The untitled spin-off of AMC’s beloved zombie franchise will be a short-lived series in the massive franchise the network hopes to keep going. Walking Dead: World Beyond is, essentially, a limited series. The show will premiere on AMC on April 12, 2020, but it will only run for two seasons. This seems like a bold move, but it also makes some sense. AMC wants The Walking Dead to go on, ostensibly, forever. Only three characters who appeared in the first season of the series still live. There is Norman Reedus’ Darryl Dixon, Melissa McBride’s Carol Peletier, and Lennie James’ Morgan Jones. When these actors eventually leave their roles, the show will go on without them. Yet, along with the main series, AMC wants to expand the universe. Yet, they run the risk of oversaturation.
With the main series, Fear the Walking Dead, and the proposed trilogy of Rick Grimes films, Walking Dead: World Beyond enters a crowded space. If all these series continue with orders of at least ten episodes, that means the Walking Dead story would be on-the-air for half a year. That’s a lot of zombie apocalypse. So, the idea that this newest series will tell a complete story over a finite number of episodes is interesting. It seems more designed for the world of the Streaming Wars than traditional cable. The question that remains is if it will work.
Why Walking Dead: World Beyond Running Only 20 Episodes Is Exciting
Image by Sarah Shatz via AMC
When we celebrated the 15th anniversary of LOST last year, we had to note that during the middle of the series’ run the writers spun their wheels. They had to continue to tell a story that had a definitive end without knowing when (or if) that end would come. Arguably, Fear the Walking Dead is in the same place. It tries to distinguish itself from its sister series, but it struggles. The next season, which sees all the main characters split up, is its way of trying to mix things up and stay fresh. Walking Dead: World Beyond won’t have to do that.
The storytellers go into the series knowing exactly how long they have to tell the story they want to. If the series is a huge hit, it’s possible that those characters could turn up in a new Walking Dead property. Even if they don’t, it will be a discrete story with a beginning, a middle, and (most importantly) an end. A rarity in the age of prestige TV, with only HBO’s Watchmen and Netflix’s Amazon Prime’s Good Omens in its company. AMC is openly experimenting here as the landscape of serial storytelling changes.
As Sarah Barnett said at TCA, via Forbes:
“What we’re doing next is experimenting. We’re making a movie with Universal featuring the Rick Grimes character. And the third television series in this universe, World Beyond, focuses on the generation of survivors who have grown up post-apocalypse. Led by two young female leads, it is a perfect advancing of the universe in ways that are multi-generational, fresh and unexpected. It is not imitating The Walking Dead either in substance or form – World Beyond is a two-season closed-ended series that will tell a very specific and distinct story. Scott Gimple, the chief content officer of this universe, and his team are planning other experiments in this space, including specials, digital short-form series and other innovations in form.”
Image by Sarah Shatz via AMC
When trying to decide if he should turn an idea into a film or a series, Aaron Sorkin asks himself what about the story interests him. If it’s the characters, he writes a movie. If it’s the setting, he turns it into a series. AMC, it seems, has an embarrassment of riches in that they care about both things. Walking Dead: World Beyond shows how they can maximize that idea. They can tell a finite story, like a film, about a set of characters. But the setting of the world post-zombie apocalypse is rife with potential. They could, with luck and skill, tell stories set in this universe forever.
What do you think? Are you excited that Walking Dead: World Beyond is a limited series? Will AMC be able to keep the franchise going? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
Featured image via AMC
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.