As we build up towards the premiere of season four of AMC’s hit zombie drama The Walking Dead, the network announced plans for a spin-off series. The action will be set in the same world, but, to quote creator Robert Kirkman, “isn’t tethered by the events of the comic book.” Aside from that, we don’t know anything about what this new show will entail. However, as avid watchers, and at times critics, of The Walking Dead, we have a handful of suggestions, things we’d like to see, and ideas for the direction of this new series to go in order to blaze its own trail and set it apart from the source material.
Anywhere but Georgia
Nothing against the Peach State, but we get how things are going down there, and we’re interested to see how people are managing to survive in other places. Ideally, it would be great to see how other areas of the world have handled the zombie outbreak, like Europe, South America, Australia, or anywhere really. Considering the fact that The Walking Dead is a show created largely for American audiences, this course of action would be a hard sell, one that doesn’t seem likely. But that doesn’t mean you can’t explore other options.
How are people in New York handling the zombie uprising? Or in the heart of the Rocky Mountains? Geography is going to play a huge part in the way you survive. We’ve seen that the walkers have limited fine motor skills, so being able to climb a mountain gives you a different set of options for escape and survival. This could answer questions like how they’re impacted by weather. Winter in Minnesota is a whole different animal compared to winter in the deep south. Does the hot, dry summer of the American Southwest have any bearing on how long the zombies last, how well they are preserved? Do they become walking jerky sticks? Over the course of soon-to-be-four seasons, we’ve seen the walkers change and decay. Depending on the climate, this could speed up or slow down the process.
Confine the Action
The Walking Dead works best when the episodes are confined to a specific situation, so we hope that the spinoff is intentionally planned with a beginning, middle and end in mind. If everyone has a goal from the very start, then all the wheel spinning that happens in alternating episodes of could be eradicated. We don’t really want to see more, “We have to get to this place by this time” plots, but if there’s a solid through line, one that incorporates strong characters with an obvious purpose, we’re down. At the end of the day, we want to see a story being told rather than watch a group of people wander around until some problems fall into their lap.
Take an Anthology Approach
Again, this idea would be a hard sell to the network honchos, but an anthology style show could be a unique way to approach the spin-off. Sure, the show might turn out jumbled and scattered, and the lack of a core of characters for an audience to care about could prove problematic, but it would also afford producers a chance tell a wide variety of stories. One week you could tune in to look over the shoulders of CDC scientists in a lab somewhere trying to hammer out a cure, the next week you follow the remnants of a military unit as they respond to the first wave of attacks, and we could witness how a tribe in sub-Saharan Africa responds to the walking dead.
The possibilities inherent in this approach are constrained only by the limitations of the writer’s imaginations. This strategy enables the show to tell any potential story they can come up with. If a single narrative per week is too limiting, one possibility would be to follow the path laid out by shows like American Horror Story, where each season follows a different story with different characters. It’s a long shot, but one that, if executed well, could yield fantastic results.
Give the Characters Real Backstories
Even if this new show takes place entirely during the zombie uprising, this series needs to at least incorporate flashbacks into the lives of the characters before we meet them. Kirkman largely avoids intricate backstories, but gets away with it by creating rich, full characters. This is something the TV adaptation hasn’t done well. The only reason we give a crap about most of the characters on The Walking Dead is because we bring our comic fandom to the table. None of them are fleshed out or well rounded, even though they stick to their character types quite well. We’re not asking for really heady character work done on Lost, or even Breaking Bad, but if these are entirely new characters, we’re going to need more from them than just knowing none of them want to be eaten by zombies, two of them are brothers, and that two of them slept together.
Reset the Clock
One potential tactic could be to move far into the future. This would give creators the opportunity to explore how the plague plays out over time. We would see the long-term effects, and again, the possibilities are limitless. You could see groups or individuals that have developed survival strategies with a longer end game in mind. That could mean any variety of encampments or groupings. Perhaps they could leap so far ahead that the zombies have largely died off, where most of them have decomposed to a point where they are no longer a threat. Maybe someone even found a cure. Instead of being about zombies, the offshoot could be about the rebuilding of the world they destroyed. You can almost envision something along the lines of NBC’s Revolution, where the world has altered in a precipitous manner, and those that remain have to find a way to cope, survive, and thrive. There’s room for individual stories, as well as larger power struggles between various camps.
Some have suggested that the series could pick up the adventures of a grown up Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs), or even his newborn baby sister Judy. While that would certainly link the two shows, knowing they survive takes some of the tension out of the present series, and right now they need every ounce of oomph they can scrounge.
On the other side of this coin, what about setting the series just prior to the initial outbreak? The central characters are living their normal lives, but more and more people become affected and their community is eventually overrun by zombies. This is, of course, the manner in which a thousand and one zombie films have approached the material. But it’s usually all but one or two characters in zombie movies that are written purely as bait, and a TV show could really give this scenario a couple of shambling legs to stand on. If the series actually gets to the heart of everyday reality becoming distorted due to gradual and increasingly frightening zombie appearances, I’m definitely on board.
Take a Different Approach
Along the same lines, it would be fantastic to see the spinoff take a different approach to the life of the survivors. We’ve seen how they exist on the road, as Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and company move from location to location, searching for a place to call home. Each time they think they’ve found a permanent spot to settle, something goes wrong and everything goes to hell. We saw that at Hershel’s (Scott Wilson) farm, and we’re going to see it this season with the prison. Not having to move constantly lends itself to an entirely different type of drama.
While there are surely many groups roaming the zombie-infested wastes, there have to be others out there that managed to stay put. We saw it with Woodbury, which is one option, but there are a variety of other possible approaches, each with its own set of positives and negatives. In an urban setting survivors could have barricaded themselves in an apartment building or high-rise. This is a scenario explored by Bob Fingerman in his novel Pariah. There they can have a larger group, but broken down into individual stories and characters within each apartment, section, or social clique. How do you get food and supplies when you’re surrounded by a hungry horde of undead cannibals? What does being cooped up like this do to you psychologically? There are numerous avenues the show could explore.
The Walking Dead spinoff could also an artificial created space, like a frontier fort. As interesting as this is, that’s already been touched on with Woodbury, and also as Kirkman’s comics progress, Rick and his merry band come across a number of similar walled communities. However, in coastal regions, or near large lakes, it would be interesting to see if a band of survivors could retake an entire island. We haven’t really seen how the walkers deal with bodies of water larger than small rivers, and this could provide a different kind of environment. It is entirely possible to clear a decent sized island of zombies and recreate a facsimile of the world of the past. People could live in houses, you could clear land to farm, and it would definitely create a different standard of living from the core program.
Similar to this, you could also show survivors taking to the sea. There could be groups in smaller boats and yachts, all the way up to commandeered military vessels like aircraft carriers or super tankers (thanks for the idea, Waterworld). Ships like these can hold thousands, stay out to sea for months on end, and are like floating cities unto themselves. There is a wealth of stories to mine there. You could even get an entire fleet together; as fuel runs out, wind power would become more important; and throwing pirates into the mix would up the ante even more.
Basically we would like to see how other people survived and continue to survive. We want to see how they made it through, survive on a day-to-day basis, and watch their group and society continue to evolve over time.
Plus: One Drastic Bonus Approach
For what it’s worth, we’d also like to see a spinoff web series that just features Carl Grimes standing in front of a rapid-fire pitching machine. Sure it would be a short-lived project, but one that could be hugely satisfying.
What do you think of these suggestions? Do you think another show is a good idea or a disaster waiting to happen? How would you like to see AMC handle The Walking Dead spin-off?