Warning! Spoilers below for The Walking Dead's latest episode, so be sure to watch before reading on.
With "What Comes After," The Walking Dead had the major challenge of wrapping up Rick Grimes' epic tale, but audiences weren't initially aware that Rick's story wasn't actually ending. In fact, his shocking helicopter ride is opening up The Walking Dead universe in a completely game-changing way, with all kinds of new projects in active development. We're talking past, present and future timelines and characters, too. Scott Gimple, who was promoted earlier this year as an overarching Dead-verse producer, said this:
We have a lot on the horizon -- starting with a new epic featuring one of the greatest leading actors in television history and one of the best people I've ever met. These films are going to be big evolutions of what we've been doing on the show, with the scope and scale of features. We're starting with the first part of the continuing story of Rick Grimes, and there is much more on the way, featuring yet-unseen worlds of The Walking Dead and faces from the show's past, as well as new characters we hope to become favorites, told by TWD veterans and emerging voices. We want to break new ground with different, distinct stories, all part of the same world that's captured our imagination for nearly a decade of the Dead.
As bonkers as it was to watch Rick actually survive everything that went down in the episode, it was even weirder to learn immediately afterward that Rick is being prepped for more stories within this ever-expanding world. Perhaps even more exciting is thinking about all of the other characters besides Rick that will draw focus for their own standalone projects.
The details are being worked out as far as how and when AMC will bring about its new movies plan, but David Madden, AMC Studios' President of Original Programming, did confirm that this won't just be a television venture. In his words:
We believe this is a world and narrative with many possibilities and opportunities for character development and we're excited to expand the series into a franchise that can live across multiple formats. For many years, fans have talked about things in the apocalypse they want to see and now we have an opportunity to explore those stories, beginning with the character who started it all, Rick Grimes.
While waiting to see exactly what's been cooking at the Walking Dead offices, let's break down all of the different expansion concepts and ideas that were brought up in AMC's exciting announcement, which was also revealed by Scott Gimple himself on Talking Dead.
Rick Grimes Movies: As stated, the first idea that will apparently come to fruition when launching the inflated Dead-verse is a series of full-length movies that will follow Rick in the weeks, months, and possibly years after he was saved by Jadis. No big details were revealed, of course, but it looks like Andrew Lincoln is perfectly fine with reprising his iconic role so long as he's not having to leave his UK home for the months needed to bring the TV seasons to life.
Interestingly, it doesn't sound like they're going theatrical with these features, and will instead possibly opt for release through AMC's digital subscription service.
Additional Movies, Series and Specials: Perhaps understandably, Andrew Lincoln's Rick won't be the only Walking Dead character who gets to command a larger piece of the narrative puzzle through standalone films and the like. It turns out AMC is planning on setting up other film and series projects that aren't necessarily tied to Rick Grimes' story, along with one-off specials.
Could this be where Jeffrey Dean Morgan gets to show off even more skills for a movie or miniseries based on his villain's origin-tale comic Here's Negan?
Former Characters Will Be Used: The plan to make movies based on Rick is a natural one, since he was the show's main character for nine seasons, But The Walking Dead has had a ton of now-dead characters that were absolutely deserving of their own projects.
It's possible audiences could be watching projects based on Abraham's group before they crossed paths with Team Family, Alexandria's formation under the to-be-exiled Davison, or perhaps adaptations of Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga's tie-in novels about The Governor. (Let's get David Morrissey back, pronto!) I can't say I'm optimistic that Steven Yeun will be interested in reprising the role of Glenn, though.
New Characters Will Be Used: Just as The Walking Dead has plenty of former characters to use as narrative fodder, the comic book series features tons of past and future characters that the TV show hasn't directly adapted yet. The AMC series did introduce Magna's crew in that wild time jump at the end of "What Comes After," and we know we're getting the Whisperers soon.
But there's also the massive Commonwealth location (that is possibly where Georgie is from, and where Rick is headed) that is full of new characters to use. Plus, it might be sweet to get a standalone special about characters like Juanita "Princess" Sanchez before they are officially introduced to the flagship series.
Other Parts of the World Will Show Up: For years, fans have been asking about seeing The Walking Dead take its post-apocalyptic stories to different locations around the world to see what the global situation is like. Scott Gimple has been positive, if vague, about it it in the past, and Fear the Walking Dead did at least take characters south of the border. But Gimple has now confirmed that the new content will indeed take characters around the world.
I think this could be how fans get to see an adaptation of the only Walking Dead comic that wasn't written by Robert Kirkman, The Walking Dead: The Alien, by Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin. That one-shot took place in Spain and centered on Rick Grimes' brother, so it would be crazy-exciting to see it in live-action.
Some Stories Will Be Connected, But Not All of Them: With Lennie James' Morgan, The Walking Dead made its first official crossover with Fear the Walking Dead, and fans can expect to see several of the future spinoff projects also being tethered back to home base.
The Rick-focused movies will obviously have similar through-lines to the TV series', but not everything will be meant to come together in narrative harmony. The aforementioned Alien comic, for instance, had no rhyme or reason to connect back to the major narrative, and Scott Gimple and his creative teams will presumably create similar one-off stories for certain characters and situations.
For now, The Walking Dead franchise is merely limited to just the TV series, comics, Fear spinoff, video games, board games, toys and more. Expect to see an even more wallet-gouging push on merchandising in the coming years, too. But don't forget to keep tuning into the show on AMC every Sunday night at 9:00 p.m. Of course, our fall TV premiere schedule has all your viewing needs that don't necessarily feature people getting their faces bitten off.