Much like an actual zombie apocalypse, The Walking Dead is taking over the world. If Season 4's premiere garnering 16 million viewers isn't proof enough of this, the fact we'll also be getting a Walking Dead Spinoff certainly is.
I can imagine 'spinoff' is a new buzzword among studio heads, especially over at AMC. As well as The Walking Dead, we can also expect to receive a spinoff of — arguably their most critically acclaimed series — Breaking Bad. Whereas we know a bit about this project, titled Better Call Saul, information about The Walking Dead spinoff (or 'companion series' as it's been officially designated) hasn't been so forthcoming.
But don't for a second think that hasn't stopped the cast and creators from speculating. The Hollywood Reporter caught up with them to grab their ideas about the spin-off. They mentioned everything from zombie islands, child communes and even space dragons (yep), so in that vein here are our ideas for what The Walking Dead spin-off should look like.
1. Show the early stages of the apocalypse
Sure, the whole waking up in the zombie Armageddon is pretty awesome (I mean, look at 28 Days Later), but Season 1 of The Walking Dead inevitably had to miss a pretty neat trick — seeing civilization collapse while people get their faces gnawed off by their recently reanimated neighbors.
The original series gave us a few hints at what happened in character flashbacks, but the spinoff series is under no such restrictions. I want to see people awaking to troubling news reports, confusion in the streets and cars careering into other cars. I want to see panic erupt during the morning rush-hour as the shambling undead nonchalantly ample their way through suburbia.
Not only will this just be awesome, it'll also provide a refreshing change from the original Walking Dead series. Simply recreating the same formula is redundant and cynical. Showing the genesis of the rise of the walker is a great way of differentiating the shows whilst also providing continuity.
2. Set it in a new, different location
Similar to point 1, the spinoff will have to have a different setting to keep it original and justify having a companion series at all. I'm sure no one really wants to see another zombie series set in sleepy American towns or, god forbid, quiet Georgian farms. Don't get me wrong, I like The Walking Dead's setting — in fact, as far as zombie shows/movies go, it's one of the more interesting locales — but if we're going to get more Walking Dead goodness, I want to see it set somewhere else.
Personally, I'd be quite interested to see a series set predominantly in an urban area. Of course, Season 1 gave us a few episodes set in Atlanta and that's something I'd like to see more of. I know being in a major metropolitan area is the worst place to be when the dead start wandering around looking for man-sushi, but to give it a distinct style I think it might be necessary. How about a Walking Dead set in Detroit or even Las Vegas? What about a different country? I mean what's going on in Europe at this time? Now that's something I'd like to see.
3. Adopt a Game of Thrones approach to offing characters
Now, The Walking Dead hardly shies away from killing off their cast. But let's be honest, we kind of know who's NOT going to die. As the series' lead character, we all know Rick Grimes is basically invincible to zombies (and it seems being hit by bullets). This means whenever Rick tangles with the undead, you know he's going to make it out alive — the only question which which particular deus ex machina will come to his rescue. The same also goes for Daryl and to a lesser extent Michonne and Carl. Now, I'm not saying I want these characters to die, all I'm saying is I want it to be a possibility.
This is something Game of Thrones does very well (primarily because it sticks closely to the source material). Now, there might be some characters who are approaching Rick Grime-esque levels of invulnerability, but for the most part everyone is open to getting their back stabbed at any possibility. As a result, GoT remains tense, exciting and unpredictable.
Not having a monolithic main character also has an interesting side-effect — the writing for all the main characters has to be of an equally high standard. In Game of Thrones even the subsidiary characters are fully fleshed out and realized. This is what I want to see in The Walking Dead spinoff. Luckily, it seems things might be going this way. There has recently been talks of an event in Season 4 which will rival Game of Thrones' character-murdering Red Wedding episode.
4. Less is more.
OK. I'm predicting this one may be a bone of contention among some Walking Dead fans. I'm a firm believer that less is more — or at the very least, more is not always better. Stories need to have a beginning, a middle and and end. That's something we all learned in our first English class. Sure, it sounds basic, but it is also fundamental to crafting a good story.
I'm starting to get concerned that the ratings and financial success of The Walking Dead could lead us into a Lost or 24 scenario. Remember the first seasons of those shows? They were so successful the networks immediately ordered a load more seasons without really thinking about the direction of the story. When this happens the overall plot suffers, writing teams start going down ridiculous story arches and the show stagnates as a result. Who do you know who still talks about 24 and Lost? That's right, no one. What about Breaking Bad, The Sopranos and The Wire? Those shows knew when to end, and as a result they've become timeless.
The AMC head honchos have already hinted that The Walking Dead could almost continue indefinitely. Now, that might be music to the ears of some fans, but it worries me. The spinoff series presents an opportunity to deliver a concise and well-crafted show which follows a predetermined story to its natural conclusion. Call me old fashioned, but that's what I like.
5. Keep crossovers subtle
With spinoffs, there's always the urge to throw in crossovers with the mother series — especially when ideas start running dry. Now, I'm not completely adverse to the odd crossover, but lets keep them subtle, supportive of the story and infrequent. In fact, if the spinoff is set in a completely different location or time period, characters from The Walking Dead appearing in the companion series might be essentially impossible.
Sure, we all like to see our favorite characters pop in other stuff, but sometimes we have to ask ourselves does it actually benefit the story or is it just a gimmick to draw in more viewers? Because in my experience, it's usually it's the latter.
So there are my five ways of making an awesome Walking Dead Spinoff. I'm sure a lot of you have strong opinions on the matter, many of which are contrary to mine. Please feel free to stick them in the comments section below and get a conversation brewing.
In the meantime keep tuning into The Walking Dead Season 4 on AMC on Sundays at 9.