As The Walking Dead gears up for the back half of its sixth season and some major comic milestones, with years of issues untapped for source material, there isn’t much consideration of an end in sight. That said, AMC’s longest series only lasted seven seasons, so how long do network bosses really see it going? Might Fear, or another spinoff ever take the reigns?

After all, certain stars would only keep themselves tethered to one TV series for a number of years, and even Andrew Lincoln doesn’t likely intend to stick around as long as the comic Rick has. Speaking to Vulture however, AMC programming boss Joel Stillerman says that the network has no intent to map out an ending anytime in the next few years, in keeping with the comics:

If you ask [Robert Kirkman] what his motivations were for writing The Walking Dead, he would say, “I loved zombie movies, but I just felt like the worst part of them was always the ending. You always had to manufacture some ending.” So he set out to write this totally open-ended story, and the proof of that is in how vibrant the comics are.

The answer to how long the show will go on in some way is directly correlated with the health of the storytelling in the comics. Those comics are firing on all cylinders. He still writes every line of dialogue in those books, and is as engaged as he was when I think he was sitting around in Kentucky writing the first issue. That is very much part of the DNA of the show. He sort of felt like, in real life, this goes on for a very long time. We’re along for that ride.

Adds network head Charlie Collier:

I will tell you we are not actively talking about the end of The Walking Dead. We’re talking about how to keep this No. 1 show on television feeling as fresh as it does in season six. As a brand, we’re very sensitive to making sure that every aspect of it feels fresh and original, and that it’s not treated in any way that’s derivative or taken for granted. Our planning is current and future-focused, and it is not focused on the end at this time.

That said, both Collier and Stillerman also spoke to questions of the network’s commitment to new ideas, given the tandem announcement of Breaking Bad prequel Better Call Saul and Walking Dead “companion series” Fear The Walking Dead. In both cases, rich ideas from prize talent led the way, rather than network pressure, but could we see a third Walking Dead series before long? Says Collier:

We are open to ideas that feel organic to the creators in whom we’ve put our trust. So if Robert had a world he wanted to explore, you can bet that we are not just leaning into that conversation, but we’re actively engaging in it. Right now we’re not in that conversation.

Still, one imagines The Walking Dead will have to face its own mortality sometime in the next few years, particularly as seasons and talent grow more expensive, but how long should we really expect the series to endure? Could spinoffs and companion series keep Dead alive as long as AMC wants?

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