[This story contains spoilers for the Walking Dead comic book series.]
Among the common threads between Sunday television juggernauts Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead, there’s the fact that the AMC zombie drama appears to be closing in on its source material … then again, appearances can be deceiving.
Despite the fact that The Walking Dead has officially entered the territory of “All-Out War,” a massive arc from Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard’s comic books, the creative forces behind the scenes of the apocalyptic series insist that there’s no risk of the show outpacing the events of the ongoing comics.
“With some plans we have for the future, I don’t think so,” showrunner Scott M. Gimple told The Hollywood Reporter when asked if Walking Dead is on pace to move past the comic books. “I think it’s unlikely, but it depends where the book stops.”
As of right now, there’s no sign that the books are stopping anytime soon. The current Walking Dead arc takes place several years after the current events of the television series, with Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and his allies — including Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), believe it or not — contending with the fallout from yet another war.
What’s more, Gimple has said that the AMC series might slow down to focus on some of the events from the comic’s time jump, during which a variety of changes within Alexandria and the surrounding communities take place, including one fan-favorite becoming a pirate of sorts. With that said, Kirkman isn’t concerned that the show will pull a Game of Thrones, which soared past George R.R. Martin’s currently published material in its sixth season.
“I don’t know if anyone sat down to do the math, but if the show is gaining on the comic book, it’s at a very slow pace,” the comic book writer and executive producer told THR. “We’re expanding storylines so every now and then we zip through the comic book, and then we slow down for a while and add a bunch of stuff that’s not in the comics. There’s not any danger of that happening in any way.”
“When we get to season 20, then I think we’ll be caught up,” added executive producer David Alpert. “And at that point, we’ll have to have Robert really pick up the pace [with the comics].”
Kirkman joked, “If we say season 20 too often around Andrew Lincoln, he will murder us, and then you won’t have to worry about anything!”
No need for anyone to get murdered over The Walking Dead, unless it’s within the show’s universe. After all, as Kirkman points out, the show has a history of slowing down for a greater focus on events from the comics, stretching certain stories and moments beyond their original iterations. The first season of the series roughly chronicled the first arc of the comic books, for instance, though it saved the death of Shane Walsh (Jon Bernthal) until the end of season two. Season two focused almost entirely on the Greene family farm, which was only a major setting in the comic books for a handful of issues. The Woodbury and prison arc extended from season three until the middle of season four, perhaps a shorter run than expected given the prominence of those stories in the comics. Famously, the first half of season six (as well as the midseason premiere) took place over little more than a single day, showing just how much the TV series is willing to drill down into the nitty-gritty of the zombie apocalypse.
As it stands, the eighth season of The Walking Dead is poised to cover “All-Out War,” which lasts 12 issues in the comics. Multiple arcs have occurred since then, including “The Whisperer War,” which sees Rick’s group battling an army of men and women who wear skin suits and walk among the dead. Add to that Gimple’s stated intention of exploring off-page stories that take place during the time jump, and it’s easy to see how Walking Dead can continue following the comic books’ lead for years to come.
Do you think Walking Dead will ever catch up to the comics? Sound off in the comments below, and keep checking THR.com/WalkingDead for more reports from the zombie apocalypse.