The series is exclusively broadcast on cable channel AMC in the United States and internationally through the Fox Networks Group and Disney+. The series premiered on October 31, 2010. The eleventh and final season premiered on August 22, 2021, and is expected to air until 2022. AMC have also further developed the series into related media; a spinoff series, Fear the Walking Dead, premiered on August 23, 2015, and is currently airing its seventh season. A second spinoff, a two-season limited series, The Walking Dead: World Beyond, premiered on October 4, 2020. AMC announced plans for three films to follow Rick's story after Lincoln's departure. In 2020, two further spinoffs were announced: one focused on Reedus' and McBride's characters, and an anthology series to feature individual character backstories.
The Walking Dead takes place after the onset of a worldwide zombie apocalypse. The zombies, referred to as "walkers", shamble towards living humans and other creatures to eat them; they are attracted to noise, such as gunshots, and to different scents, e.g. humans. Although it initially seems that only humans that are bitten or scratched by walkers can turn into other walkers, it is revealed early in the series that all living humans carry the pathogen responsible for the mutation. The mutation is activated after the death of the pathogen's host, and the only way to permanently kill a walker is to damage its brain or destroy the body entirely, such as by cremating it.
The series centers on sheriff's deputy Rick Grimes, who wakes up from a coma. While in a coma, the world has been taken over by walkers. He becomes the leader of a group of survivors from the Atlanta, Georgia, region as they attempt to sustain and protect themselves not only against attacks by walkers but by other groups of survivors willing to use any means necessary to stay alive.
When sheriff's deputy Rick Grimes of King County, Georgia, wakes from a coma, he discovers the world has been overrun by zombies ("walkers"). After befriending Morgan Jones, Rick travels alone to Atlanta before finding his wife Lori, son Carl, and his police partner and best friend Shane Walsh in the woods with other survivors. After being attacked by walkers at night, the whole group travels back to Atlanta to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) building, but find from the sole remaining scientist that no cure yet exists for the pandemic.
Rick's group, searching for Carol's missing daughter, Sophia, takes shelter at a farm run by Hershel Greene. Tensions with Hershel's family worsen after it is discovered that he has a barn full of walkers: former friends and family members. Rick learns that Shane and Lori were romantically involved while he was in a coma, and that Lori is pregnant. Shane and Rick's friendship deteriorates, until Rick is forced to kill Shane in self-defense. The commotion attracts walkers to the farm, forcing Rick's group and Hershel's family to evacuate.
Eight months after fleeing the farm, Rick's group—sans Andrea, but with Hershel's family—finds a remote prison, which they make their new home after clearing it of walkers. Lori is killed from an emergency C section, and Rick starts to become unhinged and hallucinate. Andrea was rescued by Michonne and the two discover Woodbury, a fortified town led by a deceitful man known as "the Governor" who seeks to destroy the group at the prison. Rick's group launches a raid that destroys Woodbury, but the Governor kills Andrea and escapes. The remaining citizens of Woodbury move into the prison.
Several months after the Governor's attack, a deadly flu kills many of the people at the prison. The Governor finds Martinez, his former right-hand man and kills him, taking over his group before leading them into the prison. Rick's group is forced to separate and flee, while Hershel and the Governor are killed. The survivors, divided, face off against the undead and make new acquaintances. They all find numerous signs pointing to a safe haven called Terminus. Group by group, they reunite at Terminus, but Rick's group, sans Carol, is captured for an unknown purpose.
The residents of Terminus have become cannibals. Carol leads a charge that frees Rick's group. Some of the group are captured by a group of corrupt cops based out of Grady Memorial Hospital. After the group migrates to Virginia, a stranger named Aaron approaches, inviting them to join the fortified community of Alexandria, led by Deanna Monroe. They quickly realize the residents are ill-prepared to do what it takes to survive. Rick becomes attracted to Jessie Anderson and discovers she has an abusive husband. Deanna signals Rick to execute the man after he kills her husband as Morgan arrives unexpectedly.
The residents of Alexandria trust Rick's group to protect the town. A group known as the Wolves use a zombie horde to attack Alexandria, and Deanna and the entire Anderson family (among others) are killed. While recovering, Alexandria learns of a community called the Hilltop. A man called Jesus invites them to trade supplies with Hilltop if they can help end the threat of the extortionist Saviors led by a man named Negan. Although Rick's group decimate one Savior outpost, they are later caught by Negan and forced to submit to him.
Negan brutally murders Glenn and Abraham, initiating his rule over Alexandria. His actions initially lead Rick to submit, but Michonne persuades him to fight back. They encounter a community called the Scavengers and ask them for help. Carol and Morgan befriend King Ezekiel, the leader of the Kingdom, while Maggie and Sasha rally the Hilltop. Rosita and Eugene make a bullet to kill Negan. When the bullet is blocked by Lucille, Negan's baseball bat, Negan forcefully recruits Eugene as a Savior. The Saviors and turncoat Scavengers attack Alexandria but are repelled by Sasha's sacrifice and the aid of Kingdom and Hilltop soldiers.
