The Walking Dead rocked comic-book readers with its debut in 2003, and since then has taken us on an exhilarating and often desperate adventure with Rick Grimes and countless survivors, and today, with little fanfare or buildup, the series ends as abruptly as it began with issue #193.
The decision comes seemingly from out of nowhere, with fans only recently wondering if creators Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore had a surprise up their sleeves for issue 200, which would have released in the near future. In a manner of speaking, they did, but with the closing of a saga rather than a shocking twist to explore in the world. Fair warning, dear readers, what lies ahead is about as spoiler heavy as it gets.
Rick Grimes, the initial main protagonist of the series and ongoing force dealing with most of the major events in every story arc, is dead. Murdered without warning in his bed, launching readers far ahead in time to see a now fully-grown Carl Grimes telling the tale of his father, the man considered a legend to survivors of the world, to his own young daughter.
The final issue gives insight into the life that people have come to know, including a general feeling of peace as Walkers are hardly ever seen, and those who keep them as property by certain characters, highlighting a drastic shift in the perception of what was once a danger to all.
Kirkman penned a heartfelt letter to the fans in the final pages of the last issue,
“I hate knowing what's coming. As a fan, I hate it when I realize I’m in the third act of a movie and the story is winding down. I hate that I can count commercial breaks and know I’m nearing the end of a TV show. I hate that you can feel when you’re getting to the end of a book, or a graphic novel. Some of the best episodes of Game of Thrones are when they’re structured in such a way and paced to perfection so your brain can’t tell if it’s been watching for 15 minutes or 50 minutes ... and when the end comes ... you’re stunned.”
In the final words to his readers, Kirkman lays it all out, "The Walking Dead has always been built on surprise. Not knowing what’s going to happen when you turn the page, who’s going to die, how they’re going to die ... it’s been essential to the success of this series…It just felt wrong and against the very nature of this series not to make the actual end as surprising as all the big deaths ... from Shane all the way to Rick."
With this shocking close to the series, fans can do little but accept that the story is now over, but that the writer kept true to this vision from beginning to end. In a world where so many shows, films, and books encase their most popular characters in the most indestructible of plot armor, The Walking Dead always sought to subvert our expectations to the end.
In every sense of the word, the close of the series is an absolute triumph. Thank you, Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore, it has been an absolute pleasure taking this trip over nearly the past two decades.