The upcoming series finale of The Walking Dead is an ending. It's also a new beginning. Titled "Rest in Peace," the episode is named after the final volume of creator Robert Kirkman's comic book that ran from 2003 to 2019. Unlike issue #193 — which unexpectedly ended the Walking Dead comic without warning — fans have had since September 2020 to brace themselves for The Walking Dead's finale episode. But after the show's penultimate episode ended with a major cliffhanger on Sunday, the question is: what will the final 90 minutes of The Walking Dead look like?
"The finale is about completing The Walking Dead story, not setting up spin-offs," executive producer Scott Gimple, chief content officer of AMC's Walking Dead Universe, said during the show's last San Diego Comic-Con. "There's room for those spin-offs, but full-on, The Walking Dead finale concludes the story of this 11 years. We didn't want the spin-offs to get in the way of that satisfaction. They live together, I think, very nicely."
Though Sunday's penultimate episode left off with every credited cast member in mortal danger, a slate of announced Walking Dead spin-offs spoiled the fates of main characters going into the series finale: some have been declared "safe" in the show where (almost) no one is safe. Still, there will be deaths and tearful goodbyes when the survivors make their last stand against Commonwealth Governor Pamela Milton (Laila Robins) and her soldier army as a massive walker horde overruns the city.
"I think the goal is that, even if there were no spinoffs, it would feel like there is a closure to the show itself," said showrunner Angela Kang, who wrote the finale directed by series veteran Greg Nicotero. "The show itself needs its own ending. But doors are left open, as they so often are in life, and as they were even in the ending of the comic. There's always a story that's continuing once the story that you tell on screen has ended, so that's the spirit."
Nicotero, who has been with the show since its first season in 2010, hopes to stick the landing.
"Everybody on set, the cast and crew, were saying we can't screw this up because all eyes generally end up on the last episode," Nicotero said. "You talk about Seinfeld, M*A*S*H, all these great shows we love, and most of the time the historical relevance of the show is judged on the last episode. So we really struggled, agonized, and buckled down to make sure it serves the fans of the show."
Because the show's story is no longer about Carl (Chandler Riggs) and Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), the comic book ending is impossible to adapt. As the show has done countless times in its 11-season run, The Walking Dead's series finale will retain the spirit of the comic book ending but will be "like a remix" of the source material.
"Some things simply have to remix, which I think is awesome, because I loved the end of the comic, but we get to see another version of it, because we have to," Gimple told EW. "It still takes Robert Kirkman's really cool story and tells his story, but in a very different way and with a different ending. It's like the same, but different."
Gimple also confirmed the show will wrap up the stories of its sizable ensemble, whether or not they're due to return in the Walking Dead sequel spin-offs: "I think the cast of main characters on the show might even be a little bigger than how the comic ended. All of those characters have endings."