Rick, Maggie, and Ezekiel rally their communities into war against Negan and the Saviors. Losses are heavy on both sides and many of the Kingdom's soldiers are killed. Alexandria falls to a Savior attack, and Carl is bitten by a walker. Before euthanizing himself, Carl convinces Rick to end the war and restart society anew. Negan attempts to wipe out Rick and his allies in a final battle, but Eugene thwarts his plan by sabotaging the Saviors' bullets. Rick then wounds Negan. Against Maggie's wishes, Negan is spared and imprisoned, ending the war.
Eighteen months after Negan's downfall, Rick proposes building a bridge to ease trading, but this leads to more resentment. Rick is seemingly killed when he destroys the bridge to prevent an invasion of walkers. Six years later, his absence triggers discourse between the communities, and a new walker-controlling threat named the Whisperers demand the survivors do not trespass their territory. Their leader, Alpha, has acquired a large horde of walkers that she will unleash if they do so. After her daughter Lydia abandons her mother's group for the Kingdom's, Alpha disowns her and massacres many residents during a fair.
Alpha begins breaking down the communities with seemingly random walker attacks and acts of sabotage. Under Carol's orders, Negan infiltrates the Whisperers and assassinates Alpha. Her right-hand man Beta takes command of the Whisperers, but he and the horde are defeated by the survivors. Eugene leads a group to West Virginia to meet a new group of survivors. Meanwhile, Michonne travels north to search for Rick after finding evidence he survived his apparent death.
With Alexandria needing food, Maggie leads a group to retake her old community of Meridian from a murderous gang of Afghanistan war veterans, the Reapers. Daryl is forced to join the Reapers as a mole after he discovers his former lover Leah is one of them. Leah kills and replaces her leader Pope, only to continue the fight against Maggie's group upon learning Daryl's true allegiance. Meanwhile, Eugene's group enters the Commonwealth, a massive prospering community, only to discover it has a strict class system.
The list below contains those that have been credited within the series' title sequence and those who are credited as "also starring". Recurring and guest stars are listed on the individual season pages.
Jeffrey DeMunn as Dale Horvath: An older member of the group who owned the RV in which a group of survivors traveled. Often the voice of reason within the group. (seasons 1–2)
Steven Yeun as Glenn Rhee: A former pizza delivery boy who saved Rick's life. Glenn begins a relationship with Maggie Greene and later marries her. Over the course of the series, Glenn becomes an integral member of the group known for his character and resourcefulness. (seasons 1–7)
Chandler Riggs as Carl Grimes: Rick and Lori's young son. Carl is forced to mature and learn to survive in the deadly new post-apocalyptic world. (seasons 1–8)
Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon: The group's primary hunter, Daryl becomes a key member of the group and Rick's trusted lieutenant. (seasons 2–11; recurring season 1)
Lauren Cohan as Maggie Greene: The eldest daughter of the Greene family, Maggie marries Glenn, becomes pregnant with their child and becomes the leader of the Hilltop Colony. (seasons 3–11; recurring season 2)
Danai Gurira as Michonne: A fierce, katana-wielding woman who joins Rick's group. Michonne eventually becomes Rick's romantic partner and a mother-figure to his son, Carl. (seasons 3–10)
Emily Kinney as Beth Greene: A soft-spoken teenage girl who enjoys singing, Beth is Hershel's younger daughter and Maggie's younger half-sister. (seasons 4–5; recurring seasons 2–3)
Chad L. Coleman as Tyreese Williams: Tough and compassionate, Tyreese places an emphasis on moral reasoning. He struggles to cope with the immoral nature of some of the group's survival tactics and finds it difficult to kill in defense of the group. (seasons 4–5; recurring season 3)
Josh McDermitt as Eugene Porter: A man who claims to know a cure for the walker virus, Eugene is cowardly and inefficient when dealing with walkers, but is very intelligent. (seasons 5–11; recurring season 4)
Lennie James as Morgan Jones: The first survivor Rick encounters in the first season. After suffering a psychological breakdown, he comes to peace with the world around him. (seasons 6–8; recurring season 5; special guest star season 3; guest season 1)
The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman is also an executive producer and writer of the television series.
On January 20, 2010, AMC officially announced that it had ordered a pilot for a possible series adapted from The Walking Dead comic book series, with Frank Darabont and Gale Anne Hurd acting as executive producers and Darabont writing and directing. The entire series was pre-ordered based just on the strength of the source material, the television scripts, and Darabont's involvement. In January 2010 a review of the pilot episode's script attracted further attention. The pilot began filming in Atlanta, Georgia on May 15, 2010 after AMC had officially ordered a six-episode first season. The series's remaining episodes began filming on June 2, 2010 with Darabont serving as showrunner. On August 31, 2010, Darabont reported that The Walking Dead had been picked up for a second season, with production to begin in February 2011. On November 8, 2010, AMC confirmed that there would be a second season consisting of 13 episodes. He would also like to include some of the "environmental elements" that take place during Volume 2 of Kirkman's book.
