AMC's The Walking Dead was envisioned as a never-ending zombie movie, and so far, the series has lived up to its billing with six-and-a-half seasons and zero indication that it will ever slow down. And why should there be any sign if stopping? Even though ratings are down in the current Season 7, it's still the biggest show on television so AMC is like, "Duh, more Walking Dead, please."
But what if the show does somehow miraculously come to a halt? What does the end of a never-ending zombie show look like? Here are 5 (well, 4) ways The Walking Dead could end.
1. The group finds a cure!
One of The Walking Dead's most interesting courses of action is how little the show has focused on curing whatever it is that makes the dead stand up with an appetite for human flesh. Curing zombieism is part of almost every zombie property, but aside from a quick trip to the CDC in Season 1 and Eugene's (Josh McDermitt) bluff about working on a cure, The Walking Dead is more preoccupied with sadism and pain than it is preventative medical measures.
Aside from total frickin' mayhem and carnage, there's no reason that someone out there wouldn't be working on a cure in a heavily protected underground medical facility. And because Rick's (Andrew Lincoln) group can't stay in one place too long because of all the madmen in this apocalyptic world, Rick could stumble on some smarty-pants discovering a cure, thus ending the series because of a magic serum. This is the optimistic ending, and therefore the ending least likely to actually happen.
2. Everyone just dies and it's over
This would be the true Walking Dead way to go out. We've watched hundreds die in this show, so what's a couple dozen more? The prevailing theory is that Rick can never die, otherwise the show is over. So Rick must die. And if Rick dies, everyone else has to go with him. The Walking Dead is a sledgehammer of a series, and isn't in the business of having an ambiguous ending.
Picture this: Rick and pals take refuge in a blown-out Ikea, the group can't find their way out — have you tried to get out of an Ikea? It's impossible — when a zombie herd storms in. After chucking the last of the canned Swedish meatballs at the zombies, everyone is corned in the dinette section and devoured on top of economical furniture and countless hex screwdrivers. Even Daryl dies. End show. Plus AMC could reap those sweet Ikea dollars.
3. Zombies die off, civilization is rebuilt
At the end of 28 Days Later, Danny Boyle's excellent "zombie" movie, the infected simply got tired and died after enough time had passed. It's a War of the Worlds-type simple ending that highlights something about humans: we're stubborn little buggers who, through evolution, won't die easily. We're conditioned to this world, zombies are not.
We've seen how badly the zombies of The Walking Dead have deteriorated throughout the show's run, indicating that they all may become a pile of rotten goo if given enough time. Does eating flesh help them regenerate? Nobody really knows, but it's doubtful. More likely, the zombies are like a plague that just dies off after a while, eventually becoming so worn and immobile that they succumb to the elements just like every other simple organism out there.
How about: Following a particularly harsh winter, Rick and his friends peek their heads out of the gopher hole they lived in since December and see a wasteland of thawing zombie parts. Sensing the threat is done, they decide to rebuild... right there in the abandoned 7-11 parking lot. Hey, gotta start somewhere.
4. The zombies gain sentience and compassion, live side-by-side with humans happily ever after
Remember Warm Bodies? That zombie tale featured brain munchers who had actual thoughts and consciousness, but lacked the communication skills and restraint of their prey. Is it out of the question to think that The Walking Dead zombies may simply be misunderstood? Probably. But what if they are slowly moving towards becoming human again, or at least advancing their intelligence to become merely ugly animals?
Imagine Eugene studying a few walkers for a while and eventually discovering the breakthrough that they possess rudimentary understanding of basic forms of communication. As time progresses, Eugene creates a language they can share, gets them into a diet of tempeh and soyrizo and alters their needs away from eating brains to using their brains. And of course, Carl (Chandler Riggs) starts dating the cute zombie girl.
5. It doesn't end
If AMC has its way, The Walking Dead will never end, and Season 65 will see the group find a new secure place to call home until an evil but slightly charismatic villain shows up... and you know the rest.
The Walking Dead returns for the second half of Season 7 on Sunday, Feb. 12 at 9/8c on AMC.