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SYFY WIRE The Walking Dead

How did ‘The Walking Dead’ series finale differ from the comic’s ending?

Not surprisingly, things were very different on the small screen.

By Trent Moore
The Walking Dead Finale Season 11 Episode 24

The series finale of AMC’s long-running horror series The Walking Dead aired Sunday night, looking to wrap up 11 seasons of zombie adventures while also trying to tell a story that still remained at least somewhat true to Robert Kirkman’s acclaimed comic book that inspired it all.

**Spoilers ahead for The Walking Dead series finale**

So how do the two endings stack up, and how close did the TV version stay to the comic version? Not surprisingly, they’re incredibly different — though they do at least try to strike some of the same notes (albeit in very different ways).

First up, the short version of how the TV series ended last night: The big face-off with Pamela Milton and the Commonwealth arrives, as our survivors help lead a coup of sorts against the corrupt Pamela, who is abandoning her people to be devoured by a walker horde while she holds up in the more fortified capital part of the city. Not surprisingly, the people of the Commonwealth are fairly keen to overthrow her for that, and her reign comes to an end as our survivors take a more active role in the community’s governance.

As for that zombie horde, it does take out a key fan favorite — series mainstay Rosita (Christian Serratos) — who is bitten during the escape from the horde and doesn’t reveal her infection until a bit later. It adds plenty of bitter to the sweet of the ending, which is only fitting for how this show has worked along the way.

The action soon jumps to one year later, where we see Ezekiel is the new leader of the Commonwealth, with former general Mercer as his second in command. We also get set-up for the spinoffs, with Daryl riding off into the sunset on a mystery mission, and Maggie talking about how they need to start learning more about the world further beyond their borders. There’s also a tease to Rick and Michonne’s return in their looming miniseries event.

The show fades to black on a largely open-ended and hopeful note, with the next generation of survivors looking to rebuild and try to finally create a better world.

The Walking Dead 193

As for the comic’s ending? Kirkman caught everyone by surprise when he abruptly wrapped the comic with little warning in 2019, but it made for a fitting and open ending that felt true to the story he was telling. In the comics, Rick remained a key character all the way to the very end of the story, until he is unceremoniously murdered by Pamela Milton’s son in the comic’s final arc. We get a relatively similar revolution in the Commonwealth, though it’s Rick leading the charge as opposed to the ensemble approach we see in the TV series.

But that one year jump is nothing compared to the comic’s final story. After Rick’s death, the comic jumps ahead decades and picks up with a now-adult Carl Grimes (who is still alive in the comics), effectively getting into legal trouble for killing a walker. The walker in question is part of a traveling sideshow led by Maggie’s also-now-adult son Hershel, which he peddles to communities to give them a peek at what the old days were like. As for Carl, he’s living a Daryl Dixon-esque life as a messenger and traveller out into the world beyond.

Through Carl’s journey, the comic catches up with several other survivors, including his now-wife Sophia (who never died in the comics), Eugene (who is rebuilding the railroad to reconnect the country), Michonne (who is now a judge), and Maggie (who is now president). The story ends with Carl recounting the saga of his father, Rick Grimes, to his daughter. 

Considering how many present-day spinoffs they’ve set up, and the fact that many of these key characters aren’t around anymore, there was little chance we’d get the same type of far-flung time jump coda we saw in the comics.

But the spirit of that ending is there in different ways, most notably the hope they’ll eventually create a better world. Or at least keep working toward one.

If you're looking to satisfy your zombie craving immediately, head over to Peacock and check out the movie that kickstarted the entire genre: George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead. Or check out the SYFY original series, Day of the Dead.