The Walking Dead” finally closed one chapter in its months-delayed season finale, which aired on Sunday, providing closure on some fronts.
Yet while the long-running zombie drama has an end in sight, like so much else, the disruptions associated with coronavirus have knocked it off schedule.
The finale marked the conclusion of the Whisperers plot, which played out against one of those massive action sequences that the show can mount, yielding some particularly gruesome moments, as key characters had to navigate their way through a zombie horde.
That included the death of the Whisperers’ hulking leader, Beta (Ryan Hurst), after a fight with Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and Daryl (Norman Reedus), offering a cathartic payoff. In an earlier episode Negan had infiltrated the group and used that access to kill its leader Alpha (Samantha Morton), setting the stage for the grudge match.
The episode also saw the return of Maggie, the character played by Lauren Cohan, a bit earlier than expected, since it had been reported that she would be back in the 11th season.
Theoretically, having her rejoin the show will help fill the void left by a spate of major departures over the last few seasons, most recently Danai Gurira’s Michonne.
With AMC having announced that the series will end after two more extended seasons, there should be a greater sense of purpose and momentum surrounding the franchise, which had felt creatively listless. Ratings have also fallen on what was once TV’s highest-rated program.
Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean we’ll have seen the last of what’s now called the “‘Walking Dead’ universe.” Far from it, with the announcement of a Daryl-and-Carol spinoff, the movies featuring the character of Rick, an announced anthology series called “Tales of the Walking Dead,” and the two existing offshoots of the “Dead” brand, “Fear the Walking Dead” (which returns Oct. 11) and “The Walking Dead: World Beyond,” a not-very-good two-season limited series, which made its debut after the finale.
As it stands, the flagship series — which officially marks its 10th anniversary on Halloween — is currently scheduled to return early next year, after delaying production, along with most scripted shows, due to Covid-19 concerns. In all, AMC has ordered 30 more episodes (the average bifurcated season runs 16) that will extend into 2022.
So even with the finish line now in view, it’s really just the beginning of the end, with a lot of running — or rather, halting walking — left to do.