On December 1, 2010, Deadline Hollywood reported that Darabont had fired his writing staff, including executive producer Charles "Chic" Eglee, and planned to use freelance writers for the second season. Kirkman called the announcement "premature" and clarified that Eglee left to pursue other projects when Darabont decided to stay on as showrunner, and no definitive plans had been made regarding the writing staff for the second season.
[Chic Eglee] was brought onto The Walking Dead with the idea that Frank was going to work on the first season and then go off and do movies [...] Chic didn't want to be second-in-command on a show when he's used to being a top dog, and so he decided to go off and do something else, which is something that happens and is not a big deal.
On December 3, 2010, in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, executive producer Gale Anne Hurd commented: "It's completely inaccurate. [In] the writers' room, there are people that have set up other projects that will be their first priority if their own series is picked up as a pilot or if it's a series. I think [Eglee] just decided that he wants to run his own show." She revealed that it would be likely for the series to return in October 2011, as Darabont and Kirkman planned on mapping out the next season early in 2011. She also confirmed that, "every one of the principal cast is signed up for multiple seasons." In July 2011, series developer and showrunner Frank Darabont was fired from his position as showrunner for the series, over unethical business practices from AMC higher-ups (see Lawsuits below).
Executive producer Glen Mazzara was appointed the new showrunner in Darabont's place. New writers joined the writing staff in the second season, including co-executive producer Evan Reilly, producer Scott M. Gimple, story editor Angela Kang, and David Leslie Johnson. New writers in the third season included producers Nichole Beattie and Sang Kyu Kim, with Frank Renzulli contributing a freelance script.
After the conclusion of the third season, Glen Mazzara stepped down from his position as showrunner and executive producer for the series, per a mutual agreement between Mazzara and AMC. The press release read, "Both parties acknowledge that there is a difference of opinion about where the show should go moving forward, and conclude that it is best to part ways." Scott M. Gimple succeeded Mazzara as showrunner for the fourth season, with new writers joining the writing staff, such as Curtis Gwinn, Channing Powell, and Matt Negrete. In January 2018, it was announced that Gimple would be promoted to the newly created position of Chief Content Officer of the entire Walking Dead franchise, and that Angela Kang would replace him as showrunner beginning with the ninth season.
The television series generally tends to follow Kirkman's comic series across major characters and plots; for instance, events of the premiere episode of the seventh season correlate to events in issue #100 of the comics. The series does not attempt to go step-by-step with the comics, and has leeway in the narrative. In particular, the series's writers, along with Kirkman, often "transfer" how a character has died in the comics to a different character in the series. For example, in the fourth season, where Hershel Greene is beheaded by the Governor in the standoff with Rick's group at the prison; in the comic, Tyreese is the one who suffers this fate. Some of the television characters, like Carol, have far outlived their comic counterparts, while others that have already been killed off, like Sophia and Andrea, remained alive for some time in the ongoing comic series. In addition, the writers have included characters wholly novel to the series such as Daryl Dixon, which producer Gale Anne Hurd says helps to create a new dynamic for the series, and keeps the audience guessing from what had already been established in the comic series.
The Walking Dead has featured a large rotating ensemble cast. In most cases, because of the nature of the show, departure of actors from the show are determined by the writing, with characters either killed off or written off the show as necessary to develop the story. Cast members are generally told ahead of time if they have been written off the show, but otherwise kept to secrecy. For example, Steven Yeun, who played Glenn Rhee since the pilot through the season seven premiere, knew of his character's death for a year but had to keep quiet, while Chandler Riggs, playing Carl Grimes through the eighth season, was told of his character's departure during the filming in the weeks leading into his final episodes.
A few actors have left the show under their own terms due to other commitments or changes, with the writings adopting the plot around these changes:
Andrew Lincoln played the series's protagonist Rick Grimes since the pilot. Lincoln announced his plan to leave the show at the start of the ninth season, finding that having to spend half a year in the United States for filming left him missing out on his family in the United Kingdom. Lincoln completed five episodes in the season to close out Rick's storyline within the series, which will be continued in three films.
Lauren Cohan played Maggie Greene since the second season. As contract negotiations began for the ninth season, Cohan had been given the opportunity to star in Whiskey Cavalier, limiting how much time she would be able to give to the show. Cohan appeared as Maggie for the first five episodes of the season. In October 2019, it was confirmed that Cohan would return as a series regular for the eleventh season.
Danai Gurira played Michonne since the third season, and announced that she would be leaving the show after the tenth season, participating in a handful of episodes balanced against her other acting commitments.
Casting salaries for the principle actors have grown significantly over the course of the show, up through the seventh season. Overall, the salaries had been lower compared to other similar dramas, including AMC's own Mad Men, but this was justified due to the volatility of any character being potentially written off the show. Norman Reedus and Melissa McBride, playing Daryl Dixon and Carol Peletier respectively, had made around US$9,500 per episode during the first season, and by the seventh season, had gotten up to US$80,000 per episode. Lincoln himself was only earning US$90,000 per episode in the seventh season. By season nine, with the departure of Lincoln, Reedus had repeated secured a US$350,000 per episode pay plus additional incentives, potentially earning him US$50–90 million over three seasons. McBride similarly had gotten an extended contract in season nine worth US$20 million over three seasons. Both of these were intended to secure the pair as central figures for the show going forward in Lincoln's absence.
