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5 Best And 5 Worst Things About AMC's Ten Year Plan For The Walking Dead

In early September 2018, AMC Networks CEO Josh Sapan dropped some rather shocking news when he unveiled how his network intends to handle the future of their smash hit zombie apocalypse drama The Walking Dead. Sapan described a universe built bigger than any one plot or series — a world that the folks at AMC "have a plan to manage over the next decade, plus."

No, that's not a smudge on your screen. Over ten more years of a show that hasn't even hit the decade milestone in the first place? What does this extraordinarily long-term plan mean for those who've still continued to tune in for The Walking Dead in the midst of its recent ratings slump? It's a loaded question, but one that has already begun to be unpacked due to recent developments in the show (like Rick Grimes' sudden helicopter evacuation followed by a six-year jump into the future — the second time jump in the still-young season).

There can be no doubt that a "reset" of sorts has just taken place, already accompanied by a load of twists and turns as the "long-term" Walking Dead universe begins to go through inevitable growing pains as it morphs into something larger. But resets, twist, and turns aside, the question remains: will this retooling of one of the most popular shows on television turn out to be a net positive... or not so much? Here's a look at the five best — and five worst — things about AMC's ten-year plan for The Walking Dead.

Best: My other brother Daryl

With main characters in absentia and time jumps leaving us all in strange new territory, there are plenty of reasons to get gloomy about the future of The Walking Dead. But there are many ways to see the cup as half full, too. One of the most obvious? Seeing Daryl Dixon's story arc continue. One of the two remaining season 1 survivors (now that Rick has been shipped off and Morgan remains "safely" tucked away on Fear the Walking Dead), Daryl Dixon is arguably the most popular character on the show. As Lawrence Yee of Fandom put it, "If Daryl Dixon dies, we riot."

Honestly, with so many ups and downs for Rick Grimes — including the recent loss of his son — it was probably a good move overall to have the emotionally exhausted leader step out of the limelight (at least until he returns for a few more movies of his own) in favor of Daryl, who's been quiet for a while now and is itching for a breakout moment. Over the years we've watched Daryl's story arc slowly transform him from the hardened little brother of Merle Dixon (Michael Rooker) into an independent, endearing character... with tracking and archery skills that could bring you down in a second. Of course, his imprisonment with Negan did a number on him, and ever since he's been a bit of a sidelined character in general. But with the time jump, and a newly minted "hermit Daryl" ready to explore in future episodes, the further unfolding of the character is going to be a great bonus to more TWD screentime.

Worst: The ratings (not quite) dead

Ratings for The Walking Dead have been dropping since the season 6 cliffhanger ending that upset pretty much everyone. Things have been no better for sister series Fear the Walking Dead, which suffered a nearly 50 percent drop in viewership during its fourth season. Usually, a major drop in popularity for a veteran series signals that the audience has started to move on — which typically means it's time to start wrapping things up, not to announce you're planning to double of the length of the show's run. If anything, knowing that there's no end in sight is likely to drive viewers away even faster.

The truth is, it's highly unlikely that the show's waning popularity will magically begin to recover at this point. Take, for example, the ratings for Rick Grimes' last episode. They weren't brutal, but when a main character leaves a series and it hardly makes a difference in the ratings, it isn't a great sign. Recent episodes have made abundantly clear that AMC is doing everything in their power to engineer a creative rebound. But the network is also already swimming against the tide as it is, with cable television in general dying a slow death that could be accelerated at any moment. The future of the industry is starting to look about as bleak as The Walking Dead itself at this point. But by all means, plan away.

Best: The one who wants to be left alone

As the plot armor continues to wear thin across the Walking Dead universe, another season 1 character who's managed to continue thus far unscathed (at least physically) is the indomitable Carol Peletier. Played by Melissa McBride, Carol has been a fixture on the show since its earliest days and is currently the only female survivor from season 1.

