With the announcement that The Walking Dead would end after another season-and-change, and that Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Carol (Melissa McBride) would get their own spinoff together after the fact, the series not only undercut Sunday's episode, which was originally set to be the season ten finale, but its upcoming eleventh-and-final season as well, with the admission that some of the most beloved characters from the show are safe. Robert Kirkman, who created the comic on which the series is based, famously declared that "no one is safe" in the world of The Walking Dead, and eventually killed off Rick Grimes, the series' protagonist.
The TV show started off as brutal and uncompromising as Kirkman's comics, but it seems as though the reality of trying to make a show for millions of people has settled in somewhat, and the show has made a lot of "safe" decisions. The idea that two of the most popular characters still left on the show are safe from death in the episodes leading up to the series finale is no surprise, but declaring over a year in advance that they're safe from death even in that finale feels like it lets some of the air out of the show's sails.
It's possible that the season ten finale, "A Certain Doom," would have had series-low ratings even if the audience wasn't walking in with a feeling of security...but in a show that's so completely shaped by the question of who lives and who dies on a week to week basis, the announcement that the eleventh season will be the show's final somewhat guaranteed that most of the characters fans really love, will live to fight another day.
As Gamespot pointed out yesterday, it's incredibly unlikely that, with only about 20 episodes left before the end of one of the most successful TV series in a generation, The Walking Dead will make any big changes between now and season 11's midseason finale. Some of the drama that was sucked out of this weekend's episode could have been preserved by simply waiting until after "A Certain Doom" had aired before making the "final season" announcement. That they are filming another six episodes of "Season Ten" also undercuts the "finale" that fans have waited months to see, and feels a little inexplicable. Why call those episodes an expansion of the existing season, rather than simply making them the first half of next season? The real-world answer is likely some kind of rights or contract thing that's not very interesting, but it feels like a missed opportunity, and almost an acknowledgment by the creative staff of the show that "A Certain Doom" didn't feel like enough of a season finale to sell it that way (except, of course, that they sold it that way for months before they changed their minds).
These are the kinds of issues that have been increasingly plaguing (no pun intended) The Walking Dead since it became TV's top-rated show and all eyes were directed its way. When you're making stars of all your actors, it's virtually impossible to hide the fact that Lauren Cohan is going out for an ABC pilot, which means she'll probably leave the show. That's just one example, but in a series that demands long, hard days from its cast and requires the men not to shave, the discussion of "how long can their character possibly survive?" comes up whenever one of the actors gets another job. It's perhaps inevitable, then, that the edge-of-your-seat dread that characterized most of The Walking Dead's best and most popular seasons would be virtually lost by the time it finally started considering its own exit plan.
A question this all raises, is whether the show might end in a fashion similar to the comic. While the death of Rick Grimes in the comic would not have the same impact on TV since he's been gone for a while anyway, the idea -- a flash-forward to reveal a version of the world that has rebuilt in relative peace -- is certainly the closest thing anyone is going to get to a "happy ending," and it wouldn't inherently need to spoil the Carol/Daryl show, since the finale could be told from the perspective of Negan, Eugene, or another survivor left behind when those two leave to do their thing. Saying that they disappeared together and haven't been back in years could leave their fates sufficiently up in the air while still giving their arc some closure.
The next part of The Walking Dead season ten will return sometime in 2021. The eleventh and final season is expected to air in the 2021-2022 TV season. There is no specific date set for the Daryl and Carol spinoff at this point. The sixth season of Fear the Walking Dead is set to premiere on Sunday.