Bear McCreary was hired to compose the score for the series. McCreary stated that the main theme was based on his viewing of production designs for the opening title sequence. Instead of doing a full theme song as with his earlier works, McCreary chose to use a simple, repeating motif from the strings section.
It repeats over and over, and in fact in the pilot episode, you start hearing it before the main title begins, and this is something that continues episode to episode. You hear the main title music before the main title begins, so you know it's coming. That, to me, was the little hook – that little thing that, whenever you hear it, it takes you to the series.
Four soundtracks for The Walking Dead have been released to date. The Walking Dead: AMC Original Soundtrack, Vol. 1 was released on March 17, 2013. The second volume was released on March 25, 2014.Songs of Survival is a soundtrack for the third season and it was released on August 27, 2013, by Republic Records as a Walmart exclusive for the special edition release of the third season.Songs of Survival, Vol. 2 is a soundtrack for the fourth season and it was released on August 26, 2014, by Republic Records as a Walmart exclusive of the fourth season release.
Greg Nicotero is an executive producer and the key special effectsmakeup artist on the series. Each walker is put through "zombie school" and is taught how to move like zombies. There are three levels of zombie makeup: Hero, Midground, and Deep Background. Hero zombies are featured walkers and are completely made over from head to toe. Midground zombies get highlights and shadows on the face, but do not get close enough to the camera to require full makeup. Deep background zombies often wear masks and are only meant to be used as a backdrop.
The first season was shot primarily in Atlanta, but required a great deal of coordination with the city to shut down streets and parks for filming. Production for subsequent seasons moved mainly to Riverwood Studios (doing business as Raleigh Studios Atlanta), a plot of land covering approximately 120 acres (0.49 km2), located outside of Senoia, Georgia. Some existing buildings were used here, such as a subdivision that is used by several families, which serves as the Alexandria Safe-Zone. Other buildings are constructed as sets, such as the exterior shots of the main Hilltop mansion, the trash heaps used by the Scavengers, or Father Gabriel's church. Sets are torn down when no longer needed; the church, after its use in the fifth season, was removed and its spot used for the iconic setting for the first meeting between Rick's group and Negan in the seventh season. The property includes sound stages constructed for interior shots, which then may be reused; the interior sets for the prison during the third season were reused to serve as the buildings and sets for the Savior's Sanctuary in the seventh season. In July 2017, AMC purchased the studio lot from Riverwood for $8.25 million.
Some scenes are shot outside of the studio. Woodbury, during the third season, was filmed in downtown Senoia. Other exceptions include the Kingdom, which is filmed at the former military base Fort McPherson, now converted to studios for Tyler Perry.
The series was shot on 16 mm film up until the end of the tenth season before it transitioned to digital for the series' final 30 episodes. The change was due to the COVID-19 pandemic with there being less "touch points" with digital than film.David Tattersall was the director of photography for the pilot episode with David Boyd as the director of photography on the remainder of the episodes. Production design is done by Greg Melton and Alex Hajdu. The effects team includes veteran special effects makeup designers Greg Nicotero and Toby Sells, special effects coordinator Darrell Pritchett, and visual effects supervisors Sam Nicholson and Jason Sperling.
The Walking Dead debuted during the same week in 120 countries. As part of an expansive campaign to advertise and heighten anticipation for the premiere, AMC and Fox International Channels coordinated a worldwide zombie invasion event on October 26, 2010. The stunt involved invading 26 major cities within a 24-hour period, starting with Taipei and Hong Kong, and ending in Los Angeles for the U.S. premiere.
The series's official website released, just prior to the San Diego Comic-Con in 2010, a motion comic based on Issue No. 1 of the original comic and voiced by Phil LaMarr. The site also posted a making-of documentary primarily about the first episode, as well as a number of other behind-the-scenes videos and interviews. In the documentary, comic series creator and television series executive producer Robert Kirkman, as well as artist Charlie Adlard, say they are pleased with how faithful the series is to the comic and remark on the similarities between the actors and the comic's original character drawings.
Action figures of characters from the series were created for release in November 2011 and have continued throughout the years with eight line-ups. The figures, which are manufactured by McFarlane Toys, are designed to resemble the actors on the series. Figures created to resemble the characters as drawn in the comic book were released in September 2011. In December 2020, it was announced by AMC that Chris Hardwick would host a special for the show featuring the appearances of various cast members, titled The Walking Dead Holiday Special, to promote the show and "reminisce on the franchise series' past". The special was released on December 13, 2020.