There can be no doubt that Carol has gone through an incredible character evolution. We've gone from pitying her in those early days as an abused wife to cheering for her as she reinvented herself into a strong, self-determined woman who doesn't take crap from anyone. And that character evolution didn't slow for a second in the ninth season. Carol remained an important character in the struggle to keep the communities united and kicked off a relationship with King Ezekiel to boot. That relationship then blossomed in the six-year jump into a marriage (all hail Queen Carol!) as well as a family, with Henry now their adopted son.

Add on to that the new white locks and bow skills along with the sobering fact that the old Carol is still lurking under the surface — wasn't that whole "burning people alive" sequence eerily reminiscent of the scenes from the prison? — and there's little doubt that Carol is going to be a fascinating character to watch in the seasons to come.

Worst: The new world's gonna need Rick Grimes...

Abraham had it right in season 5 when he left the scribbled message "the world's gonna need Rick Grimes." And now we've lost him ...at least in The Walking Dead has, anyway. With Rick spirited off on what can be pretty safely assumed is a one-way helicopter ride, Rick Grimes has left the series. Sure, he's going to still be in those new movies that were announced, and he may find his way back onto the set as a director, but Rick is officially out, luxurious post-apocalyptic beard and all.

No blame for Lincoln, whose reasons for leaving — you know, the fact that he barely sees his family — are pretty airtight. But when the lead character leaves, it always puts a show in a tricky position. Shows can try to head in new directions, and new characters can be raised to positions of prominence — as we're already seeing with Michonne, Eugene, and... Judith!) but the truth is, the dynamic will never be the same without Grimes at the helm, struggling between boldly leading his people and breaking down completely.

No matter which "version" of Rick was ascendant from one episode to the next, over the years there's been little doubt who was headlining the show. And you plan on just forging ahead like the viewers will be fine with this even newer world without Rick Grimes? Good luck, AMC. Good luck.

Best: The Whisperers

The war with Negan and the Saviors has been a centerpiece of The Walking Dead's first eight seasons. It was years in the making, and took two seasons to play itself out. However, war with the Sanctuary is hardly the only threat that the survivors have to contend with. Long before they ever came near Negan, they'd already confronted and overcome the Governor and his cronies at Woodbury, followed by Terminus and the cannibals it secretly contained. If the show wants to continue on for another decade, you can bet we're going to get to see more groups of villains along the way.

One of those groups that has been anxiously anticipated for years now — and has FINALLY made their debut! — is the Whisperers. The creepy yet popular antagonists entered the comic book series in 2015 and ever since, fans have been keeping a sharp eye out for them on the show. Literally, you need to look really closely, as they walk around in suits of walker or "roamer" skin that allow them to live peaceably with the dead. When it comes to living, breathing humans, though, they can be as hostile as it gets.

The best part about these strange new opponents? They've finally made their way onto the screen. All seemed like business as usual in episode 8 of season 9 as Eugene and Rosita's little run out onto the perimeter broke down in the face of a herd of walkers. But their escape from mindless zombies suddenly took an unexpected turn when they heard the walkers communicating. No, the zombies weren't evolving. It was the Whisperers...

Worst: No more Maggie

The Walking Dead has also lost Lauren Cohan, who plays Maggie Greene. Cohan's last episode calmly slipped by while we were all fixed on Rick's helicopter rescue, but although it occurred with less fanfare (and fewer explosions), Maggie has indeed seen the last of her days on The Walking Dead... for now, at least. And while Cohan seems to be doing fine with the show in her rearview mirror, the world of The Walking Dead is likely to feel her loss more keenly.

Over time, Maggie developed into one of the most powerful leads on the show, and as the curtain fell on Maggie's time, she was still the strong-willed (if somewhat vengeful) leader of the Hilltop community, a mother, and a woman still grieving for her husband Glenn Rhee (Steven Yeun), her father Hershel Greene (Scott Wilson), and her sister Beth Greene (Emily Kinney).

Add onto that her recent run-in with Negan, a scene that saw the warlord groveling at her feet, and you can comfortably say that Maggie's character arc has risen as high as they get. But that doesn't mean they haven't already taken advantage of the twist to use her character in the mysterious aftermath of the most recent time jump. While Lincoln seems to have packed up shop for good, Cohan has left things wide open to jump back into the action if the time is right.

