Showrunner Angela Kang reveals the ending of The Walking Dead is plotted and pitched but not yet written ahead of the series finale scheduled for next year. The eleventh and final season of the AMC zombie drama will air in three parts through 2022, returning with the beginning of the end on August 22 (or one week earlier on AMC+). The super-sized season, extended at 24 episodes to air as a Final Season Trilogy of eight-episode blocks, pulls from the final arc of creator Robert Kirkman's comic book zombie saga that ended after 193 issues in July 2019.
"No," the veteran Walking Dead writer-producer told the Deadline podcast when asked to reveal if the series finale is on the page. "We've plotted it all out and pitched the whole run to the studio and the network because obviously, they all want to know that we have a plan and aren't making it up as we go along (laughs). We're all so Type A about making sure that all the ducks are in a row. So we've done that."
Series stars Khary Payton and Eleanor Matsuura are among the trusted few who know how The Walking Dead will end after 177 total episodes. Because key comic characters like Michonne or Carl and Rick Grimes aren't around for the book's endgame as it's adapted for television, the series finale won't exactly resemble the 25-years-later ending of Kirkman's comic book.
"On the show, we have such a different array of characters now than were in the comic at this stretch," Kang said. "Andrew [Lincoln] left for his family reasons, we have various cast members that have also left, we have characters like Carol who have long outlasted their comic book counterpart, we have Daryl who doesn't even exist in the comics. And so I think naturally there is this process where some of the story from the comic book no longer really applies to the particular people that we're writing for."
The Final Season will instead draw from "the themes and major events and ideas" Kirkman created in the pages of the comic book. That includes the major storyline introducing Governor Pamela Milton (Laila Robins) and Officer Mercer (Michael James Shaw) of the Commonwealth, the largest civilization encountered so far on The Walking Dead.
"We definitely have to do a certain amount of deviation [from the comics]. What's been great is that Kirkman has always been all for it because he's like, 'I think it's great if people who read the comics are also getting a bit of a different experience on the show,'" Kang said. "So that's given us a lot of freedom which I am grateful for because we kind of need it at this point. We can't do exactly the comic book, it wouldn't feel right. Some of the stories wouldn't line up exactly right with the people that we have."
Updating the progress of the Final Season, Kang said, "We are right now so in the middle of it. We are filming, we are editing, writing, all the processes are going. I think it's like, when we're in that stage, it's hard to think about an ending that is still so far away in terms of production and all the things we have to do."
"It's sort of bittersweet to think about this chapter of [the show] ending," added Kang, "but at the same time, I'm excited to work on the spin-off, and I'm excited that there are other projects kind of in the hopper right now."
The Final Season of The Walking Dead premieres August 15 on AMC+ and August 22 at 9/8c on AMC. Follow the author @CameronBonomolo on Twitter for all things TWD.