiers and the dead.
The TV herd is purposefully guided into the poorer areas of the Commonwealth until the protagonists save everyone. Pamela is finally talked down and arrested, and the show has an explosive finale destroying her (and presumably other) wealthy estates.
In the comics, it’s a typical herd, and the Commonwealth is saved by the arrival of the Militia led by Maggie and Magna (concerned about Rick). This arrival causes Comic Pamela to become paranoid, and she (and soldiers loyal to her) face off with Rick (and those loyal to Mercer).
However, there is no final battle as Rick convinces everyone to stand down, leading to Pamela’s (temporary) arrest. Sadly, this leads to Sebastian losing his mind and killing Rick in his bed, which results in his imprisonment and Rick becoming a legend decades into the future.
Although the season finale was satisfying, they could have trimmed the show to 16 episodes and made the conflict ideological. Daryl, Carol, or Ezekiel could all have filled in for Rick, and we wouldn’t have needed massive explosions or twists over who died because of the horde.
Season Eleven wraps up the TV show and tries its best to adapt the comics, given all the missing pieces. However, Kang’s insistence on additional plots and overcomplicating the Commonwealth led to mixed results.
While the finale was satisfying, the writers took the long route to arrive there. A lot wasn’t helped by the loss of essential characters (and groups) from the comics, but they still seemed to focus on everything but the core theme of the source material.
Still, we were given something akin to the comics’ ending and even a (small) coda. It’s understandable why they couldn’t give us the massive time jump of the final comic issue, given the Walking Dead Universe will resolve the future (and hopefully the six-year gap from Season 9).
With that, like Fear the Walking Dead and The Walking Dead: World Beyond, we are entering unknown territory. Fans have no idea where the series will go or what will happen to those who survived the end.
All we can say is that we have yet to see the true future of the TV franchise, and we hope to have answered many questions.