Best: Oh, the possibilities...

Spinoffs are almost always a crapshoot. When it comes to The Walking Dead universe in particular, although popular opinion regarding Fear the Walking Dead has swayed, overall the first TWD spinoff has done pretty well for itself. Remember, we were all spoiled by the almost unbelievable popularity of TWD at its peak, which kind of wrecked the grading curve. But the truth is if we can dial back our expectations, quite a bit of unexpected fun can be had in future spinoffs.

Spinoff scenarios aside, there is so much potential to be realized here (as long as AMC manages to handle it all correctly). The Rick Grimes movies-for-television trilogy in the works obviously opens doors to future full-length features. And then there's that whole "six-year jump into the future" bit.

While the first "Rick-Grimes-less" episode left a little to be desired — especially after the fireworks of the previous episode —  the truth is, there is now a boatload of material to be explored with Michonne's new character twist, the arrival of the Whisperers, and the rise of Judith Grimes... and her new shocker of a brother. Seriously, did anyone see baby "Richonne" coming?

Worst: The Negan death spiral

Few people will argue that Negan is a pretty kickass villain. But the truth is, his arrival had a bit of a dampening effect on the show. A similar thing happened with Ezekiel and the Kingdom. The zookeeper-turned-Shakespearean king and his pet tiger just seemed to grind things to a halt. It's not that they aren't interesting. They simply broke up the pace too much.

This isn't the first time an interesting development pumped the brakes on the show. When the Governor arrived in season 3, it slowly bogged things down too, until all hell broke loose a season later. In that case, the results led to the show's high point, but it was after just one season of stalling. It was also early enough in the evolution of the show that things were still picking up speed.

With the show currently in its ninth season and having grappled with the Negan problem for more than twice as long as the Governor, they may not be able to simply reset everything by just moving on again, no matter how far into the future they jump. They've certainly made some major changes, between Maggie's crowbar-wielding showdown and Negan's "tamed" appearance as Judith's jailed tutor six years later, but the truth is if Negan gets back into "dominate" mode, which is quite likely, things could quickly stall once again, especially without Rick to counter his megalomaniacal presence.

Best: The Angela Kang factor

Scott Gimple has been the Walking Dead showrunner since the middle of season 3, but right on cue with the announcement of that decade-plus long-term vision, Gimple will now be overseeing the entire Walking Dead universe, which has grown considerably and could easily go further.

As a result, The Walking Dead itself has a new showrunner in Angela Kang. The choice seems to be a good one, as Kang is the perfect balance of experience and new energy. For one thing, she's a Walking Dead veteran, having joined the show as a story editor and then later a writer back in season 2. But while her experience with TWD is nearly as old as the show itself, her arrival has sparked hopes that the new showrunner may not be just bringing more of the same. Many of the episodes she's penned are rife with chaos. She's much of the reason you've been overwhelmed and on the edge of your seat over the years.

It seems like Kang in the driver's seat could bring back some of the "old school" TWD that we saw at the show's peak in seasons 4 and 5. If Kang really does put a new twist on things, it could be just the boost that this flagging series needs heading into the future.

Worst: How much is too much?

The easiest point to make against AMC's ten-year plan for The Walking Dead is the elephant in the room: nine seasons is a lot for any show. Things are already on quite a different trajectory from the comics source material, with countless adjustments and changes having been made along the way. Take the death of Carl in season 8, for instance. While the argument still rages over whether it was a good idea, the truth for the future of the universe is that Carl didn't die in the comics, which means any parallels to the comics in the future are going to have to be tied in without him around.

From Carl's death to the loss of two lead actors and the growing list of major departures from the source material, it's getting harder not to wonder how much more fans really want to see at this point. While many of the recent developments hint toward a hopeful future that could be as exciting and epic as the past, the honest answer to the "how much more do you want" question might be "not much."