With a primary objective of reducing the environmental impacts of film and television productions, including The Walking Dead, producer Gale Anne Hurd has directed the cast, crew, production team, suppliers, and bloggers about her series to adopt the Doddle app to make the production almost paper-free; this works by digitally transmitting interactive call sheets and other intra-team and team-supplier communications (such as directions, images, menus, and updates) to people's cell phones and tablets. Hurd said of using Doddle: in addition to conserving paper, "It's also easier, and it's better for security. People are less likely to leave their smartphone or tablet lying around for someone else to pick up."
Hurd describes additional steps taken to increase efficiency and cut production costs: "If you use vehicles that get better gas mileage, that are electric or hybrids, you're going to pay a lot less in fuel. If you use compact fluorescent bulbs, you're going to save a lot of money in utilities. If you recycle even your own sets, and use them again, that's going to save money. You don't have to buy new lumber. So there are cost savings, absolutely." Additionally, the production team aims to reduce vehicle idling, which decreases carbon dioxide emissions.
Hurd also cuts down on plastic waste by personally using a refillable, stainless steel EcoUsable water bottle and promoting its use among her colleagues. She shared: "on a lot of my projects I give them as crew gifts before we start production, and have water stations available, but you can't force people to use them."
Following the departure of Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes during the ninth season, chief content officer Scott Gimple stated that they plan to create three AMC Original Films to explore events related to Rick's character in the future, starring Lincoln, and with the first expected to begin production in 2019. Besides Lincoln, Danai Gurira (Michonne) and Pollyanna McIntosh (Jadis / Anne) will also star in these films. Gimple stated that these will not simply be extended episodes, nor will attempt to adapt any of the comic stories, but will heavily involve Kirkman in their development. The films will be released in theaters by Universal Pictures.
The films are expected to follow a group known as the Three Rings, a militaristic force that see themselves as the future of humanity. This is the force whom Jadis was in contact with and who rescued Rick at the end of "What Comes After", the group that Michonne sees at the end of "What We Become", the group that Isabella is from in the episode "The End of Everything" from Fear the Walking Dead, and the teenagers in World Beyond will be from one of the communities set up by the Three Rings.
Fear the Walking Dead is a companion series to The Walking Dead, developed by AMC. AMC started development of the series around September 2013 and committed to a two-season broadcast by March 2015.Fear the Walking Dead was first broadcast on August 23, 2015.
Fear the Walking Dead features a different set of characters, developed by Kirkman. The series starts at the onset of the zombie apocalypse, and follows several people that escape Los Angeles as the military attempts to quarantine the city, and seek refuge along the west coast of the United States and Mexico. The fourth season of Fear the Walking Dead features a crossover with The Walking Dead, specifically through the character Morgan Jones (played by Lennie James) who joins the cast of Fear the Walking Dead after the events of the eighth season of The Walking Dead. Similarly, Dwight, played by Austin Amelio, joined Fear the Walking Dead for its fifth season in 2019.
In April 2019, AMC officially announced it had ordered a 10-episode series created by Scott M. Gimple and Matthew Negrete. The series focuses on the first generation of children that have grown up during the zombie apocalypse who call themselves "Endlings", and are aware of how to survive if confronted by them, but have otherwise been raised behind walls and have never actually experienced survival. Production began in July 2019 in Richmond, Virginia, with Jordan Vogt-Roberts directing the pilot. The series stars Aliyah Royale, Alexa Mansour, Annet Mahendru, Nicolas Cantu, Hal Cumpston, Nico Tortorella and Julia Ormond. The series premiered on October 4, 2020, and ended on December 5, 2021 after two seasons.
Tales of the Walking Dead
In September 2020, AMC announced they and Gimple had been developing an episodic anthology series that would be based on new or existing characters that would explore backstories. In October 2021, AMC officially greenlit a six-episode first season to debut in mid-2022. Channing Powell, who has written for both The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead, will serve as showrunner.
Daryl and Carol spinoff
A spinoff series created by Angela Kang and Scott M. Gimple to star Reedus and McBride as their characters Daryl and Carol, respectively, was also announced in September 2020, with plans to air in 2023 after the conclusion of the eleventh season of the main show.
Wizards of the Coast worked with AMC to include characters and elements of The Walking Dead, into Magic: The Gathering as part of a 2020 "Secret Lair" card set, given that the card game had already had the idea of zombies within the game already.
Parodies and spoofs
Due to its popularity, The Walking Dead has inspired dozens of parodies and spoofs featured on YouTube channels like Bad Lip Reading and television series such as Saturday Night Live and Mad TV. Bad Lip Reading made a widely viewed parody involving Rick and the Governor, entitled "La-Bibbida-Bibba-Dum". The series's cast was shown the parody at the San Diego Comic-Con in 2013, and David Morrissey—who portrays the Governor— reacted by saying he now understood why so many people would walk up to him on the street and blurt, "Hey, La-Bibbida-Bibba-Dum!" Until seeing the video, he had wondered, "what's wrong with these people?"The Walking Dead has also been represented as a live comedy performance by English comedian Dan Willis at the Edinburgh Festival. A parody film called The Walking Deceased was released in 2015.
