The Walking Dead has always been known for its revolving door of characters. There was a time a few seasons ago when it seemed like a beloved character was being killed off every other episode. Whether their arc had come to an end, or you swore they still had so much story potential left, the show characterized itself by letting audiences know no one was ever completely safe.
Now it looks like the happy trigger fingers of the writers has transitioned to the actors. It started with the departure of Andrew Lincoln at the beginning of season nine, who had led the show since day one. Lauren Cohan then left for another show, which ended up flopping, followed by Tom Payne requesting to be written off. And now the news has broken that Danai Gurira will be leaving as well, all while the show is dropping hints that Khary Payton’s King Ezekiel may not be around for much longer.
Key characters have been suddenly removed before, but it has always been planned and written in as plot points. That has ended up working out in the long run, though, because sudden character departures is what audiences expect. For most shows, that many main cast members leaving would spell complete and utter disaster. For The Walking Dead, it has proven the show can survive by doing what it has been for years.
The series managed to overcome the departure of Andrew Lincoln by essentially revamping the entire style of the show. Season nine marked the beginning of an entirely new The Walking Dead, run by new showrunner Angela Kang. As the cast keeps dropping off, and characters keep dying, that has allowed the show to still feel fresh and entertaining even while missing core characters that fans have come to love.
Horror is returning in ways never before seen from the zombie drama. The current plot thread with The Whisperers is as gripping as ever. And, after the reinvigoration of season nine, the world of The Walking Dead feels more vast and filled with strong characters than it ever has.
It’s okay that the main cast seems to keep going away. Those that are choosing to leave end up serving as yet another classic, surprising death the show has all but coined as its own thing. Not only are there still the likes of Norman Reedus, Melissa McBride or Jeffrey Dean Morgan around to serve as a lead of sorts; there’s so much potential being set up for other side characters to rise up if the need ever arises.
The brilliant thing about The Walking Dead nowadays is that it has set itself up for continued success. It’s managing to work out certain deals with actors like Lincoln and Gurira to appear in spin-off movies. And it’s gotten the main show to a point where it doesn’t need one, specific leading actor. The whole cast serves as the main character, with each representing a unique and defined part of a whole.
The show, like the walkers plaguing its fictional world, continues to keep rising up from what should be a series of death sentences. And with how things are looking, it could continue one for a whole ten seasons more. Whether that’s with the cast it has now, or names and faces we have yet to meet, either is possible for the revolving door of a show that is this zombie television series.
Jackson Horvat is a sophomore studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Do you agree? Tell Jackson by tweeting him at @horvatjackson.