Scenes from the pilot were screened July 23, 2010, as part of the San Diego Comic-Con in 2010. It premiered on AMC on October 31, 2010, and premiered internationally on Fox International Channels during the first week of November. Almost two weeks before the official premiere on AMC, the pilot episode leaked online.
International broadcast rights for the series were sold and announced on June 14, 2010. The series airs on Fox International Channels in 126 countries in 33 languages. The fifth season debuted its first part on October 13, 2014. The second part premiered on February 9, 2015. On May 20, 2021, it was announced, following the closure of the Fox channel in the UK and Ireland, that the eleventh and final season would instead be released on the Star hub on Disney+ the day after episodes air in the United States.
The first season DVD and Blu-ray was released on March 8, 2011. A three-disc special edition of the first season—featuring new featurettes and audio commentaries—was released on DVD and Blu-ray on October 4, 2011. The European versions of the first season DVD and Blu-ray are edited for gore, with cuts to episode two ("Guts"), episode three ("Tell It to the Frogs"), episode four ("Vatos") and episode five ("Wildfire"). Until eOne/WVG re-released the first season in D-A-CH in a Special Uncut Version on DVD and Blu-ray on May 31, 2013.
The second season DVD and Blu-ray was released on August 28, 2012. It was also released as a limited edition Blu-ray, packaged as a miniature zombie head designed by McFarlane Toys. Special features include audio commentaries, deleted scenes, webisodes, and several featurettes.
The third season DVD and Blu-ray was released on August 27, 2013. It was also released as a limited edition Blu-ray, packaged as a miniature version of the Governor's zombie head aquarium tank designed by Greg Nicotero and sculpted by McFarlane Toys. Special features include audio commentaries, deleted scenes, and several featurettes.
The fourth season DVD and Blu-ray was released on August 26, 2014. It was also released as a limited edition Blu-ray, packaged with a tree-walker designed by McFarlane Toys. Special features include audio commentaries, deleted scenes, and several featurettes, as well as extended episodes which are exclusive to the Blu-ray.
The fifth season DVD and Blu-ray was released on August 25, 2015, the sixth season DVD and Blu-ray was released on August 23, 2016, the seventh season DVD and Blu-ray was released on August 22, 2017, the eighth season DVD and Blu-ray was released on August 21, 2018, and the ninth season DVD and Blu-ray was released on August 20, 2019.
Home video release for the first six seasons was distributed by Anchor Bay Entertainment, and home video release for the seventh season onwards was distributed by Lionsgate Home Entertainment in the United States for the American home video releases. The international home video release were distributed by Entertainment One.
MyNetworkTV acquired the broadcast syndication rights to the series, premiering on October 1, 2014. The version that airs on MyNetworkTV is edited to meet broadcast television standards.
The first six seasons and the ninth and tenth seasons of The Walking Dead have been well reviewed by recognized critics, while the seventh and eighth seasons received more mixed reviews. On Rotten Tomatoes, the series has an average score of 81%.
For the first season, 87% of 31 Rotten Tomatoes critics gave it a positive review, with an average score of 7.35/10. That site's consensus states, "Blood-spattered, emotionally resonant, and white-knuckle intense, The Walking Dead puts an intelligent spin on the overcrowded zombie subgenre."Metacritic scored the first season 82/100 based on 25 critic reviews, 23 of which were positive, two mixed, and none negative.
For the second season, 80% of 24 critic reviews on Rotten Tomatoes were positive, with an average score of 8.05/10. The site's consensus states, "The second season of The Walking Dead fleshes out the characters while maintaining the grueling tension and gore that made the show a hit." Of 22 Metacritic critic reviews, 18 were positive, four were mixed, and none were negative; their average score was 80/100. Early criticism of the series focused on the slow pace of the second season, particularly the first half. Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly, described the series as "a nighttime soap", comparing it to "a parody of a Samuel Beckett play" that had very little sense of direction and few appearances of walkers. Nate Rawlings of Time's online entertainment section noted that "the pace during the first half of this season has been brutally slow. [...] They've tried to develop individual characters, but each subplot meant to add a layer to a character has been quickly resolved." Later reviews from other critics, such as Scott Wampler of Collider.com, recognized the increased quality of the second half, stating it "seemed far more intense, more interesting, better written". Recognizing the overall season, Kevin Yeoman of Screen Rant offered praise saying "the writers succeeded in unshackling themselves from the intermittent monotony brought about by the serial nature of the show".
The third season had 88% of Rotten Tomatoes' 33 critics giving it a positive review, with an average score of 7.85/10. The site's consensus states, "The palpable terror and visceral thrills continue in the third season of The Walking Dead, along with a deeper sense of the people who inhabit its apocalyptic landscape." Metacritic's 19 critics rated the season 82/100, all of whom gave a positive review.
For the fourth season, 81% of Rotten Tomatoes' 32 critic reviews were positive, with an average score of 7.60/10. The site's consensus states, "Consistently thrilling, with solid character development and enough gore to please grindhouse fans, this season of The Walking Dead continues to demonstrate why it's one of the best horror shows on television". Metacritic scored the season 75/100 based on 16 critic reviews, 13 of which were positive, three mixed, and none negative.
The fifth season had 90% of Rotten Tomatoes' 32 critic reviews rating it positively, with an average score of 6.95/10. The site's consensus states, "Thanks to a liberal dose of propulsive, bloody action and enough compelling character moments to reward longtime fans, The Walking Dead's fifth season continues to deliver top-notch entertainment." Metacritic scored the fifth season 80/100 based on 11 critic reviews, all of which were positive.
For the sixth season, 76% of Rotten Tomatoes' 25 critic reviews were positive, with an average score of 7.40/10. The site's consensus states, "Six seasons in, The Walking Dead is still finding ways to top itself, despite slow patches that do little to advance the plot." Metacritic scored the sixth season 79/100 based on 10 critic reviews, nine of which were positive, one mixed, and none negative.
For the seventh season, 66% of Rotten Tomatoes' 18 critic reviews rated it positively, with an average score of 6.85/10. The site's consensus is, "Increased character depth and effective world-building helps The Walking Dead overcome a tiresome reliance on excessive, gratuitous violence." After the controversial season premiere episode was aired, critic Matt Zoller Seitz criticized the series' consistently cynical use of violence, stating that "The longer this series goes on, the more obvious it becomes that the violence is the point, and everything else is an intellectual fig leaf."
For the eighth season, 65% of Rotten Tomatoes' 17 critic reviews rated it positively, with an average score of 6.65/10. The site's consensus states "The Walking Dead's eighth season energizes its characters with some much-needed angst and action, though it's still occasionally choppy and lacking forward-moving plot progression."
For the ninth season, 89% of Rotten Tomatoes' 22 critic reviews were positive, with an average score of 7.15/10. The site's consensus states, "Nine seasons in, The Walking Dead feels more alive than ever, with heightened tension and a refreshed pace that rejuvenates this long-running franchise." Metacritic scored the ninth season 72/100 based on 4 critic reviews, 3 of which were positive, one mixed, and none negative.
For the tenth season, 77% of Rotten Tomatoes' 6 critic reviews were positive, with an average score of 7/10. The site's consensus states, "A few changes in front of and behind the camera allow TWD create space for compelling new stories and some seriously scary new adversaries."
In 2013, TV Guide ranked The Walking Dead as the #8 sci-fi show.
Comments about diversity
Some critics have commented on the increasing diversity of the series. This approach was initially applauded by commentators. In 2015, Lindsay Putnam of the New York Post questioned whether the show was in danger of becoming "too diverse" as the show "seemingly reached critical mass for its nonwhite, nonmale survivors — and now has no choice but to kill them off". Robert Kirkman has discussed the increasing diversity of the show and the comic books. He has described how he regrets the lack of diversity in the early issues of the comic book series and explained how they would have been "vastly more diverse" if he were to have started them now.
During its first season, The Walking Dead attracted between four and six million viewers. Viewership began to increase in its second season. During seasons three to seven, it attracted ten to seventeen million viewers. In 2012, during its third season, it became the first cable series in television history to have the highest total viewership of any series during the fall season among 18- to 49-year-old adults. In 2014, total viewership for the show's fifth-season premiere was 17.3 million, making it the most-watched series episode in cable history. In 2016, a New York Times study of the 50 television series with the most Facebook likes found that like most other zombie series, The Walking Dead "is most popular in rural areas, particularly southern Texas and eastern Kentucky". Ratings began to decline during season seven and have continued to steadily drop, which was blamed on a variety of factors, including Rick's presumed death. By the end of season nine, fewer viewers were watching than at any time since the show's first season.
Viewership and ratings per season of The Walking Dead
Darabont's departure as showrunner in July 2011 during the second season came as surprise to many, as it came shortly after the season's premiere and a few days after that year's Comic-Con, where Darabont helped to promote the series. It was speculated that he was unable to adjust to the schedule of running a television series; however, The Hollywood Reporter reported that AMC had fired him. There had been reported difficulties in the production of the second season, including disputes over planned budget cuts and executive meddling, and it was known that Darabont and AMC had several discussions relating to these factors. Neither Darabont, AMC, nor the cast nor crew of The Walking Dead spoke about the reasons for his firing.
In December 2013, Darabont and his agents from Creative Artists Agency (CAA) filed a lawsuit against AMC in a New York court, citing breach of contract. A central part of Darabont's lawsuit accuses AMC of denying him and the CAA the promised profits from the success of the series, based on how AMC had used vertical integration in producing and distributing The Walking Dead. As stated in Darabont's filing, he had initially entered into a contract with AMC to have a third-party studio produce the series, from which he would have obtained 12.5% of that entity's profits, after standard deductions. AMC wanted to produce the series in-house, and for the first season, Darabont's lawyers had been assured that Darabont would be protected from self-dealing fees by having AMC commit to imputed license fees equivalent to those of other independent studios, with Darabont earning profit from that. Darabont's suit contends that when the series's popularity took off, AMC presented a license fee deal to Darabont around February 2011 that used "an unconscionably low license fee formula" such that AMC could report the series running at a loss and ensuring that Darabont would never see any profit from the series; as an example, the suit references statements in 2012, following the second season, that AMC claimed the series was running at a $49 million deficit, despite being one of the most popular series in broadcast. Darabont's suit contends he was fired just at the start of the second season so that AMC would avoid having to pay him.
Initial discovery phase hearings were held in 2014. Darabont's lawyers sought to gain information from AMC on their other series, specifically Breaking Bad and Mad Men, to obtain a "fair market value" for The Walking Dead. AMC asserted it had done no wrongdoing, had already paid Darabont $3 million upfront for two seasons, and was able to properly set the imputed license fee that worked into the profit formula for Darabont. The network resisted the request to provide otherwise confidential information on the other series. The court granted Darabont's lawyers access to the requested information as part of the discovery phase. Darabont described "crisis-level problems" during the series's production while under deposition, claiming that AMC had cut the per-episode budget from $3.4 million to $3 million while keeping the tax credit offered by the state of Georgia for filming there, effectively reducing the production budget by 25%.
In August 2015, Darabont requested to amend his original complaint that AMC further reduced his profits from the second season as his firing mid-season meant he was not fully vested in the season, allowing AMC to reduce the profits paid him. Darabont's amended request points out that he had written and produced all the episodes in that season already and was entitled to the proper profit share. The judge granted this amendment in February 2016, partially influenced by concerns raised in Darabont's deposition.
At the end of the discovery phase in September 2016, Darabont's lawyers stated they are seeking damages of over $280 million; AMC stated they will "vigorously" defend against the lawsuit. Summary judgement statements were completed in July 2017. While waiting for summary judgement, Darabont and the CAA filed a second lawsuit against AMC, based on further evaluation of material from the discovery phase. The second suit contended that AMC purposely manipulated some of its licensing fees that should go to Darabont, such as revenue from digital sales and from overseas markets, and sought an addition US$10 million in damages. Though AMC had initially refused to provide necessary documents for discovery for this new case, AMC did offer to willingly provide them after Darabont's attorneys threatened further legal action during October 2018. By December 2018, the presiding judge ruled against issuing summary judgement in the case, setting up for a jury trial to hear the full case. Due to the retirement of the judge that had overseen the previous cases, a new judge was assigned to the case in February 2019, who joined both the initial 2013 suit and the 2018 suit into a single case, expected to be heard in May 2020. AMC filed a new request for summary judgement of the case in December 2019. The summary judgement was denied, and the jury trial for the case started on February 10, 2020. The judge also denied AMC summary judgement in the second suit for the additional US$10 million in April 2020, determining that should also go to jury.
By July 2021, AMC reported they had settled with Darabont and CAA for $200 million and future royalty payments.
In August 2017, Robert Kirkman, Gale Anne Hurd, Charles Eglee, Glen Mazzara and David Alpert filed similar lawsuits against AMC, citing breach of contract over profits owed to them as a result of AMC's vertical integration. As with Darabont, each had been given a certain percentage of the series's profits based on if the series was produced by a third-party, but when it was transitioned to AMC Studios, their share was dramatically reduced. The Hollywood Reporter estimated that if the four seek similar damages as Darabont, the lawsuit could be as high as $1 billion. The suits, filed separately in Los Angeles and New York City, were consolidated into a single case heard in a Los Angeles court. Initial hearings over the contractual terms of the "modified adjusted gross receipts" were held in February and March 2020, and the court ruled in July 2020 that AMC had followed the contractual terms in calculating these amounts, giving the network a preliminary victory in the trial. Kirkman and the others said that despite the lawsuit, they will continue to work as "partners" with AMC to assure continued success of The Walking Dead and its spinoff series Fear the Walking Dead.
During filming of season 8 in July 2017, stuntman John Bernecker was performing a 21-foot drop but ended up missing padded cushions and instead fell onto the concrete floor, sustaining a serious head injury. Though rushed to a hospital, his injuries were too severe and he was taken off life support the next day. AMC and the show's cast and crew expressed remorse for the accident, shutting down production for several days to deal with Bernecker's funeral. The Atlanta Occupational Safety and Health Administration branch launched an investigation of the incident. Bernecker's mother filed a lawsuit in January 2018 against AMC asserting that the production had not taken sufficient precautions to protect Bernecker, including lack of sufficient padding, lack of rehearsal, and not having an ambulance ready to treat his injury. The judge presiding the lawsuit dismissed AMC's claims that it was not responsible since Bernecker was in full control of setting up the stunt, allowing the case to proceed to a jury trial. The trial was held during December 2019, with the jury awarding Bernecker's family US$8.6 million in damages on December 19 after finding that TWD 8, the AMC entity managing production, and the production company Stalwart Films were negligent in Bernecker's death, while clearing AMC itself of any wrongdoing.